Future Fashion II - Sustainable alternative animal-derived materials

Posted in: biobased

This article investigates the sustainability of widely used animal-derived materials for clothes manufacturing (such as leather, silk and fur), detailing current practices and presenting biobased non-animal alternatives.

In the previous instalment of the Future Fashion article series, we provided an overview of the environmental impacts of some of the most widely used textiles in the fashion industry – natural and synthetic. We provided an overview of the existing sustainable and biobased alternatives to those and showed that they could allow the fashion industry to transition towards a circular sustainable economy. This second article focuses on sustainable biobased alternatives to animal-derived materials, namely leather, silk and (faux-) fur.

Opinions on the use of those materials are often very polarised due to their inherent animal-derived nature. As numerous activist organisations such as PETA raise awareness on the often cruel treatment inflicted on animals1,2 to source the raw materials, some businesses  argue that as leather, silk and fur are manufactured from biobased raw materials, they are more environmentally friendly than man-made alternatives which often contain petroleum-derived polymers, like polyester3,4,5. In addition, providers of 100% animal-derived materials also argue that their activity plays a crucial role in helping protect the environment by optimising ecosystem services and making use of waste from other industries (i.e. meat and dairy for leather). This everlasting debate perfectly illustrate the complex nature of the transition that the fashion industry is attempting to undertake, especially when dealing with animal-derived products.

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This article was written by Thea Allary, Research Analyst at NNFCC.

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