Sustainable Fashion & Athleisure Fabrics: How They’re Made & Why They’re Better

Sustainable Fashion & Athleisure Fabrics: How They’re Made & Why They’re Better



As environmental concerns take center stage in the fashion industry, the focus on sustainable and eco-friendly materials has never been more pronounced. While traditional fabrics like conventional cotton and synthetic fibers come with heavy environmental costs, sustainable alternatives are providing a path to a greener wardrobe. This article delves into the process of creating eco-friendly materials and explores why they offer a superior, sustainable choice.


Understanding Sustainable Materials

Before diving into their creation and benefits, it's essential to define what we mean by sustainable materials. Broadly speaking, these are materials with a minimized environmental impact. They may be derived from renewable resources, require less water and energy to produce, and cause less pollution. Often, they're also biodegradable or recyclable.

Sustainable materials can be natural (like organic cotton or hemp), regenerated (such as lyocell), or synthetic (think recycled polyester). Each type has its own production process and set of environmental benefits.

Producing Sustainable Materials

Let's now examine how some common sustainable materials are produced:

  1. Organic Cotton: Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton is grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, using farming methods that maintain soil health and biodiversity. Seeds are non-GMO, and water use is optimized through practices like rain-fed irrigation.
  1. Hemp: As one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics, hemp is easy and efficient to grow. It naturally resists pests, thus eliminating the need for pesticides, and requires less water than many other crops. The fibers are extracted from the plant stalks through a process called retting.
  1. Lyocell: Made from wood pulp (usually from sustainably managed eucalyptus trees), lyocell production is remarkably eco-friendly. The wood is chipped, dissolved in a non-toxic solvent, and then pushed through tiny holes to form fibers. The solvent is almost entirely recovered and reused in a closed-loop process, minimizing waste and pollution.
  1. Recycled Polyester: This synthetic fiber is made from recycled materials, such as plastic bottles or old polyester garments. The materials are cleaned, crushed, and melted to produce new polyester fibers, saving energy and preventing plastic waste from ending up in landfills or oceans.

Why Sustainable Materials Are Better

Choosing sustainable materials over their traditional counterparts provides several environmental benefits:

  1. Reduced Water Use: Many sustainable materials, like hemp and organic cotton, require significantly less water to grow than traditional ones. This is crucial in a world where water scarcity is a growing concern.
  1. Minimized Pollution: Conventional textile production often results in substantial pollution, from pesticide run-off to toxic dyes. sustainable materials combat this by eliminating or drastically reducing the use of harmful substances.
  1. Lower Carbon Footprint: Sustainable materials often have a smaller carbon footprint. For instance, growing organic cotton produces up to 46% less greenhouse gas than conventional cotton. Similarly, recycled polyester uses around 59% less energy than virgin polyester.
  1. Waste Reduction: Many sustainable materials are recyclable or biodegradable. This contrasts with synthetic fibers, which can take hundreds of years to decompose and are a significant contributor to microplastic pollution.
  1. Protecting Ecosystems: By eliminating the use of synthetic pesticides and promoting biodiversity (as in the case of organic cotton and hemp), sustainable materials help maintain healthy ecosystems.


Identifying Sustainable Clothing Brands

Identifying genuinely sustainable brands amidst marketing noise can be a challenge. Here are some key factors to consider:

  1. Materials Used: Sustainable brands often use eco-friendly materials like organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester, or Tencel. Look for certifications like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) or bluesign® that guarantee certain environmental standards.
  1. Production Process: Sustainable brands are transparent about their production process, often providing information about their factories, energy use, water management, and waste disposal. They should have strategies in place to minimize their environmental impact.
  1. Ethical Labor Practices: A genuinely sustainable brand respects its workers' rights. Look for fair trade certification or information about workers' wages, working conditions, and rights.
  1. Durability and Timelessness: Sustainable fashion isn't about trends. Look for brands that offer high-quality, durable pieces that are designed to last and offer timeless appeal.
  1. End Life Management: Many sustainable brands have take-back or recycling programs to manage their products at the end of life, minimizing waste.
  1. Certifications and Partnerships: Certifications like B Corp, Fair Trade, or Cradle to Cradle, or partnerships with environmental organizations, can indicate a brand's commitment to sustainability.


As the fashion industry grapples with its environmental impact, the switch to sustainable materials offers a powerful tool for change. These materials challenge the status quo of resource-intensive and polluting practices, offering a more sustainable way to dress.

As it relates to sustainable activewear, our first product, the Silver Sea Low Impact Lifestyle Sports Bra, is made from TENCEL™ Lyocell fibers, derived from natural raw wood material and produced from a resource-saving, closed loop production process. TENCEL™ can absorb about 50% more moisture compared to cotton or organic cotton and the fibers are naturally unfavorable to odor causing bacteria.

The Low Impact Lifestyle Sports Bra is just the first in our line of sustainable workout clothes coming out over the next year. At the very core of our values are comfort, style, and sustainability, and we can't wait for you to experience the feather soft feel of our unique blend of TENCEL™ Lyocell, enjoy the comfort and support of a design that took a year and a half to create, and replace your regular bra with the most comfortable and sustainable sports bra there is. 

Understanding how sustainable materials are made and why they're better is the first step towards making more informed, environmentally friendly fashion choices. While challenges and debates still exist around the sustainable credentials of some materials, the shift towards eco-friendly alternatives is a definite step in the right direction.

 Check out the TENCEL™ story if you'd like to learn more about how their fibers are produced. 


This blog was updated on June 4, 2024. 

Back to blog