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“The promotion of organic cotton is very important for African farmers… first, they have health problems, then problems from the cost of pesticides… For African farmers, organic cotton is a good alternative” Julienne Kuiseu, African cotton specialist, PAN Africa

Fairtrade certified cotton gives farmers a guaranteed price plus a further premium to be used for community development projects. Moreover, clothing with the Fairtrade mark has been created using an ethically accredited supply chain.

Hemp is ecologically sound, needing little water or intervention, (though some processors use chemicals in the retting process, so check). As a fabric it’s strong and holds its shape. It can also be combined with cotton to create a softer fabric with elasticity, or with silk to create a smooth luxurious cloth which drapes easily.

Linen is made from flax, another traditional fibre crop which needs few chemical fertilisers, and less pesticide than cotton. Organic wool is produced using sustainable farming practices and without toxic sheep dips.


Recycled polyester Fleece jackets are now being made from recycled drinks bottles by companies such as Patagonia and VauDe. Marks and Spencer and Armani Jeans are also using recycled polyester within their product ranges.

Wild silk (raw/tussah/peace silk) is cruelty free as the cocoons are gathered after the moth emerges.

Tencel and Modal from Lenzing are made from eucalyptus and beech wood respectively, However, the German manufacturers produce these fabrics in an environmentally sustainable way to ensure minimal impact on the environment. Some critics argue that these new production methods, although they eradicate the need for harmful chemicals, use nano technology, a process which not all environmental groups are comfortable with.


Bamboo is frequently regarded as an eco fabric. It is soft, drapes beautifully and is made from a crop which grows quickly without the use of pesticides and fertilisers. Many extraction processes however involve the use of harmful chemicals, which can be counterproductive.

Crabyon is an innovative fibre made from crabmeat by Pozzi Electa. A natural product obtained from crabs is combined with natural fibre or cellulose, to create a new generation of biological, antibacterial yarns and fabrics, perfect for lingerie and swimming costumes. Trends Collezioni spring summer 09 preview

4. Eco fabrics

A few facts about eco fabrics from hemp to recycled polyester and details of suppliers of ethical fabrics