With climate change on everyone’s mind, new and sustainable fabrics are being developed all over the world. But, how do you tell which materials are genuine and which are trying to profit from the movement? ELLISS have created this handy article to give you the latest in new and innovative fabrics, read on for more.

Cotton alternatives

Although cotton is a natural fibre, non-organic cotton isn’t great for the environment. The growth of the product has been known to cause soil erosion, soil degradation and water contamination. It requires a lot of water (20,000 litres to grow one kilo of cotton to be exact) and the pesticides that are often used in its growth cause further environmental damage. As well as organic cotton (produced without any nasty chemicals), there are some innovative alternatives that have been invented.


Although not an entirely new product, Recover uses textile waste and transforms it into new yarns to continue the product lifecycle. Instead of disused fibres ending up in landfills or degrading in our oceans, the Recover innovation manufactures upcycled yarns into clothing, accessories and home textile products.

They collect used clothing at collection bins, or sort and recover garments from different depositories. The material is then cut, shredded and spun into usable yarns which can be woven as normal fibres would be!


Describing themselves as “the most spiritual fabric in the world”, the Samatoa is soft, breathable and almost crease-free. They weave their fabrics by hand using age-old Cambodian techniques to achieve the desired effect. Samatoa was recognized by the UNESCO Prize for Excellence for its use of the lotus flower in the making of a sarong, praising the innovative mix of lotus fibres, silk and natural dyes.

Food by-products

You might not have considered it, but there are many by-products of food that make great fibre alternatives for clothing. Not only are they strong and wearable, but many of the garments are biodegradable or the product of components that would have otherwise gone to waste. From pineapple leaves to potato waste, there are many innovations that have come from foods!


Currently, in the prototype stage of development, the MycoTEX brand is part of the WEARsustain project and has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The material is 100% biodegradable and is based on mycelium, the root of mushrooms. Although it sounds strange, they’ve created some cool wearable prototypes and have certainly caused disruption in the fashion industry.

Because it is manufactured in a lab, there is no need for expensive farmland, excess waste, chemicals or pesticides. Once the garment has reached the end of its lifecycle, simply bury it in the ground and it will decompose!


Piñatex is an innovative material that is made from pineapple leaf fibre, it is seen by many as an alternative to leather. The supply chain and methods used in manufacturing Piñatex creates additional income for farming communities without harming animals. The brand prides itself on being sustainably-sourced with little environmental impact.

The brand was started when a leathergoods expert became shocked to hear about the effect that leather production has on the environment and the amount of chemicals that are used in its manufacturing. That was when she came up with the natural alternative which began with sampling and developed into the brand that it is today.


Parblex Plastics are reinforced bioplastics that have been created using potato waste. Their aim is to tackle the huge issue of plastic pollution and the fact that only 15% of plastic makes it to recycling facilities. When it comes to the accessories that we see on the high-street, you would have noticed that many are made from plastic – whether it’s glasses, costume jewellery or hair accessories.

Their main suppliers are McCain, a family-owned company who are passionate about their ingredients and run many sustainability projects alongside production.

Orange Fiber

Orange Fiber is the first of their kind, they’re a business that has produced patented material from the orange by-product. The brand creates a fabric that has been likened to silk, and it can be combined with other materials to create a range of garments and products. The aesthetics of the material isn’t to be underestimated, it is soft, silky and lightweight – making it a perfect alternative to non-organic cotton or synthetic silks.

Depending on the way that it is produced, it can be opaque or shiny meaning it is suitable for a range of customers and their preferences. The process begins with using what is left of the fruit after it has been ‘industrially squeezed’. The cellulose is used to create a polymer that can be spun in the same way as wool or any type of yarn. Due to the high-quality properties of the material, the brand is well-suited to premium and luxury brands.


Australian company Nanollose, have created garments from cellulose fibres that have been extracted from waste products in the food industry such as coconuts. It was innovated as a sustainable alternative to rayon and cotton which both have a negative impact on the environment throughout their production process.

The coconut fiber waste material has been named ‘Nullarbor’ and it has been woven into stylish jumpers such as the one pictured. Their plan is to introduce it to manufacturers who want an easy-to-use and eco-friendly alternative to synthetic fabrics.


When a cup of coffee is created using a filter and machine, a lot of ground coffee ends up in the bin. One Taiwanese textile company has used processed coffee ground and combined it with a polymer to create a yarn that can be weaved. The material has gone on to be crafted into outdoor wear, sportswear and even household items.

Properties of the material include anti-odour qualities, UV-ray protection and quick drying time. Many synthetic materials do not have these abilities and it is a great use of a product that would otherwise have gone to waste. By partnering with companies that use a lot of coffee such as Starbucks, they are able to source materials at a low cost and as part of a mutually beneficial relationship.

Unique fibres

As well as plant-based and food-based products, there are also some innovations that are truly unique. These are often based on years of development and sampling, created by people who are passionate about finding durable and sustainable alternatives to materials that are harming the environment.


Would you ever have imagined that seaweed would produce fibres that are suitable to make long-lasting clothing? SeaCell has made it possible. Using the Lyocell production method (a process with no waste chemicals) the high-tech fibres can preserve the natural elements of seaweed, even after washing.

The elements in seaweed are rich in vitamins, amino acids and minerals, as well as aiding cell regeneration. This is great for sufferers of skin diseases, inflammation and itchiness and it’s a softer alternative to the synthetic fabrics that we see on the high street today.

The aesthetic properties of the fibre are a smooth and silky finish that is suitable for activewear, underwear, loungewear and home textiles. It can also be used in collaboration with other fibres to increase its strength or add colour.


SEAQUAL works with members of local communities such as NGOs and fisherman to create products out of recycled polyester yarn and waste products that are captured from the sea. Not only do they reduce the amount of plastic that is currently in our ocean, but they create something usable and useful out of it.

Fishermen help to clean rubbish from the ocean which goes on to be made into polyester yarn. Then it goes on to be woven, here it is mixed with natural, recycled or recovered fibres. After this stage, ecological dyes are applied and the garment is ready to wear!


Microsilks is one of many innovative materials that technology company Bolt Threads have created. This material, in particular, has been developed to replicate the strength and elasticity of spider webs.

Bolt Threads carefully studied spider webs to find out exactly what gave the web its unique properties. Proteins were then developed to replicate these components which went on to be spun into fibres that are similar to synthetic fabrics. The company collaborated with Stella McCartney to reveal the dress pictured in 2017.

As we can see, there are many different innovative materials that are being researched and developed constantly. It gives us optimism that synthetic fabrics may eventually be a thing of the past! Which fabrics would you like to see on our high-street?