Not easy to navigate when buying a garment. Here is our little guide to textile materials that will allow you to recognize and choose your clothes with a look at the materials with which they are made for a more informed consumption. You will quickly understand that for responsible consumption the choice of certain materials is to be preferred, but it is also necessary to check the conditions under which they were produced.
The different textile fibers
A distinction is made between natural fibers and chemical fibers.
Natural fibers are fibers taken from our resources, in particular our plant and animal resources. These fibers undergo a mechanical transformation and in some cases can be treated.
Chemical fibers, as the term suggests, undergo a chemical treatment. A distinction is made between artificial fibers made up of natural resources requiring chemical treatment for transformation into fibers and synthetic fibers from the oil industry.
Natural textile fibers
In general, natural fibers are preferred to preserve the environment, but there are still some points to observe in particular concerning the production conditions of these fibers: Water consumption is a factor to consider. Moreover, for economic reasons, some plantations are done to the detriment of food needs in some countries, causing an imbalance and a shortage for the populations. These factors are to be considered for a wise choice of materials for your outfits.
Vegetable textile fibers
Plant materials include hemp, flax, cotton, nettle, coconut and jute.
Linen and hemp are among the most popular materials because they are ranked among the most ecological. Linen is the ecological fiber par excellence because it consumes very little water and energy. France is the leading linen producer, but weaving is exported. A movement to reintroduce linen weaving in France has begun and has been organized for several years. Linen is a very widespread material with thermoregulatory virtues. Hemp , less common, also counts among the top ecological materials alongside linen; it is a fiber that combines many properties including anti-bacteriological anti-parasite and also very strong.
Jute is also a very resistant fiber, but more raw it is less used to date for clothing.
Cotton is the best known and most widespread natural fiber. Nevertheless, the classic production conditions of the cotton plan are very consuming of water and pesticides, it is therefore necessary to favor organic cotton produced under specific conditions without pesticides and with a level of water consumption lower by 30% up to 60% in some cases. An alternative to organic cotton is recycled cotton from cotton scraps or recycling old clothes.
There are other fibers less known to the general public but which are making their breakthrough gradually. For exemple:
Nettle , even if a priori given its stinging properties the idea of wearing nettle fiber clothing is not the sexiest, think again! this ultra-resistant and very light material, grows by itself, does not require any pollutant. Nettle stem fibers have a very bright future in our closets!
Coir , a very thick fibre, with a very low decomposition rate, is ideal for geotextiles.
To find out more, read our article on the plant fiber sector and labels
Animal textile fibers
Animal materials are taken from animals such as silk, leather, merino wool, alpaca, cashmere, mohair and angora. These natural materials have many virtues, the point of vigilance being to respect the animal from which these precious fibers or materials are taken.
Silk , a luxurious material even if it has become more popular in recent years, is a strong, light and soft natural fiber. This fiber is produced entirely by the Bombyx caterpillar, housed in the mulberry trees. The silk thread comes from the protective cocoon of this caterpillar. It is a natural material but the traditional production of silk thread boils the cocoons before spinning them. There is now a sector that avoids scalding the Bombyx for animal respect, to be preferred of course.
Merino wool comes from merino sheep; Very widespread, it is a warm, soft and resistant fibre. A sector is being rebuilt in France in respect of animal well-being, that is to say that the shearing process respects the animal, its skin and its cycle.
Alpaca is a luxurious fiber; alternative to cashmere, it is a very soft, ultra-light, resistant and very warm fibre. What else? The main producers are Peru and Bolivia, which export the fibers or weavings directly. It is widely used by the high-end and luxury fashion sector. There is also a small alpaca industry made in France.
Cashmere, the luxury fiber par excellence, comes from cashmere goats. It is a very warm and soft material widely used in the luxury industry. It comes from Mongolian goats bred for their wool. The growing demand for cashmere has, however, led to an intensification of this breeding with the excesses that accompany it, namely: mistreatment and desertification of the land.
Mohair comes from Angora goats. Soft and warm fiber it is used as an alternative to cashmere. This fiber has been controversial due to the mistreatment of Angora goats in South Africa, which has led to an immediate boycott by many brands. However, there is an alternative of Angora wool made in France which respects goats for a responsible and cozy mohair wool.
