A Guide to Garment Fabrics

A Guide to Garment Fabrics

One of the hottest fashion buzzwords right now is "sustainable" or "eco-friendly". However, do you know what constitutes a "sustainable" fabric versus one that is bad for the environment? 

It isn't always a clear answer, but in this post, we've created a simple guide that covers various fabrics used in clothing, and weigh in on the pros and cons of each.  

Cotton - fibre from cotton plants

Natural fibre Uses a lot of water to grow
Breathable If it's not organic, pesticide is used with chemicals that can be harmful to the Earth and our body
Machine-washable Can shrink in the wash


Silk - spun from silkworm cocoons

Natural fibre Expensive
Breathable Have to be dry-cleaned
Biodegradable Silk-worms are killed, unless it's vegan, which means that the producer waits for the silk-worms to leave their cocoons naturally
Uses less water than cotton


Bamboo - made from Bamboo plant fibre

Natural fibre Less durable than cotton fibres
Bio-degradable More expensive than cotton
Strong and durable
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant and requires little effort in cultivation  

Doesn't require pesticides or fertilisers

Requires less water than cotton

Doesn't pill as much as cotton


Rayon/Viscose - made from wood pulp

Natural Chemicals are used to process it and it has to be disposed of properly or it will harm the environment
Biodegradable Can shrink in the wash
Uses less water than cotton Deforestation could be done unsustainably 
Companies such as APR and Lenzing have traceable viscose which ensures that certain sustainable requirements are met, are committed to clean manufacturing and sustainable deforestation methods


Cupro - made from waste linters when processing cotton

Natural Chemicals used during production
Biodegradable Can be pricey
 Machine-washable Fabric strength is weak (unless mixed with PE)
Close-loop production


Linen  - made from flax plant fibre

Natural fibre Uses a lot of water
Biodegradable Wrinkles easily when worn
No pesticides needed Expensive as it is hard to weave


Hemp - made from Cannibalis plant fibres

Natural Fibre Hemp plants are illegal in many countries and has a stigma to it
Biodegradable Can be expensive
Machine washable Pure hemp has a scratchy feel unless mixed with other fibres
Requires less water than cotton Dyed colours are usually muted
No chemical processing needed Fibres can shred when machine washed
No pesticides needed


Polyester - man-made out of long-chain polymers

Durable and last longer  Produced from chemicals that are harmful to the environment
Machine-washable Sourced from non-renewable resources
Requires less water Non bio-degradable
Can be recycled 


Fabric is just one of the many facets of sustainable fashion.

Before you make your next purchase, you can ask yourself the simple questions such as:

  • How long and often can I wear this piece of garment?
  • Can I see myself wearing this style in 3 years time?
  • Is the garment mass produced which may lead to deadstock?
  • How can I recycle or upcycle this piece of garment in future?

We hope this guide helps you along with that.

Let's all do our part to slow down fashion consciously.

Photos of Viscose and Cupro courtesy of The Laundress

Photos of Polyester sourced from Wikipedia

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