5 Materials that Might Help the Fashion World to Save Our World

Hazel Needham

Hazel Needham


As the fashion world is becoming more aware of its environmental impact, designers are really starting to push the (gasoline-free) boat out when it comes to using sustainable fabrics for their clothing lines. So what materials should we look out for when it comes to ensuring the fashion we buy, and the fashion world, is also saving our world?

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Pinatex leather - For story 5 materials helping the fashion world save the world

A common debate in the fashion world is whether real leather or faux leather is worse for the environment. Livestock demands a huge amount of water and food, creating a large carbon footprint, but vegan leather contributes to the non-biodegradable plastic problem. Both options are complicated and neither is particularly environmentally friendly. But there are options that solve both problems . . . 

Here are 5 materials that might help the fashion world to save our world.

1) Piñatex®

Over the past two decades, Dr Carmen Hijosa has been expanding a whole new aspect of the leather industry. It turns out SpongeBob SquarePants wasn’t the only one being resourceful with pineapples – Dr Hijosa has developed Piñatex®, which is a leather replacement made from pineapple leaves. She was initially inspired by the abundance of natural resources used for traditional weaving in the Philippines.

She came across Barong Tagalog, the national dress, which is an elegant shirt often made from pineapple leaf fibres. By extracting the fibres from the plant, drying them out naturally, and then coating them in a waterproof resin, Carmen has adopted the manufacturing process to instead create a viable leather alternative.

“Using leaves as clothing isn’t just Adam and Eve naturism: it is the future of high-street fashion.”

What’s more, is that Piñatex® is made of fibre from leaves that are a by-product from existing pineapple harvests, so the material requires no additional environmental resources to produce. The fashion world is desperate for ‘drive-in sustainability’, and Pinatex offers exactly that. 

Pineapple Leather isn’t as niche as you might think. Each year, H&M launches an annual Conscious Exclusive Collection to help integrate environmental sustainability into its designs. In 2019, you guessed it,  Piñatex® was the star of the show. So. using leaves as clothing isn’t just Adam and Eve naturism: it is the future of high-street fashion.

Tree pulp turned into fibres

2) Tree-pulp

£140 million of perfectly wearable clothes end up in UK landfill each year. To accommodate high demand and low prices, an increasing number of these clothes are made out of polyester or polyester mixes. Polyester is plastic, and therefore not decomposable.

So although decluttering your wardrobe may seem like a way of solving all your problems – actually, it’s contributing to a bigger one. The majority of those garments will still be around in landfill long after your great-grandchildren are exclusively repping pineapple leaves.

Fortunately, there are materials that don’t take hundreds of years to decompose. Bamboo, Ecovero, Lyocell, Modal, Tencel and rayon are all fabrics derived from tree pulp. The production processes vary, as do the final materials, but these textiles come from the same idea of making the fashion world a sustainable and eco-friendly one. Check them out!

Peace silk - For story 5 materials helping the fashion world to save the world

3) Peace silk

It’s easy to forget that traditional silk is made by insects. Silkworms make little cocoons that are collected by hand and then are boiled and spun into silk threads before the worms inside turn into moths. It takes around 5000 silkworm-cocoons to make a pure silk kimono and because the worms are boiled alive, the process is not cruelty-free. In 2018, ASOS banned silk, as well as cashmere, feathers and mohair, from being sold on its website for animal welfare reasons.

Peace Silk is a non-violent method of silk breeding and harvesting. It allows the completion of the metamorphosis of the silkworm to the moth, making the process cruelty-free. It’s also super sustainable: to restore local biodiversity, which is an ecological issue in agricultural monocultures, rice and potato crops have been cultivated alongside the mulberry trees hosting the worms.

No pesticides or genetic sprays are used on the mulberry leaves and impurities in the silk are later removed with toxin-free natural soap and boiling water. Spinning machines are run on solar power, making the production process 70% zero-carbon.

Peace silk is a hugely innovative fabric that is made in India but expanding into the global fashion world. It is kind to the environment, to all skin types: and even to the worms!

4) Linen

The future of the fashion world doesn’t exclusively lie with swanky new materials. Our good old friend linen is the natural fibre, and one that has been used in clothing for thousands of years. Coming from the flax plant, it takes months to grow, treat, and process until the grass-like fibres are soft and supple enough to be woven.

Without any dyes, linen is fully biodegradable. It can also withstand high temperatures—making the fabric perfect for raiding the jungle or lounging on a tropical island. It absorbs moisture without holding bacteria, perfect for sweaty summer days. It also becomes stronger when wet and softer when washed. 

5) Organic Cotton

Whilst cotton may seem like a super sustainable and renewable fabric, it can have a severe ecological impact if it isn’t organic. Organic cotton does not use pesticides, preventing the pollution of the surrounding soil, water and air, therefore protecting the local communities as well as the environment.

The process also requires far less water, meaning there is more available for human consumption. Particularly important considering cotton is often grown in countries where water shortages are a huge risk.

Organic cotton is a gateway for the fashion world to begin to understand the importance of its production process. Sustainable brands such as our partners Goose Studios didn’t just stop at organic cotton garment though. They wrap them up in organic and biodegradable packaging, too.

You can make a better world – Buy differently today

Whether it’s pineapple leather or leftover cocoons or even traditional fabrics like linen and cotton, the future of the fashion world, and our world, is relying on sustainable materials. And we can demand action on climate, by supporting ethical fashion partners already using these materials and more. Make sure you check them out and our recent story about it. 

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