Synthetic vs. Natural fabrics, what works best?

The debate between synthetic and natural fibres has been ongoing in the fashion industry. With both having their own pros and cons, it can be difficult to choose which to use. Lots of collections are extremely intentional with their fabric choices and what will work best for the particular piece and aesthetic.

Natural fibres are derived from plants or animals. Some popular examples of natural fibres are wool, cotton and silk. Natural fibres have their good aspects, and more negative ones that we’ll talk about later.

Synthetic fabrics come from a man-made source or production method. A good example of this would be polyester or velour, which are derived from plastic. Again synthetic fabrics have their individual good and bad aspects.

Natural fibres can be really great for having a softer or more luxurious feel. They are usually pretty versatile and can be easily dyed or altered. An argument against natural fabrics is its ethics.

Silk and wool being derived from animals on mass comes with its own connotations, such as cruelty and poor quality of life. This makes some people avoid it all together. It can also be sourced unsustainably and with unethical work conditions.

Although there are ethical options for natural fabrics, such as sustainably sourced cotton. Since these fabrics often don’t include any plastic they will often degrade more easily once disposed of.

Synthetic fabrics are extremely durable and hard wearing. They give versatility to products as they offer things such as stretch and structure. They also often use less water to produce than natural fibres. Although, they cannot degrade when disposed of- which is more of an issue since it’s cheaper to produce, therefore used heavily in fast fashion.

As a brand, it’s important to analyse your audience, ethics and overall desired outcome to help decide what you should use. Do some research on both, and assess the impact it could make on your brand, audience and the environment. Try and figure out what is cost-effective but still matches up with your idea and conscious choices.

Written by: Abby Ashenhurst

Digital content executive @ Elemntz