You can easily make your outfits look more expensive with sustainable and ethical fabrics. Materials used in clothing play an important in quality and durability.
Garments made of ethical fabrics such as organic cotton, linen, hemp, lyocell, and cupro are well-known to be exceptionally luxurious and environmentally friendly. And the most sustainable clothing fabrics in the world aren't necessarily costly.
Woven fabrics made of natural fibers coming from renewable plant-based resources not only protect the environment but also allow you to create beautiful, stylish, and fancy looks.
Select exceptional wardrobe pieces made of ethical and sustainable materials to design a more conscious wardrobe, made of high-quality garments that you can wear for a long time.
Animal-derived fabrics such as leather, silk, fur, wool, angora, and cashmere make outfits look expensive but aren't ethical or sustainable. They are made from animal products or by-products and aren't cruelty-free.
Prefer materials that look expensive, feel luxurious, are high-quality, natural, long-lasting, and ethical. They are often sold at a higher price but are well worth the investment.
Natural and ethical fabrics are some of the finest types of fabric and build a solid, timelessly elegant wardrobe. They are the best high-quality and luxurious materials to make environmentally friendly and socially responsible clothing.
Here 5 exclusive and ethical fabrics that will make your outfits look more expensive.
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Cotton is the most common natural fiber used for textile and apparel in the world. It's the second most-produced fiber globally after polyester with 30.3 million tons every year, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Cotton is made from natural fibers produced from cotton plants that grow in subtropical countries around the world. About half of all textiles are made of cotton. It's the most widespread profitable non-food crop globally.
However, most cotton production methods are unsustainable. Conventional cotton is one of the worst natural fibers. It's extremely wasteful, polluting, and damaging to human health. It ruins biodiversity and soil fertility.
On the other hand, organic cotton has many advantages. It's non-GMO, free of harmful chemicals, clean, soft, durable, and breathable. It's also more environmentally friendly, protect farmers and their families.
Compared to conventional cotton, organic cotton has a relatively low demand. Only 107,980 tons of organic cotton were produced in 2016, according to the Textile Exchange Organic cotton market report.
Organic cotton is grown in parts of the USA and other subtropical countries such as India, Turkey, and China. Depending on the country of production, climate, rainfalls, and irrigation methods, the environmental impact of cotton farming varies.
The Textile Exchange's Life Cycle Assessment on organic cotton estimates that organic cotton farming can potentially save 218 billion liters of water and 92.5 million kg of carbon dioxide.
Organic cotton will make any outfit look more expensive. It's a natural, high-quality, and more ethical material than its conventional alternative.
Plus, it doesn't irritate the skin or have any side effects. It promotes better health for consumers and farmers, social and environmental stewardship.
Here are some of the best places to buy amazing organic cotton clothes that will make your outfits look expensive:
Linen is the most expensive and sustainable clothing fabric worldwide. It's a high-end fabric that offers quality, comfort, and style. Linen fabric is generally sold at a higher price than cotton because it's more difficult to manufacture.
Linen is a woven fabric made of natural fibers extracted from a renewable plant-based resource: flax plants. More than 85% of the world's production of flax fibers are originated from Europe.
Flax remains a rare product as it represents less than 1% of all textile fibers consumed worldwide. The largest producer of flax fiber and tow worldwide is France with about 660,000 tons produced in 2018, followed by Belgium, Belarus, and Russia, according to the FAO.
Linen is a very old fabric that has been used for a very long time (over 6,000 years). In history, linen cloth was used to express extravagance, luxury, and preciousness. At dining tables in the middle age, Linen was a symbol of power, wealth, and authority.
Linen is natural, durable, comfortable, resistant, lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying. It's also very strong and rigid, about two to three times more than cotton. It's often used in household articles as well, such as pillows, curtains, tablecloths, bath towels, bedsheets, rugs, and wall coverings.
Today, linen is used by most luxury fashion brands and well-known designers around the world:
Hemp fibers are some of the most environmentally friendly and a great choice for expensive outfits. Hemp is ethical and sustainable but also difficult to buy for most conscious consumers.
