A new fabric sourcing season is upon us! Ethically sourcing sustainable fabrics today is vital to responsible production. With growing concerns about environmental impact and ethical practices it’s crucial to prioritize sustainability in the textile industry. Especially in sustainable fashion and interiors, it’s crucial beyond a doubt. And it’s not for the faint of heart.

These 10 essential tips help you through the maze of sustainable fabric alternatives now emerging. Every season of your eco-fashion collection, or reason for your eco-friendly interior project is covered.

1. What’s your ‘lane’? Research and Educate Yourself on Sustainable Fabrics
This is a vast field, and often with conflicting credentials. For example, there’s no biodegradable fabric made from recycled ocean plastic … yet! So first of all dig deep and figure out where your energy goes in this rapidly developing sustainability scenario. Are you an animal lover wanting to work with faux leathers, or more of a nature lover needing plant dyed real leathers, or can you be both? You get the picture.

Then you can narrow down your research from the start and educate yourself about sustainable fabrics in your lane, their raw material sourcing, production processes, and certifications. Stay updated with the latest industry news, emerging technologies, and sustainable initiatives. The Textile Exchange is a great place to start. Trends happen in sustainability too.

2. Prioritize Natural and Renewable Fibres for Eco-friendly Fabrics
sustainable handspun handwoven heavy cotton khadiNatural and easily renewable fibres make fabulous yarns and ultimately the best biodegradable fabrics for the environment. What comes from the ground can return to it. Opt for materials like cotton, linen, jute, hemp, and bamboo. Organic farming of these fibres uses fewer chemical pesticides and water compared to conventional materials, making them environmentally friendly and perfect for sustainable fabric uses. Check out The Wellness Feed for more info on this.

3. Embrace Bio-tech Innovations in Sustainable Fashion
The relatively new kid on the sustainability block, or rather the one who’s been really shy up til now, is bio-tech. These innovations provide sustainable alternatives to traditional materials because they’re made of lab-grown fibres or microbial processes. This reduces the carbon footprint associated with farming and production,  Examples include lab-grown leather, spider silk, and bacterial cellulose. Many of these fabrics are not yet scalable and demand is far outstripping production, keeping the price high at present. But, as per point #1, keep an eye on industry developments, changes are happening fast. Check out what’s happening here at this ECBF blog.

4. Seek Artisan-Made Textiles for Sustainable Fashion and Interiors
Jeune Otte handwoven fabricsOf course this is where we at Motif fly our flag! Supporting artisans and craftspeople, particularly in economically poor regions is key. Sourcing fair trade, handmade textiles, has myriad benefits for both people and planet. Ethically handmade, fair trade, with natural and recycled fibres, zero waste, using traditional techniques, zero carbon, these fabrics have it all. With very low environmental impact they help preserve cultural heritage, strengthen local economies, and stabilise rural communities.  This is vital particularly in Bangladesh, where Motif fabrics are made, because families are then more secure and the risk of human trafficking is greatly reduced.

Designer-Artisan Partnerships are a great win for creatives too. Where else can your signature or custom fabrics be made with such low minimums? Include artisan-made textiles in your fashion collection or interiors project and you’ll have fabrics that resonate with your clients, esteem their makers and ensure that together we stop trashing our planet!

5. Verify Sustainable Certifications for Fabrics
Once you know your sustainability focus, ensure the fabrics you source bear relevant 3rd party certifications like GRS (Global Recycling Standard), GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), Fairtrade, OEKO-TEX® Standard 100, Cradle to Cradle Certified™, etc. These certifications, as well as open communication with trusted vendors, guarantee that fabrics meet specific sustainability and social responsibility criteria. This makes them ideal for sustainable fashion and interiors, and gives you peace of mind. Scroll through this list to find those useful for you.

6. Emphasize Recycled and Upcycled Materials for Green Interiors and Fashion
Placing a strong emphasis on fabrics made from recycled or upcycled materials, minimizes waste and reduces resource consumption. For example the Cyclo recycled yarns used by Motif require no new dyes, saving the environment huge amounts of toxicity and water. Maybe options like recycled polyester, Econyl® (regenerated nylon), and upcycled denim are good for you. Or fabrics created from post-consumer or post-industrial waste. These choices help close the loop in the fashion industry and help raise awareness of just how wasteful we’ve become.

7. Evaluate Water and Energy Footprint for Eco-conscious Interiors and Fashion
When sourcing sustainable fabrics there’s a big picture to consider, not just the raw materials. Understanding the implication of different factors helps you find your lane. Carefully evaluate water and energy consumption during production. Opt for fabrics that require less water during cultivation, processing, and dyeing. Amala Earth has some great Additionally, choose materials made using energy-efficient processes or renewable energy sources, such as solar or wind power, to promote eco-friendly interiors and fashion.

8. Prioritize Supply Chain Transparency in Ethical Fashion and Interiors
sustainable fabric design with hand weaversChoose suppliers and manufacturers that prioritize transparency throughout their supply chain. Seek out partners who provide comprehensive information on raw material sourcing, production processes, and labor practices. Transparent supply chains foster trust and enable you to make informed decisions about the fabrics you source, ultimately enhancing your sustainability credentials.

9. Collaborate with Sustainable Brands for Sustainable Fashion and Interiors
The way of business, especially in this space, is increasingly more collaborative than competitive. Seek partnerships with sustainable brands that share your commitment to ethical sourcing. Collaborating with like-minded companies helps create a collective impact and promotes a more sustainable ecosystem. Exchange knowledge, share resources, and support each other’s sustainability goals. Be sure and contact us at Motif for any ideas you may have for fabrics and for small batch production of accessories.

10. Continuously Improve and Innovate
Sustainable sourcing is an ongoing journey. Be sure to attend trade fairs with sections specifically for sustainable fabrics, like the curated Future Fabrics Expo or regular The Fabric Shows. At the end of the day it’s fabric … you’ve GOT to FEEL it! Regularly review your sourcing practices, keeping an eye on new technologies, innovations, and best practices. Strive for continuous improvement in your lane and, if in the process something else becomes important, assess carefully. Don’t just pick up the next trend because it sounds good. Sustainable fabrics are the conscious designer’s new candy store!

Bad News / Good News
There’s no quick-fix route to sourcing sustainable fabrics. The whole fashion & textile industry is a gargantuan, heaving, knotty mess. It’ll sadly be a while before the only fabric available is sustainable!

BUT, our intentional choices to change how we dress ourselves and our spaces are already making a difference. As a sustainable design professional are you ready for the diligence, research, and commitment to ethical practices it’ll take to have integrity in your work? By following these ten tips, you can make informed decisions and be part of a more sustainable and responsible textile industry. Embrace this massive movement to drive positive change and find your people to travel with – it’s an exciting road ahead!


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