Angora , made from the hair of the Angora rabbit, is an ultra-soft and comfortable material. The hair is also very resistant and insulating. This hair, which seems ideal for our cozy sweaters this winter, is nevertheless recovered by plucking directly from the rabbits: Even if there are other alternatives (mowing, depilation) this method remains the most widespread and is of course denounced.
Leather, mainly used for our accessories, but also for clothing, this material is breathable and has an impressive resistance to time. Historically, leather is waste from the food industry which was made into useful accessories. The fashion industry and the rise in power of consumption has widened the sector on farms intended exclusively for the production of leather without taking into account the respect of the animals. Leather is a beautiful material to use insofar as it respects its original ethics, ie the use of waste from the food industry which itself respects their well-being.
You have probably understood that these textile materials used for centuries have very good properties, you just have to be sure of the conditions in which they were produced. They also require careful maintenance: Attention that makes all the difference for us and our families.
To find out more, read our article on the animal fiber sector and their labels.
Chemical textile fibers
Among the chemical fibers we distinguish the artificial fibers which are materials made from natural components or fibers but which undergo a chemical treatment for a transformation into textile fiber. Synthetic textiles are made from petroleum.
Artificial textile fibers
Artificial fibers include viscose, modal, acetate, Lyocell (Tencel), bamboo, milk, corn, soy, Pynatex (pineapple)
Viscose is a fiber reconstituted from wood cellulose. It is a very fluid material with a very nice fall. To obtain this fibre, wood viscose goes through a series of heavy chemical treatments; moreover, in certain cases, it is responsible for major deforestation programs. Some viscoses are produced in accordance with programs limiting deforestation and reducing certain chemical processes.
Bamboo fibers are also a bamboo viscose: even though bamboo is a fast-growing plant, the fibers are produced using the same processes as viscose.
Lyocell made from eucalyptus plant leaf pulp, treated with non-toxic and recyclable products, is biodegradable and is an ecological alternative to viscose. The best known version is Tencel.
Modal (beech wood) and cupro (cotton waste) are also great alternatives.
A little more surprisingly , milk textile fiber is becoming trendy. Made from uneaten milk leftovers, this fiber makes very soft, silky and biodegradable fabrics. In the same line , the soy textile fiber is anti-bacterial and thermoregulatory. Corn textile fiber made from corn starch is also very popular because it is more economical. Yes, we didn't know that textiles are on our plates!
A vegetable alternative to leather, Pynatex is also called pineapple leather. However, it requires a stabilizing layer of plastic. You will have understood it in textile material difficult to be perfect.
To find out more, read our article on the artificial fibers sector and their labels.
Synthetic textiles include polyester, polyamide (nylon), elastane (lycra) and acrylic. These fibers do not contain plants and natural components: they are all derived from petrochemicals, they have breathable, easy-care and often crease-resistant properties. However, they retain odors and are often antistatic. Ecologically, these materials have a disastrous impact on the environment: their manufacturing techniques are polluting and with products that are at best allergenic or carcinogenic or endocrine disruptors. Also, they are not biodegradable.
Get ready with this list, we're not going to make you dream!
Polyester is the most used material on the textile market in the world; it has even taken an indecent share of the market with the rise of fast fashion over the past two decades. This textile material is manufactured in different sites around the world by a process of polymerization of petroleum products. It is a material that is easily machine-washed, but its manufacturing process generates the emission of small plastic particles when washed, which are found in the stomachs of oceanic fauna... There are recycling processes that allow to re-manufacture recycled polyesters. but this does not absorb the impact of maintenance on biodiversity.
Elastane is elastic, it is a thread often associated with other natural or artificial materials to give them a little elasticity. It is widely used in the sports industry.
Polyamide, Nylon being the most popular, is manufactured in particular for stockings, tights, lingerie, swimwear. This textile is soft and wrinkle-resistant, but its manufacturing process uses toxic and irritating components.
Acrylic is made from many toxic chemicals, especially hydrogen cyanide which is particularly toxic to humans. It is cheap but does not last long.