Hemp is also one of the fastest-growing crops in the world. It reaches maturity in only up to 4 months, with very little water, and almost no pesticides or fertilizers.
Global hemp production amounts to 60,657 tons annually, according to the FAO. The largest producer of hemp tow worldwide is North Korea with 14,891 tons produced in 2018, followed by the Netherlands, China, and Italy.
Hemp has a much higher yield per acre than cotton. One acre of hemp can produce two to three times more fiber than an acre of cotton.
Hemp clothes are lightweight, resistant, breathable, anti-bacterial, and absorbent. Hemp isn't perceived as a luxurious fiber by fashion designers, brands, or the general public but it's gaining popularity.
Hemp clothes help build a wardrobe with a low environmental footprint and expensive outfits. It's a very ethical and sustainable fiber with a high-price compared to cotton.
Here are some of the best places to find organic, natural, and sustainable hemp clothing:
Lyocell is a semi-synthetic fabric and a great alternative to petroleum-based textiles. It's a man-made regenerated cellulosic fiber, similar to viscose-rayon, acetate, cupro, and modal.
Lyocell is primarily made of cellulose-based and renewable resources such as wood. It's soft, breathable, lightweight, durable, anti-bacterial, and moisture-wicking.
Using chemicals, cellulose from wood pulp is converted into a soluble compound. A spinneret then forms filaments of regenerated cellulose out of the solution.
Lyocell is the third generation technology of rayon. It's the most environmentally friendly, luxurious, and remains odor-free much longer than cotton.
One of the most well-known brands of lyocell is Tencel, manufactured by the Austrian company Lenzing. It uses sustainable production methods with closed-loop processes to maintain a low environmental impact.
Wood is sourced from FSC certified sustainable forests and almost all water and chemicals used during manufacturing are recovered.
According to Lenzing, the annual production of man-made cellulosic fibers is 6.7 million tons. They represent 6.2% of the total fiber production volume.
Lyocell is the third most used man-made cellulosic fiber after viscose and acetate. It had a 4% market share in 2018 but is expected to grow faster than any other fibers with a 15% compound annual growth rate (CAGR).
A lot of fashion brands now make clothing from Tencel lyocell. Some of the most well-known sustainable brands are:
Cupro is also a man-made cellulosic fiber derived from plants or wood. It's a semi-synthetic fabric made from a natural polymer called cellulose, found in plants, trees, fruits, and agricultural waste.
Cupro is easily dyed and often blended with other types of fiber to enhance its properties. The popularity of cupro for clothing is rising as a sustainable alternative to more expensive fabrics such as linen.
Cupro stands for cuprammonium rayon. One of the first brands of cupro is Bemberg, owned by J. P. Bemberg, a German rayon manufacturer making semi-synthetic fibers since 1897.
The most well-known known and largest producer of cupro fibers today is Asahi Kasei Corporation, a Japanese company. It makes Bemberg from post-industrial cotton waste. It uses cotton linter that isn't normally used for textiles: short cotton fibers clinging to cotton seeds after ginning.
To make cupro, the natural raw material is disintegrated into a viscous liquid using chemicals such as copper, ammonia, and caustic soda. Manufacturers need to fully recover and reuse water, waste, and chemicals with closed-loop processes to make cupro environmentally friendly.
Asahi Kasei Corporation has achieved almost 100% zero emissions (99.8% in 2016) by reusing fiber waste as fuel for power generation. And it makes constant efforts to reduce and recycle waste.
Cupro is a soft, lightweight, breathable, and moisture-absorbent fabric. It has excellent properties for fashion and can make any outfit look more expensive. It offers many advantages compared to natural fibers such as cotton.
Discover the sustainable collections made of cupro from the following fashion brands:
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About the Author: Alex Assoune
Alex Assoune (MS) is a global health and environmental advocate. He founded Panaprium to inspire others with conscious living, ethical, and sustainable fashion. Alex has worked in many countries to address social and environmental issues. He speaks three languages and holds two Master of Science degrees in Engineering from SIGMA and IFPEN schools.