Most of us probably know just a handful of materials used in fashion – “the usual suspects” – like cotton, polyester, wool, viscose, silk, linen and leather. The others are perhaps not as widely used, they are also sometimes difficult to pronounce and remember, let alone difficult to understand what exactly they are made of. There are lots of materials out there, especially today with more and more innovations in the textile industry driven by the need to create more sustainable alternatives. As I learned and researched all about these materials, I realized that there was lots of great information but there was no one quick reference or an easy guide to sustainable fabrics. And that is precisely why I have created one!

Before we jump to the guide, did you know which are the top 3 materials used in fashion? It is quite important to know, because combined they represent more than 80% of all materials used globally and have rather heavy environmental footprint.

The top 3 fashion materials are: Polyester (~52%), Cotton ( ~23%), and Viscose ( ~6%):

*Source: Textile exchange “Preferred Fiber & Materials, Market Report 2020”

It is also useful to learn the basic fibers classifications to see the full scope of different materials. As you may already know, all fibers can be divided into 2 big groups:  natural & synthetic. Then there are fibers that are “in-between” or recycled or completely new category of “bio-fabricated” fibers.

*Adopted from: The Sustainable Angle “Material solutions series” masterclass

To help you navigate through them and see which ones are considered more sustainable or let’s call them “preferred” than others, I put together this EASY GUIDE TO SUSTAINABLE FABRICS. I graded them from “more preferred” to “less preferred”  based on of their environmental and social impact. *Note that I didn’t included any new bio-fabrications as they are still in development, not in comercial use.

my easy fabrics guide:


I love these materials, they have much lower impact than most other fabrics!

  • Recycled Cotton
  • Organic linen, hemp
  • Recycled Wool & Cashmere (or other types of wool)
  • Recycled Down
  • TENCEL™ Lyocell and Modal
  • Ahimsa (peace) silk
  • Recycled leather
  • Recycled nylon (like ECONYL®)
  • Recycled polyester
  • Recycled Elastane

I like these materials, they have relatively low impact and are made more responsibly.

  • Organic Cotton
  • Linen, hemp
  • Bamboo
  • Certified Organic/ Responsible Wool (merino, cashmere, etc)
  • Certified Responsible Down
  • Cupro
  • Lyocell
  • Silk (especially certified organic)
  • Responsibly produced leather (e.i. certified by Leather Working Group, vegetable tanned or chrome free)
  • Certified Viscose (from responsibly managed forests)
  • Bio-based nylon (from castor plant)
  • Bio-based leather alternatives (like corn based vegan leather, corkleather,  Piñatex®Vegea grape leather etc.)

It’s “mixed emotions” materials for me, they have potential to be better and are yet to be made more sustainably

  • Viscose (not certified)
  • Down (not-certified)
  • Leather (non certified, non traceable)

I truly avoid these materials, they has a very heavy environmental impact.

  • Conventional cotton
  • Polyester
  • Nylon
  • Acrylic
  • Elastane
  • PU (synthetic based) leather alternative

You can read more about these and other materials in my blog section and learn everything you need to know about cotton vs organic cottonwool & cashmereleather and leather alternativessynthetic and bio-synthetic fabrics, viscose and other man-made cellulosics etc.

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