4. Spider silk

Despite the name, spiders are not used in the production of this material. The company that invented spider silk, Bolt Threads, studied spiders and their DNA to learn how the fibre was produced and work out a way to develop their own version. No spider DNA is used in its manufacture and the end product is completely synthetic. 

The main input in the fibre-making process is sugar from plants that are grown, harvested and replanted. The sugars from these plants are fermented and this produces a protein that is then spun into a fibre; spider silk. The great thing about this material is that it is made from renewable resources so the environmental impact is also lower.

5. Eco Leather

In the manufacturing of leather, skins are stripped of hair, degreased and cured with salt, before being submerged in water for up to two days to desalinate and moisturise the hide. The next, and most vital stage, is tanning, which helps to fortify and preserve the hide. Without this stage of the process, the untreated skins would rapidly decompose and become unsuitable for most purposes. 

One major criticism of the industry hinges on the ecological impact of the tanning process. In ancient times, the process used purely natural ingredients, but since the industrial revolution the use of highly abrasive chemicals such as Chromium Sulphate has become standard throughout the industry.

One alternative is the use of ‘Eco Leather’, a relatively recent development within the fashion industry. The ‘Eco’ variant still uses genuine animal hides (i.e. it is not vegan), but the manufacturing process sidesteps the more environmentally damaging impact of mainstream tanning. Rather than using abrasive chemicals, this far more ethical approach utilises natural, plant-based products such as tannin, extracted from the bark and leaves of trees, to create the same preservative effect.

By working with manufacturers who use sustainable fabrics you can ensure your fashion or homewares brand is looking to the future of both the planet and its people.