Natural fabrics are made of animal or plant-based fibres.
Plant fibres are collected from the seed cases, leaves or stem (bast) of a plant. These are cellulose-based fibres.
An animal fibre consists of the hair, fur or natural secretion (silk worm) of an animal. These are protein-based fibres.
In the manufacture of animal fibres, animal welfare (eg mulesing) must also be considered. Some animal fibres can only be obtained by killing animals, making them highly unethical.While animal and plant fibres are biodegradable (subject to how they are processed) and renewable resources, the rate at which we currently produce and consume them is not sustainable.
Cotton is a soft, fluffy, natural fibre used to produce soft, breathable, light-weight textiles.
Cotton is soft and breathable, which makes it the ideal fabric for summer clothing, perfect for warm climates, dry heat, and hot weather. Since it is non-irritating, it's also a great choice for sensitive skin.Plus, cotton is not clingy, which makes it great for clothes with a looser fit.Thanks to its versatility, almost any type of garment can be made out of cotton. But keep in mind that cotton dries slowly, so it’s not ideal for activewear.
Woven from the stems of flax, linen is also a natural fibre but it is twice as strong as cotton, making it a medium-weight fabric.
Garments made of linen possess high air permeability, which allows air to flow through the fabric easily and allows the body to breathe. In addition, it is highly absorbent, so perspiration will be quickly removed from the skin. This makes linen ideal for summer clothing.
Linen is also stiff fabric and is less likely to cling to the skin. Another great choice for sensitive skin, and more loose fitting clothes.It is used for shirts, shorts, trousers, blazers/suits, knitwear, and outerwear.Compared to cotton, linen wrinkles and creases much more easily.
Hemp fabric is made from the fibres of the plant cannabis sativa. It's a high-yield crop that requires no pesticides and needs little water, making it very eco-friendly.
Like linen and cotton, hemp is a great choice for summer. It is a lightweight fabric, which means that it is highly breathable, and it also effectively facilitates the passage of moisture from the skin to the atmosphere, so it is ideal for warm, humid climates. In addition, the fabric resists mildew and has UV-resistant qualities.Hemp fabric softens with each washing, and its fibres don't degrade even after a number of washes like cotton does. However, hemp is not as soft as cotton.
Silk is a natural protein fibre produced by certain insect larvae. It is a soft textile with a sheen, and it's also the strongest natural fibre.
Thanks to its luxurious appearance, silk fabric is used for more "formal" garments. It is often the fabric of choice for different types of dresses - such as wedding gowns and evening gowns, as well as dress shirts, skirts and scarves.
Even though silk is not very absorbent, it is a very light fabric, and because of that it tends to adjust to your body temperature, which is why silk can be worn to cool you down in summer and to keep you warm in the wintertime. It is not recommended on very hot days though, since it will not absorb perspiration.
Wool is obtained from the hair of domestic sheep and other animals.
Wool jumpers are a classic winter staple. This is because wool creates a natural insulation due to the air pockets that are present throughout. On top of that, it’s also water-resistant, so it’s a great option for snowy and rainy weather.
Something that is less well known about wool is that it also has cooling properties, making it wonderful to wear in warmer weather. It's also moisture wicking, keeping you dry. Look out for summer weight wool.
Almost all types of clothing can be made out of wool: suits, knitwear, trousers, underwear, socks etc.
Cashmere wool, usually simply known as cashmere, is a fibre obtained from the hair of the Indian cashmere goats. Depending on the garment, cashmere can be matte, or have a sheen, with often visible hairs.
Despite its light weight, cashmere keeps you warm and cozy during harsh winters and dark autumns. If taken proper care of, high quality cashmere can last for years.
Unlike other types of wool, cashmere is not scratchy. In fact, it is one of the softest types of wool and very comfortable to wear.
While cashmere is wonderful to wear during autumn and winter, the natural properties of cashmere make it ideal to balance out warmer temperatures and keep you cool and comfortable during spring and summer as well.
Cashmere is typically used for knitwear and outerwear.
Camel hair fabric is a fibre obtained from the hair of the two-humped Bactrian camel. The highest-grade fibres are tan-coloured, fine and soft, whereas the lowest grade is brownish-black and tends to be quite rough to the touch.
Almost twice as insulating and much more flexible than wool, camel hair fabric is resistant to crushing and will keep you looking crisp and wrinkle free.
Camel hair fabric is most often seen in its natural tan colour. When the fibre is dyed, it is generally navy blue, red, or black. Camel hair fabric is most often used in coats and jackets for autumn and winter garments that have a brushed surface. Camel hair gives fabric warmth without weight and is especially soft and luxurious when the finest of fibres are used.
Alpaca wool originates from the fleece of the alpaca. Since an alpaca can produce fleece throughout its life without being harmed, this can be a sustainable and animal-friendly fabric.
Due to the fineness of alpaca fibres, alpaca wool is extremely soft. It is also hypoallergenic and an excellent choice for sensitive skin. As alpaca wool is a naturally warm fibre, it is an ideal material for winter clothing.
Classified as a speciality long hair fibre, mohair is obtained from the Angora goat.
Mohair fibres have a relatively smooth surface. This means that it is softer to the touch and is less likely to be itchy on the skin. In fact, mohair is a great option for sensitive skin.
Mohair is warm in winter and cool in summer due to its heat regulating properties – unlike sheep’s wool, mohair fibres don’t conduct heat and provide good insulation even when wet.
Yak wool is a soft, natural, and sustainable fabric produced from hair of the yak. The fibres are naturally extremely fine, making it extremely soft and comfortable against the skin. The soft fine under hair is the desirable element of the yak's coat and is removed by a process known as de-hairing, which separates the soft under hair from the coarse outer hair.
Yak wool is used for making jumpers, hats, and jackets that keep you warm in winter. It's mainly aimed as being a more sustainable substitute for cashmere.
Leather is the natural skin or hide of an animal - typically cattle. To make this fabric, any hair is removed from the hide, and the skin is preserved and softened in a chemical process called tanning. Leather can be dyed, coated and embossed to give it a wide range of different characteristics.
Leather is a unique textile because it seems to get better with age. If properly cared for, it can last a lifetime. It’s very durable, and it’s a great shield against wind and weather, making it the ideal fabric for jackets and other outerwear. However, since leather is obtained by skinning animals (and hence killing them), it is never an ethical material and it's best to opt for the fake versions instead.
Fur comes from the skinning of animals and the stripping of their coats. Furs have restricted sizes because they come from hides and skins, making them harder to be worked into clothing and thus more expensive.
Fur is the natural coat of an animal. It is thus best suitable for keeping warm in winter. Fur is used to make hats, coats, gloves, scarves and other winter garments.
However, you have to bear in mind that although fur is a natural fabric, it is never an ethical material since animals must be killed to obtain their fur and animal welfare is always an issue. If you want the fur look, opt for synthetic faux-fur options instead.