You will have understood the great effects of these synthetic materials on the planet by the chemicals used, the manufacturing techniques but also the non-biodegradable side are not very glamorous and even less ecological. Even though these materials can be cheap, one comment, avoid consuming them.
To find out more, read our article on synthetics and why we don't use synthetics or use them very little.
Choose your types of fabrics
Textile yarns can be woven in many different ways. The rendering can be very different depending on the weave. Knowing the weaves is essential to select your clothes correctly: Here is a short guide that lists the main weaves and their properties in terms of clothing. For responsible, sustainable and ecological consumption, avoid synthetic weaves and wear natural or recycled materials made under ethical conditions.
What material for a dress?
A dress for every day
For a daily flowing dress , opt for a lyocell dress or a silk one for a dressier version. A casual dress in organic cotton poplin or cotton blend veil will be very comfortable and will give a casual chic style to your outfit for going to work.
The cotton silk blend is also a choice of casual chic dress not to be overlooked, for example for a family reunion or for a chic business dress.
A dress for a cocktail or for the evening
For a cocktail, a silk crepe cocktail dress is ideal, light and fluid, it will be both elegant and comfortable. For winter, try a silk dress or a woolen cheesecloth.
Do not hesitate to recycle an old evening dress by customizing it for a unique and original result.
What fabric for a top?
Choose your top according to the circumstances
The perfect fabrics for a top are organic cotton and linen. A cotton knit T-shirt, a linen or hemp blend top are also very comfortable. Poplin or cotton veil are perfect for a shirt or silky for a more luxurious version. Lyocell is an option to consider as a substitute for viscose.
The chic silk top
A silky top or blouse is a safe bet to pair with the rest of the outfit. An original luxury version top will dress up the rest of your wardrobe. The must to keep in your wardrobe.
What material for a skirt?
cute summer skirts
For a fluid summer skirt, prefer linen and an organic cotton voile. Silk is also a good option, for a dressier effect. In mid-season, opt for a fluid lyocell skirt as the basic of your wardrobe.
The organic cotton pencil skirt will look great for going to work.
Choose your skirt in the cold season
The skirt in very cold weather remains the feminine asset which, combined with pretty tights, remains warm and elegant. One can opt for many styles according to its morphology or the occasion. The mythical wool crepe pencil skirt associated with a silk blouse remains the safe bet for going to the office. If you want to breathe a little more, adopt a flared skirt which can be declined in many weaves.
What fabric for pants?
Choosing Quality Summer Pants
The big summer trend is linen, its characteristics are perfect for hot summers. You can also choose a cotton sateen
A reshaped burlap can also make a big difference
The top of winter pants
The must for winter is super 100 wool, which has the advantage of being both fine and warm, it is the material of choice for wide or straight trousers. You can also opt for a thicker light sheet for the extreme cold.
What material for a jacket?
A mid-season jacket
In mid-season, cotton or linen remain the key materials for a jacket, their characteristics are perfect for good hold and comfortable wear. A shaped burlap for a long jacket can also provide a natural casual chic touch. A wool and linen mix is also a very good mix.
The chic winter jacket
For winter opt for a super 100 wool or cashmere jacket. Alongside woolen cloth, these are the preferred materials. These materials, with a magnificent drape, keep you warm while allowing the skin to breathe.
What fabric for a coat?
What women's coat for mid-season?
A beautiful thick cotton coat , or a raw hemp will be the most beautiful effect for spring.
For a mid-season event, a jacket in a linen and silk or cotton satin blend will give an elegant note to pair with a silk crepe cocktail dress or an evening dress.
Choosing a winter coat?
A beautiful, quality woolen sheet for a daily coat for the cold season is the preferred option. From the outset, this material has been essential for your winter wardrobes.
On the luxury side, to highlight your difference, opt for a cashmere coat or an alpgaga coat, light, warm and very beautiful. If you have the advantage of offering yourself a coat in vicuña , a rare ultra-luxury material, take advantage of this great opportunity to warm up.
And there you have it, a quick overview which I hope will help you select your clothes, avoid toxic materials for your family, animals and the environment and read labels carefully.
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