Sustainable Materials Guide
Here at Aequem we ensure all our brands are 100% sustainable. Read our guide to understand how you can shop more consciously!
To understand whether a material is truly sustainable, we must look at the materials lifespan – cradle to grave. This means considering sourcing and farming; production in factories; product use; and disposal. It is down to you to ensure you use a product in the most sustainable way, after all buying a recycled organic cotton shirt, wearing it once then throwing it away is more wasteful than reusing a non-sustainably sourced shirt and donating or recycling at the end of its life. Get to know all out sustainable materials here.
Materials can be made synthetically or from natural materials. Believe it or not, you can have both natural and synthetic materials that are sustainable. For natural materials, check for organic certification, this ensures no artificial fertilisers or pesticides are used in the growing process, reducing the impact of farming on the environment.
Using natural dyes and being energy efficient in the manufacturing process is key! Switching chemical dyes for natural ones and minimising water and energy use can ensure the most sustainable production.
Now let’s talk PACKAGING. The fashion industry produces a crazy amount of plastic waste, everything from polyester offcuts and fast-fashion ending up in landfill to the plastic hangers and excessive plastic wrap used in online shopping. There is a lot we can do to change this. Using recycled, biodegradable materials means less plastic polluting our oceans!
Getting the best life out of a product is the best way to combat fast fashion. Why buy something new when you can use something you already have! Through careful washing, storage and repairs you can extend the life of you clothing items dramatically.
Ensuring materials are robust, durable and treated well can make them last a lifetime.
Before buying an item, think about where it will end up. Are the materials used biodegradable? Can they be recycled or upcycled?
If there is still a lot of life in your clothing then why not donate to a charity or do a clothes swap with friends.
If your clothing is looking a little life-lacking then why not try upcycling? An old skirt pattern could be perfect as a new headscarf.
On another note, mixed materials are harder to recycle. For example, if there is a cotton - polyester blend, additional processes are required to separate and start the breakdown of materials.
A Note on Organic
Simply put, organic products are those produced in the most natural way possible. This is materials grown without pesticides, fertilisers, effluent or been genetically modified.. Always check the label, if there is no certification then a brand cannot be guaranteed to be truly organic. We only work with GOTS-certified cotton to ensure that it is produced under the highest standards.
The best thing to do is to reuse old fabrics rather than produce new ones! Upcycling can produce beautiful and unique items whilst saving materials from the scrap heap. But if you want to opt for new products, try and find those which are made from natural or synthetic sustainable fibres.
Natural fibres are biodegradable, plastic-free and often organic. Here is an outline of the main natural fibres on the market at the moment.
Organic Cotton –
Organic cotton is light, breathable and incredibly versatile.
Organic cotton ensures no pesticides or chemicals are used in production that harm the environment. Check the brand is GOTS-certified to ensure the cotton is produced under high standards.
Recycled cotton is a more sustainable option by giving a new lease of life to post-consumer waste. This reduces energy and water usage and prevents waste.
Organic Backless Jumper Navy - Fabric For Freedom. New brand on Aequem!
Cargo Pant Utility Trouser, Sand
Hemp is a long lasting material that can cool in summer and heat in winter.
Organic hemp uses little water, no pesticides or fertilisers in the growing stage. In fact hemp even fertilises the soil allowing better growing conditions in the future, giving a little back to our damaged planet.
Dulse Orange Skirt
Kelp Orange Trousers
Linen is a light material that can withstand high temperatures and resist moisture and bacteria. These qualities make it perfect to wear all year long but especially during the summer!
Linen is one of the most biodegradable and stylish fabrics in fashion history. It is strong, naturally moth resistant, and made from flax plant fibres. Its natural colours include ivory, ecru, tan, and grey. The durability of linen means it lasts longer than other materials.
Growing flax requires very little water (much less than cotton!). Linen typically requires fewer pesticides, herbicides and fungicides than cotton and can grow in a nutrient poor soil. However, organic linen (the one that you can find on Aequem) is completely free from pesticides!
There is very little to no waste with flax as other parts of the plant, like the seeds, produce linseed oil or flax seeds for consumption.
Linen Jumpsuit in Navy
Nettle is a weed which grows everywhere around us - in gardens, on the roadside, anywhere you can see it. When you touch it, it stings. That's why it's called “stinging nettle.”
The plant grows almost uncontrollably, making it a quickly renewable resource. The process involved in the production of the nettle fabric, though labor-intensive, is done by hand. This cuts down on chemicals, energy, machinery and pollution that are often involved in the production of other textiles. The hand made aspect also adds to the value and luxury of the fabric.
Certification: Oeko Tex 100
Bamboo is naturally hypoallergenic, absorbent and antibacterial. It requires no fertiliser and self-regenerates from its own roots, so it doesn't need to be replanted. It is an incredibly sustainable fabric if it comes from a trusted environmentally friendly source, where the process has been proven to be chemical free and has not engaged in actions that inflate its carbon footprint (eg. global shipping). For this reason we only work with Oeko-tex certified bamboo to ensure that our customers only get the best and the most eco-friendly version with!
