It seems like every week, a new sustainable fabric is announced by the fashion industry in an attempt to make the space more environmentally friendly and socially responsible. What's driving such fast-paced innovation? Growing climate change awareness, and dedicated efforts rewarded by major technological progress! That said, while many of these new materials seem admirable, there are also fabrics that raise ethical questions. That's why we at SANVT have taken a closer look at new sustainable fabrics in 2022 to tell you which ones truly are eco-friendly and ethical, and which ones we're a tad more skeptical about.
Sustainable fabrics are no longer limited to undyed linen clothes for eco-consumers. In 2022, we can no longer speak of sustainable fashion as a niche, but as an urgent necessity that is revolutionising the entire fashion industry. Therefore, sustainable fabrics are increasingly being designed with mainstream fashion in mind. The material innovations are becoming more and more seductive, aesthetic and stylish. After all, a product must not only be sustainable but also sexy to make it appealing to the crowd.
But with the number of new sustainable fabrics and innovations, we wonder: which new materials are really eco-friendly and which ones are just greenwashing? In this article, we take a critical look at new sustainable fabrics and show you which ones we recommend for an eco-conscious wardrobe, and which ones we don't.
Top 5 new sustainable fabrics in 2022:
- "Social" alpaca
- "Green" suede
- Jersey-like wool
- Sustainable lace
Let's start with one of the materials that makes us feel quite conflicted. "Social" alpaca (and we deliberately put "social" in quotation marks) refers to an initiative between Progettomondo, an Italian non-profit development and cooperation association, and Patrizia Maggia, director of the Contemporary Metiers d'Art Institute and president of Agenzia Lane d'Italia. "Social" Alpaca aims to combine Italian fashion know-how with the skills of local artisans in Peru. The objective of the initiative is to support artisans so they can develop their own business. Sounds good, right?
Here's the catch. Despite the intention to start a social development project, alpaca wool is and remains the result of animal exploitation and often, cruel breeding. Like all other animals in the wool industry, alpacas are only a means to achieve the highest possible profits – the welfare of the animals often comes second. Similar to sheep, alpacas would not have to be shorn at all without human intervention. So it is not a by-product or a favour we do for the animal. That's why we are of the opinion that alpaca wool – whether for the purpose of a social project or not – cannot be called ethical and fair if animals suffer as a result. In our opinion, a product is only fair if it is fair to humans, nature and sentient beings.
We feel similarly about the topic of (suede) leather. After all, how can a product be environmentally friendly if it harms animals? And even if leather is a natural product that in theory is biodegradable, it requires vast amounts of water, CO2, heavy metals and chemicals to produce. Not to mention the environmentally harmful dyeing processes. So we ask ourselves, can (suede) leather ever be environmentally and animal friendly? Sciarada's Evolo suede line claims it is! Their "mainly" recycled suede is the result of eight years of research and is based on the principle of the circular economy. The majority of the suede is made from regenerated leather derived from pre-consumer waste, with no chromium added to the production process.
The "green" suede, certified by Bureau Veritas, saves 66% of the previously quoted water consumption, 36% of the chemicals, and halves the carbon dioxide emissions to boot. And all this within only 10 production steps instead of the 16 required for conventional suede. Definitely a good approach to the circular economy! But we still prefer the many plant-based leather alternatives instead of animal skins. Mushroom leather, for example, is a promising, resistant, eco-friendly and high-quality leather alternative – without any animal cruelty. Read more about vegan leather and other bio-based material innovations here.
Just as with alpaca wool, sheep wool is not really an ethical option for those who put animal welfare on the same level as climate-friendliness. But increasingly, people pick sustainable fashion for climate reasons rather than animal welfare. For jersey-like wool, the origin of the fabric determines whether the end product is climate-friendly, sustainable and even halfway ethical. And here too, circular economy comes into play.
The new jersey-like wool from Lanificio Fratelli Cerruti comes from wool yarns that are recycled and recyclable, reducing waste before and after its use. Jersey made from recycled wool also requires less water and CO2 than jersey made from (organic) cotton. So if you don't want to give up wool as a natural fabric, this material innovation is definitely a more sustainable option.
Let's finally move on to a material innovation with no animal involved: sustainable lace. Until now, embellishments such as lace, sequins, prints and metallic effects were not compatible with sustainable fashion. But as mentioned before, sustainable fashion is becoming more diverse and, thanks to sustainable lace, more seductive!
Iluna Group, an Italy-based textile company specialising in the production of stretch lace for the apparel and lingerie industry, has developed new versions of its signature lace that are sustainable and fashionable. For autumn 2022, the company is introducing GRS-certified yarns at Première Vision Paris that combine corduroy from Asahi Kasei Roica EF stretch fibres made from pre-consumer waste. Together with a recycled shiny yarn that adds brilliance to the product, the blend expands the range of sustainable stretch laces that were previously only available in matte finishes. Sexy and sustainable – what more could you want?
To add to sustainable lace, Première Vision Paris PG Denim is also introducing eco-denim for Autumn 2022. Produced with an environmentally friendly dyeing process, it reduces the amount of chemicals used in the sulphur-based process by 40%, and slashes water consumption by 50%, while reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 60%. The new eco-denim line is also enriched with GRS-certified textiles that contain 60% pre- and post-consumer cotton fabric, as opposed to the average 35% recycled content usually found in partially recycled denim.
And to complement eco-denim, the deadstock trend is another sustainable material innovation that will continue to make denim more sustainable in 2022.
Sustainable fabrics: Conclusion
New sustainable fabrics are now aplenty. But since sustainability can mean a lot of things. It is multi-faceted: from climate-neutral and vegan to social and fair – each trend and innovation should be examined holistically. After all, just because a material innovation is fair does not necessarily mean it is environmentally and animal-friendly, and vice versa.
Nevertheless, it's great to see development in the direction of sustainability, and we are excited to discover new sustainable fabrics in 2022!