The products sold at IVALO.COM are made of a wide range of materials. The minimum criteria we require from brands for materials in our Sustainability Framework for Fashion are that the origin of each material is known and the products are designed for long-term use. Detailed information about the materials as well as washing and care instructions can be found in the product descriptions.
The most commonly used materials in clothing are polyester and cotton, which are known to have significant environmental impacts. Clothing, shoes and accessories are also made from a wide variety of natural materials as well as other man-made, modified and recycled fibers.
The environmental impacts linked to material production include water and energy consumption, the use of chemicals, land use, water, air and soil pollution, and carbon dioxide emissions. Increasing the use of more environmentally friendly materials is important as it is less harmful to the environment. Textile Exchange publishes an annual report on recommended materials.
“When choosing a material, it is important to consider its purpose, quality and how well the material can be maintained, as well as the environmental impact and ethics of the production chain.”
The quality of the fabric and how the garment can be maintained also play a part in forming the environmental impact of a piece of clothing. Recycling of fabrics will also become even more important in the future.
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, a circular economics expert, has estimated that doubling the number of times a piece of clothing is used would reduce their CO2 emissions by 44 percent. Enabling longevity and reusing of products requires high quality materials.
Washing and maintaining the products as instructed can significantly extend their life. Some materials require fewer washes than others and therefore have a lower environmental impact during use. Check out our tips for more sustainable clothing care here.
Ethical production of materials can be verified, for example, with the help of different certificates. For example, Fair Trade and GOTS certifications guarantee safe and fair working conditions in the production of materials, while Responsible Wool Standard guarantees the ethical treatment of animals. We recommend getting familiar with certifications and products made of recycled, innovative and organic materials.
Cotton is a soft, breathable, and durable material. It does not electrify or pill in use and is the most used of the natural fibers. However, a lot of water is needed for cotton to grow. Harmful fertilizers and pesticides are also used in the cultivation. More environmentally-friendly options for cotton are for example organic cotton, lyocell, and recycled fibers.
Wool is a breathable, warm, and soft material. It should not be washed too often. Airing wool garments in the fresh air and good maintenance are usually enough. Merino wool is especially known for its good quality and softness. Wool production uses a lot of land, energy, and water and causes greenhouse gases. Favor mulesing-free, organic and recycled wool products.
Cashmere is soft, warm, and drapes well. One cashmere goat produces only a small amount of wool which makes cashmere very valuable. Cashmere is considered to be an environmentally friendly option for traditional lamb’s wool but overproduction of cashmere has also caused problems. Increased farming of cashmere goats is leading to the degradation of the grasslands.
Leather is a breathable material, and well-maintained quality leather lasts for years. Most of the leather used in the fashion industry is a by-product of the food production chain so the challenges are the same: the erosion of the land, pollution and eutrophication of waters, greenhouse gas emissions, and ethical questions. Harmful chemicals are also used in tanning which is the finishing process of leather production. Vegetable-tanned leather is considered to be a more eco-friendly option for chrome-tanned leather. Recycled leather is also a good choice.
Linen is a natural fiber that stems from the flax plant. It is both strong, durable, and breathable. Flax does not require much water, pesticides, or fertilizers to grow. It can also be grown in poorer soil. This is why linen is considered to be a sustainable alternative to conventional cotton.
Hemp has very similar properties to linen and is a strong, durable, and breathable fiber. The plant can grow in poor soil unsuitable for food production and is good for the soil structure. It grows fast and requires only a little water, fertilizers, and pesticides to grow. For these reasons, it is considered to be environmentally friendly.
The quality of organic cotton is the same as that of conventional cotton. It is a soft, rather durable and breathable fiber. In organic cotton production, no GMO seeds, pesticides, or fertilizers are used, and the organic farming methods preserve the soil. This makes the production safer and more environmentally friendly. The most common certification for organic cotton is the Global Organic Textile Standards, GOTS. Currently, less than 1% of the global cotton production is organic.
Breathable, warm, strong, and long-fibered Alpaca wool is extremely soft and smooth. Alpacas are mostly raised in the mountains of Peru, where they live either free, shepherded, or on farms. Alpaca wool is known to be an environmentally friendly option for wool. Alpaca farming leaves a low environmental footprint and one animal produces a significant amount of wool.
Silk is smooth, soft, and breathable and feels either cool or warm on the skin depending on the temperature. Airing silk garments is often enough for maintenance. Fertilizers and pesticides are used to grow mulberry trees where the silkworms live but compared to cotton fewer chemicals are used. Organic silk is grown completely without harmful chemicals. Silkworms die in the traditional silk production for the quality fabric to be made. Peace silk is a method of breeding and harvesting silk without harming the silkworms.
