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10 Up-and-Coming Sustainable Clothing Materials to Know About

There are so many new sustainable clothing materials on the market, from mushroom leather to Piñatex. Here's what to know about each.

Written by
Giulia Lallas

You probably know all about traditional sustainable clothing materials, like organic cotton and recycled polyester. But innovative new options are constantly hitting the market, and spoiler alert: some will amaze you.

From clothing made from seaweed to leather made from pineapples, the future of eco-friendly fabrics is definitely looking bright. Here are 10 of our favorite up-and-coming sustainable clothing materials to watch out for—many of which we've already tried and have fallen in love with.

10 Sustainable Clothing Materials

1. Mushroom Leather

Mushroom leather is exactly what it sounds like: woven fungus. It requires less energy to produce than traditional leather, and using it also results in less waste. Also, don't be fooled: Just because this leather is made from a plant doesn't mean it's flimsy. It's actually extremely durable.

2. Cactus Leather

Cactus leather is on the rise. So much so that Fossil is now using it in some of its bags. Developed by the Mexico-based company Desserto, the material is made of the prickly pear cactus. It's also done so in a that enables repeat harvesting. After the leaves are removed, the trunk is able to regenerate and grow new leaves every 6 to 8 months.

3. Bamboo

Bamboo is becoming increasingly popular for many reasons. It can grow up to three feet per day, regrows naturally, absorbs carbon dioxide, and produces 35 percent more oxygen than trees. What's not to like? A prime example of bamboo being used in the fashion industry is from the apparel company, Boody—a fan favorite here at Brightly.

4. SeaCell

Believe it or not, even seaweed made the list of sustainable clothing materials. SeaCell is made of seaweed that's rinsed, dried, and made into a cellulose fiber. The makers of the fabric only harvest the part of the seaweed that can be regenerated, and it's already gained numerous certifications (including OEKO-TEX).

5. Econyl

If you haven't heard of Econyl, that's about to change. First made popular by the sustainable clothing company Outerknown, the sustainable clothing material is made from fishing nets. Instead of using new resources, Econyl quite literally turns trash into treasure, cleaning up our clothing and the ocean.

6. Hemp

Hemp is one of the more popular biosynthetic materials in the industry right now. The hemp fiber comes from the hemp plant stem. After the hemp is gathered, it goes through the processes of retting, breaking, scutching, hackling, and roving (yes, those are all real things!) until it's eventually spun into a fabric. The nice thing about hemp is that it doesn’t require a lot of water. Plus, it’s super accessible in stores like Patagonia.

7. Cupro

You no longer need silkworms for silky-smooth clothing. Instead, Cupro—or vegan silk—is made out of disregarded fibers from the cotton harvest (aka the seeds). Additionally, it is a PETA-approved clothing material. Aside from being better for the planet, it's also an easier material to own. Instead of having to get it dry-cleaned, you can machine wash it.

8. Piñatex 

Piñatex is made of fiber from the leaves of the pineapple plant that would typically get tossed out. The result is a durable, leather-like fabric material. That’s right: pineapple leather. Pretty cool, right? Evidently it even smells amazing. Plenty of big brands are already using it, including H&M and Hugo Boss.

9. Apple Leather

Yep, you can make leather out of apples, too. Samara, the brand championing this potential new fashion staple, combines apple skins (which are leftovers from the juice industry) and a binding agent (PU) to make handbags, laptop sleeves, totes, and more.

10. SweetFoam

Allbirds has found a way to turn sugar into shoes. And it’s incredible. The material—called SweetFoam—is made from responsibly-grown and ethically-sourced sugarcane. The plants are passed through a machine, heated up, then thickened. Allbirds shared its recipe with other companies, and now both UGG and Timberland have shoe lines using sugarcane, too.