Organic Cotton Bamboo Black Triangle Bra
Organic Cotton Bamboo Flared Pants
Wool is resilient and water-resistant, making it fantastic outdoor wear.
Although not vegan, organic wool avoids the use of harmful chemicals. Look out for Soil Association or OF&G certified producers for the highest standards.
Alpaca Wool -
Wearing alpaca wool is a good choice for the environment, is is renewable, sustainable and eco-friendly. The alpacas are not harmed in the sheering process which is a major factor in its sustainable value.
Pleated Tank in Black
A-line T-shirt in Sea Green
Look out for undyed, unbleached or naturally dyed silk to ensure no harmful chemicals are used in the process.
Ahimsa ‘peace silk’ is a cruelty-free alternative where the silkworm is not killed in the process. The most sustainable type is Tussar silk, where silk is harvested in forests after the wild silkworms have left of their own accord. This type of silk is most common in India.
White Wool / Silk Pants
White Wool / Silk Top
Vegetable Tanned Leather –
Sustainable leather is waste prevention, where every part of an animal is used. Using a byproduct of the meat industry means no more land or resources are required to grow the initial material.
Tanning leather is traditionally chemical free, however many modern processes use harsh chemicals that damage the environment. The process should use natural products such as vegetables, wood, leaves and berries. This leaves the leather treated to extend life, but is crucially non-polluting and biodegradable.
Sia Shopper Tote - Black
Sia Shopper Tote - Tan
Fish Leather -
Fish leather is an eco friendly alternative to traditional leather whereby the discarded fish skin from the seafood industry is utilised to make a material (only taken from non-endangered species). It’s a month long process that produces a sustainable leather that has been said to be more durable that cows leather, waste and odour free.
Kombucha Leather -
This organic and biodegradable material is a product of bacteria and yeast. It can be grown far more efficiently than traditional leather because it doesn't rely on any animal produce. Using kombucha the textile grows thicker with each brew, feeding on the nutrients of the tea.
Kombucha Leather Jacket - One of a kind kombucha leather jacket by textile graduate Taylor Wilson UEL. Shop exclusively on Aequem!
Natural rubber in sustainably managed plantations can be a great option due to its unique elastic, moldable and bouncy properties. Avoid synthetic rubber, there is no substitute for the real thing.
Natural latex is found mainly in rubber trees in tropical regions like Sri Lanka. In a milky liquid form it is harvested without harming the trees, making it a sustainable process. This form of natural latex can also be recycled.
Latex Choker - Nicoline Hansen
Studded Latex Belt - Nicoline Hansen
Bio-acetate is made up of cellulose acetate, which is from wood, and a plasticiser, which is from citric acid esters. Both of those are of a natural origin and obtained from renewable sources. It's also recyclable and biodegradable.
Bio plastic refers to plastic made from plant or other renewable biological materials. Bioplastics produce less greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum-based plastics and in most cases can be completely biodegradable or compostable.
High-tech synthetic fabrics
Best used in activewear due to its antibacterial and moisture repelling properties.
TENCEL® is made from wood pulp and requires less energy and water than cotton.
Piñatex is a vegan leather alternative made from pineapple leaf fibre. Not only is it a perfect cruelty- free alternative to leather, it reduces waste and supports communities as leaf fibres are a by-product of pineapple farming.
Econyl is a recycled fabric that uses plastic waste like fishing nets and regenerates it into a new nylon fibre creating an incredibly versatile and durable material. This fabric is perfect for swimwear or activewear. For the perfect care please use laundry bags helping to catch any micro-plastics.
Rosemary One Piece Swimsuit
Lagoon One Piece Swimsuit
Qmonos is a synthetic spider silk with incredible strength and flexibility, making a certain fiction become reality! Look out for this on the market as it has only been opened up to the public recently.
Lab Grown Diamonds -
Lab grown diamonds are made of the same materials and natural occurring diamonds, pure carbon. However, the process of making and extracting is a synthetic one instead of the natural mining process. Lab grown diamonds have a smaller environmental footprint. This is because they use less water and create less waste - a much better choice for your environmental footprint. The SCS Global Services (SCS) is now certifying a sustainable standard among lab-grown diamonds. Also, brand can get their stones certified independently from The Global Gemological Research Institute.
Stainless Steel -
Stainless Steel has proven to be an environmentally friendly industry. Any stainless steel object is made up of at least 60% of recycled content. Produced in a way that protects non-renewable resources, more than 80% of stainless steel items are recycled at the end of their lives.
Post-consumer waste can be recycled! This could be anything from plastic bottles and tyres to nylon and polyester clothing. After cleaning and treating materials, they can be repurposed and save a huge load of waste from going to landfill.
Using scraps, treating old materials and creative designing can revive materials for a new purpose. Using industry waste, or materials from damaged clothing can double the life of a material. One man’s junk is another's treasure after all. The most innovative brands turn old tyres into bags or industry scraps to patchwork lingerie.
Thank you for checking out our guide to sustainable materials, hopefully this has answered any questions you may have had about the materials stocked on the website. We believe in the power of balance. Balance within ourselves, balance between people and the planet. Shop Aequem.