Strong and smooth polyester is the most used textile fiber and is often mixed with other fibers to make them more durable. Compared to natural fibers less water is needed in the production. Although polyester is a strong material, it often electrifies and pills in use depending on the quality. Polyester is made of non-renewable petroleum and its manufacture consumes a lot of energy and causes emissions. Polyester clothes also release microplastic fibers during washing. Recycled polyester is a more eco-friendly alternative for new polyester.
Viscose is a soft and breathable material that does not electrify. For these qualities, it is often called artificial silk. Viscose is a fiber made of cellulose from wood and can be made from eucalyptus, bamboo, or birch, for example. Production of the material demands a lot of energy, chemicals, and water. Modal is a fiber that has qualities and a manufacturing process similar to viscose. Lyocell (TENCEL™) is an eco-friendly alternative for viscose.
Polyamide / Nylon is a durable, smooth, and moderately stretchy fiber. For some clothing, like tights and outerwear, polyamide is a good choice because it lasts better in use than natural fibers. Polyamide can electrify and pill, and like polyester, it is made with petroleum. Less water is used compared to the production of natural fibers but the energy and chemical usage, as well as the number of emissions, are significant. Polyamide also sheds off microplastics when washed. Recycled polyamide is a more sustainable alternative to new polyamide fiber.
Flexible and stretchy Elastane (Spandex, Lycra) is merely mixed with other fibers to make them more elastic. It is also made of non-renewable petroleum and adding elastane to fabrics makes recycling difficult.
Acrylic is weather-resistant and feels soft on the skin. It is a cheap material and often weaker in quality. It is made of petroleum and compared to other synthetic fibers the water and energy usages are greater. Just like other synthetic fibers, acrylic also releases microfibers during washing.
Bamboo is a soft and breathable silk-like fiber. Though bamboo grows very fast and does not need any fertilizers or pesticides, lots of chemicals and energy are used in the production of bamboo viscose.
Cupro is a soft, smooth, durable, and moderately breathable material. It is made of cotton linter, a by-product from cotton production, and cellulose from wood. Manufacturing of cupro can be done in a closed process, allowing used water and chemicals to be reused. Material is also biodegradable and is considered environmentally-friendly.
Recycled polyester is made of recycled plastic bottles. This reduces the use of non-renewable resources and the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and waterways. Producing recycled polyester needs fewer resources than making completely new fibers and results in significantly lower carbon dioxide emissions. As with polyester in general, microplastics may shed during washing. Recycled polyester is usually added to recycled cotton fabrics to make the material more durable.
Recycled polyamide (recycled nylon) is made of old fishing nets and other plastic waste like used nylon mats and tights. Recycling polyamide helps to reduce plastic waste in landfills and oceans. It also consumes less water and energy compared to producing new nylon. ECONYL® is a great example of certified, environmentally friendly, and recycled nylon.
Recycled cotton is made of the cutting waste of the clothing production and sometimes from used textiles. Recycled cotton helps to reduce textile waste and uses a lot less water and other resources than traditional cotton production. Because of the mechanical recycling process, the length of the recycled cotton fiber is shorter. To ensure good quality recycled polyester or normal cotton is added to the material. The production of recycled cotton is not very common so far.
Used wool garments and wool surplus are used to make recycled wool. This prevents wool from ending up in landfills and also helps to save a great amount of water. The chemical-consuming dyeing process is also avoided. Preferring recycled wool reduces land usage and the pollution of air, water, and soil.
Lyocell (TENCEL™) is an eco-friendly alternative to viscose, also made from wood cellulose. It is made in a closed-loop system that recycles almost all of the chemicals used. Lyocell is the generic name of the fiber, and TENCEL™ the brand name for lyocell commercialized by the company Lenzing. TENCEL™ is made from eucalyptus from sustainably managed forests. Eucalyptus trees grow fast without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, and irrigation. Just like viscose, lyocell is a biodegradable fiber.
REFIBRA™ is a new fiber produced from cotton scraps and wood pulp. It is based on the TENCEL™ production process, which has been recognized as environmentally responsible. In addition to that, it offers a new life for cotton leftovers from garment manufacturing.
Piñatex® is a fiber that comes from pineapple leaves and can be used as a substitute for leather. It is considered sustainable because it uses the by-products of pineapple harvests, so no additional resources are needed to produce the material.