Velvet is the fabric that gives any outfit a slight sense of extra opulence. But is it enduring? For the complete scoop on the fast-fashion favorite, keep reading.
Traditional velvet fabrics were made of silk, but over time, newly developed fibers were added to modernize the fabric. Velvet has a variety of variable environmental effects because it can be made from any type of yarn.
So, we had to sit down and untangle the question: is velvet fabric sustainable? Various base fibers, ranging from unsustainable (silk, regular cotton, synthetic fibers made of plastic) to sustainable (recycled/organic cotton, linen, lyocell), determine how sustainable velvet fabrics are.
Let’s find out. (Here is how to care for the velvet fabric.)
Is Velvet Fabric Sustainable?
According to the materials used, this varies. Today, velvet can be produced using a variety of materials, such as cotton, viscose, and polyester; this will determine how sustainable it is.
Either organic cotton, which is more environmentally friendly, or polyester, which is made from petroleum and has long-term negative effects on the environment, can be used to create velvet clothing.
Here is the sustainability of other fabrics:
- Is Lyocell Sustainable?
- Is Viscose a Sustainable Fabric?
- Is Modal Fabric Sustainable?
- Is Merino Wool Sustainable?
How Sustainable is Velvet?
Find out how to purchase velvet fabrics more sustainably by delving deeper into each stage of the life cycle.
Sourcing of Raw Materials for Velvet Fabrics
Silk is not a sustainable raw material for velvet fabrics. The cocoons that silkworm caterpillars create to encase themselves in as they change into silkworm moths are where silk is derived from.
The main food source for these larvae is mulberry tree leaves, which are frequently grown with a lot of space, irrigation, and (unnecessary) synthetic agrochemicals.
The Manufacturing of Velvet Fabrics
It is comparatively sustainable to produce velvet fabrics. Regardless of the type of base textile used, the manufacturing processes for velvet are fundamentally mechanical. Depending on the fabric’s foundation, different process dyes have different environmental effects.
The Transportation of Velvet Fabrics
Due to the distances traveled and emissions produced by moving vehicles, transporting clothing made of velvet fabrics can be a carbon-intensive life-cycle stage. Prior to being recycled or dumped, velvet fabrics typically travel from farms or fields to factories for processing and finishing, sorting facilities, retail outlets, and consumer homes.
The Usage of Velvet Fabrics
The yarn(s) used in manufacturing velvet fabrics determines how sustainably they can be used.
It is unsustainable to use velvet fabrics made from plastic-based yarns like polyester or nylon, which are derived from petroleum. These substances cause the release of microplastics into aquatic environments.
Due to the fact that this doesn’t occur with bio-based yarns like linen or lyocell, the use of bio-based velvet fabrics advances toward a more sustainable stage.
The End-of-Life of Velvet Fabrics
Depending on the yarn(s) used in production, velvet fabrics’ end-of-life stage can be either sustainable or unsustainable.
Velvet fabrics made from plastic-based synthetic yarns, such as polyester or nylon derived from petroleum, do not have a sustainable end-of-life. These substances cannot be biodegraded.
Fabrics made of bio-based yarns that are velvet typically have a sustainable end of life. These materials can be disposed of by composting, incinerating, and landfilling due to their biodegradability.
The Impact of Velvet Fabric
The effects of velvet vary widely and inconsistently because it can be made from a variety of materials. Here is the lowdown on whether velvet is morally and environmentally responsible.
Commonly, six times as much thread is used to make velvet as compared to other fabrics. If velvet is sustainable or not, it will depend on the type of fiber that is used.
Polyester is a typical material that is used to make less expensive products like velvet. The environment, however, pays a very high price in this situation for being fiscally wiser. The majority of the microfibers in our oceans come from fibers made from petroleum, which is how polyester is made.
Polyester is also not biodegradable. Fortunately, velvet can also be produced using other materials besides polyester. The environmental impact of this fabric will be reduced by using more environmentally friendly fibers, like organic cotton.
Impact on Animals
Silk, which is obtained from silkworms that secrete protein to form their cocoons, is used to make velvet. In order to stop the delicate cocoon threads from being torn as the worm transforms into a moth and emerges, the silkworms are traditionally boiled.
In the vegan community, this procedure is contentious. Ahimsa silk, also known as peace silk, has frequently been the solution to this problem because it is thought to be cruelty-free. Regarding how animal-friendly this practice is, however, there are disagreements.
Velvet made from synthetic fibers has an impact on marine life as well. Fish and other marine life ingest microfibers, which are then consumed by larger and larger species and have an impact on entire food chains. Smaller organisms break down the microfibers, which is a continuing concern.
How to Wear Velvet Sustainably?
We advise buying used to avoid contributing to the creation of new silk or plastic if you really want a velvet item in your wardrobe. Reduce your environmental impact while developing your own distinctive style by making wise choices and buying less.
As an alternative, try looking for velvet made of TENCEL™ Modal or Lyocell, which is produced using sustainable beech tree harvesting practices and environmentally friendly manufacturing techniques. Recycled velvet, if you can find it, is another excellent choice.
In addition, search for companies that are concerned with the rights of their employees, the environment, and animal welfare. To find companies that share your values, check out our directory and mobile app.
Conclusion: the Sustainability of Velvet Fabric
Velvet fabrics range from being highly sustainable to being extremely unsustainable. The actual environmental impact of a given product, such as a dress or chair upholstery, is dependent on more specific factors, such as the location of the raw material, how it was made, how far it traveled, and how it was transported.
Look for clothing made of sustainable materials like organic cotton, modal, hemp, and others. Velvet looks fantastic when worn in vintage clothing.
What is a Sustainable Alternative to Velvet?
Sustainable velvet fabrics can be produced using alternative yarns. They include but are not limited to organic cotton, recycled polyester, lyocell, and linen.
What Fabric is Least Sustainable?
Polyester, acrylic, rayon, nylon, and conventional cotton are the least sustainable fabrics. Polyester is frequently used in clothing, and since the majority of polyesters are non-biodegradable, they can take up to 200 years to decompose in a landfill.
Does Zara Use Sustainable Fabrics?
On their website, Zara made the following promises: By 2022, Zara promised to run all of their business operations using only renewable energy. They commit to getting rid of single-use plastics for customers in 2023. More environmentally friendly 100% linen and recycled polyester will be available by 2025, according to their plans.