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May 21, 2018  |  Login
Bamboo, Hemp, Soy Silk and Other Fashionable and Sustainable Fabrics
By Cherl Petso

In the fashion world, the runways are trending toward the ethical, organic, and sustainable.  Previously thought to be a short-term trend, using sustainable fabrics is a practice that is here to stay.  Just as the exposure of child labor and sweat shops for manufacturing clothes was revealed, so is the environmental devastation brought on by conventionally grown fabrics.

In addition to the popularity of organic cotton, other sustainable fabrics are becoming more available.  Hemp, bamboo, soy silk, and others, are all easy to manufacture into cloth while also being easy on the environment.

Bamboo Fabric

This incredible grass is very versatile.  Not only a material for floors and furniture, a yummy snack, a Panda bear staple, and a houseplant that even the most negligent of plant owners can’t kill, bamboo is fast becoming an easy fabric choice for fashion designers.  Bamboo grows about a yard per day without the use of pesticides or fertilizers.  Bamboo is rarely replanted, because it shoots back up after it’s cut down.

As a fabric, bamboo has some wonderful natural properties.  First of all, the feel of bamboo is amazing, like silk and cashmere combined.  It’s also hypoallergenic and many people who typically experience allergies to fabric find bamboo to be a good solution.  There are also natural properties in bamboo that make it resistant to bacteria, and therefore also resistant to bacteria-caused odor.  The ultimate self-drying fabric, bamboo wicks away water faster than cotton.  What other fabric can keep you so dry and sweet smelling?

Hemp Fabric

A couple years ago, donning hemp fabric would certainly earn you the label of “hippie.”  Now, however, hemp fabric is being used to design dresses and blouses you wouldn’t associate with the burlap-sack stereotype.  Hemp is naturally insect-resistant and quick-growing, making pesticides and fertilizers unnecessary.  To top it all off, hemp is the most fiber-producing plant per acre, with a three times higher yield than cotton.

As a fabric, hemp is quite breathable, due to its porous fibers, but it will adjust based on the temperature of your body and the outside.  On colder days, hemp fabric will trap in the warm air produced by your body, but on warmer days, it will breathe to cool your body down.  The fabric is quite durable and versatile.  Unfortunately, the growth of hemp is currently illegal in the United States, making it necessary to import the fabric.

Other Sustainable Materials

Designers of eco fashion are becoming increasingly creative in their choices of materials.  Here are some of the fabric choices, from the more mainstream to the very strange:

  • Soy silk. This material feels just like it sounds, silky, and is derived from the waste used in making tofu.  The soy protein is extracted and the fibers are forced out, then cut just as typical fabric would be.  Soy silk is very receptive to dyes, requiring fewer chemicals.
  • Lyocell. This diverse fabric is said to feel like silk, but with properties that cool and warm the body as needed.  Made from the naturally-occurring cellulose in wood pulp, a material generally thrown out, lyocell is gaining popularity in the fashion world. more

Birch Clothing (2008) Sustainable and Organic Fabrics [online] Minneapolis. Available from: [accessed 7 March, 2009]

Blue Planet Green Living (2009) Eco-Friendly Fabrics Make Green Fashion Statement [online] Available from: [accessed 8 March, 2009]

Earth Creations. Earth Creations’ Natural Fabrics. [online] Available from: [accessed 8 March, 2009]

Organic Clothing Blogs (2008) Bamboo: Facts Behind the Fiber [online] Available from: [accessed 7 March, 2009]

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