Choosing The Best Fabrics For Your Clothing Line

colorful fabric bolts
Hannah Shulman

Hannah Shulman

When designing your fashion line, it is important to consider which materials and fabrics best suit your designs, your customers' preferences, as well as the price point you're hoping to use. Each material you use will affect the final product’s feel, consistency, look, and overall quality.

Choosing the right fabrics makes a huge difference in your ability to reach certain groups of customers. It contributes to your brand's image as either luxury, mass market, or fast fashion, and if used correctly, can become a major asset of differentiation for your line. Read on to learn about what to consider when choosing from among the most popular fabrics designers use, as well as about innovative new textiles that have recently begun to make their way into designers' tech packs and fashion shoppers' closets.

What Will Influence Which Fabric You Choose?

The materials you should use for your clothing depend on whether your core concern is product minimums, the environment, product feel, or something else. 

If  you worry about high minimums when manufacturing your product, opt for polyester over cotton. Generally, cotton requires high minimums for printed patterns or designs. 

If you want to create an eco-friendly line, steer clear of synthetics such as polyester and nylon. They are both non-biodegradable and damaging to the environment. According to Superego, “the production of nylon emits nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more dangerous to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide. The production of polyester requires much water, the contaminated water after usage is flushed back into the waterways.”

If you are producing a seasonal line, it might not be a question of what fabric to use, but rather, how much of it to use. Fabric belonging to winter wear tends to weigh heavier than that of summer wear and may cost accordingly.

Natural Fabric Fibers Vs Synthetic Fibers

colorful thread spools

Natural fibers come from natural sources such as plants or animals. Examples of natural fibers include cotton, wool, flax, and silk. Synthetic fibers are man-made fibers, produced from chemical compounds known as polymers. Polyester, nylon, and rayon are popular synthetic fibers in the fashion world. If a natural fiber is taken from an animal (like wool), it is warmer than synthetic fibers. While acrylic (a synthetic fiber) is also soft and warm, it is less “breathable” than natural fibers such as wool. 

Eco-Friendly Material Sourcing

Only 1% of clothing gets recycled back into clothing; 73% are sent to landfills as solid waste. One problem that hinders clothing recycling is that many clothing articles consist of both synthetic and natural fibers, which are difficult to separate. Companies like Tyton BioSciences seek to eliminate this issue by using technology to separate the two and have caught the eye of famous fashion brands like H&M, Adidas, and The Gap, among others. 

That's important because experts anticipate that fashion will account for 25% of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. 


Take cotton for example. Even though cotton is a biodegradable, natural fiber, if not produced sustainably, it can harm the environment. Its cultivation process requires a lot of water, with a single pair of jeans needing between 10,000 and 20,000 gallons. Cotton also accounts for one sixth of pesticides used globally, which negatively impacts farmers and local communities with damaging chemicals. According to the World Health Organization, around 20,000 individuals in developing countries die of cancer or suffer a miscarriage due to the chemicals sprayed on cotton.

Instead, fashion companies should use organic cotton or similar sustainable alternatives that use low impact cultivation processs. Forward-looking fashion brands are doing this and more to try and limit the environmental harm of building a clothing line.

Make Way for Linen

rolls of linen fabricWhile cotton (even some of the options certified as sustainable or organic) is cultivated and produced in ways that negatively affect the environment, linen has gained popularity for the opposite reason. Lyst, a global fashion goods platform, says that the summer months of 2019 saw a 46% increase in searches for linen items since January 2019. 

Linen is a more sustainable fabric than cotton, with one hectare of linen absorbing 3.7 tons of CO2 each year and 1kg of cotton consuming 22,500 liters of water. While linen used to be featured in loose silhouettes, many designers are now using it in sharp blazers and shift dresses.

Repurposing Discarded Apple Peels, Pineapple, and More

In the past few years, Australian label No Saints launched a collection of animal-free, eco-friendly sneakers. To create the sneakers, they used three materials:

  1. Apple leather from apple peels that juicing and compact factories discarded
  2. Pinatex (pineapple leather)
  3. Aquabase nappa – a synthetic leather made with 100% recycled polyester in a non-toxic, water-based process

While No Saints sneaks look like a typical leather sneaker, they are certainly more environmentally-friendly. Apple leather and other plant based leather alternatives are finding their way into more and more fashion products, and offer fashion designers and customers a creative alternative to more harmfully produced fabrics.

As you consider what fabric to use for your next fashion line, bear in mind your key concerns and methods of dealing with them. 


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