Sustainable knitwear & wool: what to look for

Paulina Kulczycki

Wool knitwear is a staple for any winter outfit because it is not only warm but also considered one of the most sustainable textiles. However, is this really true? Research shows that wool knitwear has the longest lifespan in our wardrobe, which represents quality and sustainability. Not only that, wool is a biodegradable natural fiber. But what about animal welfare? In this article, we outline 3 things to consider when purchasing wool to ensure you get an ethical product. Because sustainable wool knitwear that is not only eco-friendly but also animal-friendly, is undoubtedly one of the best textiles for winter.


Knitwear has been a winter trend for years as a cozy layering option. However, since around 2022, knitwear has evolved from a functional trend to a stylish essential. Even in transitional seasons, outfits featuring fine knits and all-over knit looks are now being showcased on the catwalks of Fashion Weeks and in the street styles of fashion capitals. Knit sweaters are therefore more popular than ever in the fashion world! For more inspiration, here are 5 trendy knitwear looks for winter 2022.

As people become more aware of the environment and climate, there is increasing demand for durable and fair clothing. As a result, sustainable knitwear is especially popular for winter 2022/2023. But what exactly is sustainable knitwear and when is wool ethical? In this article, we will outline three things you should consider when looking for knitwear and wool.


Sustainable knitwear and wool not ethical

1. Animal friendly and ethical wool

To us, a product is only sustainable if it is not only produced in an environmentally and resource-conscious way but also in a fair and animal-friendly manner. Unfortunately, the extraction of wool – particularly popular types such as merino, alpaca, cashmere, angora, and mohair – is often accompanied by animal cruelty. With that in mind, we recommend at least not purchasing new wool. Even certificates claiming ethical wool production cannot guarantee animal welfare, as there have been numerous scandals revealing mistreatment, animal abuse, and bloody cuts during shearing. The following labels aim to make wool production more ethical:

  • Responsible Wool Standard (RWS)
  • Responsible Mohair (RMS)
  • The Responsible Alpaca Standard (RAS)
  • Sustainable Fiber Alliance's Cashmere Standard (SFA)
  • ZQ Merino
  • CaregoraTM

However, we advise you not to be so easily misled by these labels and instead buy wool vintage or recycled. Truly animal-friendly wool is hard to find.

Read more about wool and alternative materials for winter here.


Sustainable knitwear and wool SANVT knits

2. Recycled wool

If you are unable to find a suitable wool sweater in a vintage store or flea market, you can always purchase a new knit sweater made from recycled wool! Recycled wool allows you to enjoy the warmth and high quality of natural fiber without guilt, as you are not resorting to synthetic alternatives. However, it is important to be aware that products made from recycled materials may only contain a small proportion of recycled materials, mixed with new "virgin" materials. These products may still be marketed as sustainable, even though they are only partially recycled.

To ensure you are not misled by greenwashing, we recommend looking for independent certifications such as the Global Recycled Standard. This transparent GRS label guarantees that all social, environmental, and chemical regulations are followed in production and that both humans and nature (including animals) are not harmed by the manufacturing process.

This is why we had our new Perfect Knit Sweater fairly produced in Portugal, and GRS certified. We use a 100% recycled and noble material mix of wool (30%), viscose (30%), cashmere (5%), and polyamides (35%). To add to that, we offset the production-related CO2 emissions and donate to the local project Bergwaldprojekt e.V. Oberallgäu, making the product 100% climate neutral.


Sustainable knitwear and wool SANVT knit turtleneck

3. Proper care of wool

Finally, once you have purchased a wool knit sweater, it is important to take proper care of it. We have all made the mistake of washing our favorite wool or cashmere sweater at 60 degrees in the washing machine, resulting in a shrunken and ruined sweater that would only fit a small child.  

Therefore, use special, ecological wool detergents and wash the garments at the lowest temperature - or preferably by hand. Also avoid wringing or ironing wool, as this can damage the fibers. Instead, gently squeeze them out and let them air dry on a hanger. This will make sure that your favorite sweater stays like new for decades.


Sustainable knitwear and wool: conclusion

To summarize, wool can be a wonderful material if it is vintage or recycled, thereby avoiding animal suffering. Especially for knit sweaters, recycled wool is excellent when mixed with other recycled materials, and becomes even softer and more comfortable when mixed with recycled cashmere.  

And did you know that every Perfect Knit Sweater at SANVT is hand-knitted in Portugal using the "Fully Fashioned" knitting technique? Rather than cutting excess fabric from laid-out pattern pieces, this production method uses only the amount of fabric needed, resulting in zero waste. It could hardly be more sustainable!


Photos by ARND