1. Polyester Fabric
Polyester (polyethylene terephthalate or PET) is the most commonly used fiber in the apparel industry. According to a
report published by the Textile Exchange, polyester
accounted for approximately 52% of the total volume of fibers produced globally in 2020.
Around 32 million tons of the 57 million tons of polyester
produced every year is used in the apparel industry.
Polyester is a synthetic, man-made fabric that is typically derived from petroleum. It is used in a variety of garments and household items, such as shirts, suits, pants, dresses, curtains, and bed sheets because of its durability.
Polyester fibers can handle abrasion and do not require special care. The hydrophobic property of polyester fabric makes it suitable for garments that are to be used in damp environments. Polyester is a strong fiber that has many industrial uses as well, such as carpets, ropes, air filters, and fishing nets.
Properties of Polyester Fabric
Another benefit that polyester provides is that it can be mass-produced at a low cost. The production of polyester costs less than some other fabrics, such as cotton or wool.
Polyester fabric offers many benefits but it can be harmful to the environment and the consumer’s body. Some of the disadvantages of polyester fabric are that it is made from fossil fuels, encourages fashion overproduction and waste, and is not biodegradable.
Recycled polyester is a solution to the environmental impact caused by polyester. Recycled polyester or rPet is produced using recycled plastic bottles. It has various advantages:
2. Cotton Fabric
The second most commonly used fabric in the world is cotton. According to the Textile Exchange, the production volume of cotton stood at 26 million tonnes, accounting for a market share of around 24% of global fiber production in 2020.
Cotton is a natural hollow fiber derived from cotton plants. Due to its characteristics, such as softness, durability, and absorbency, it is an ideal fabric for clothing. Cotton is widely used for producing t-shirts, jeans, dresses, sewing thread, bed sheets, upholstery, curtains, pillows, and towels. It is also used for making a range of woven fabrics, such as denim, canvas, khadi, damask, flannel, etc.
Cotton fabric is water absorbent, but it also dries quickly. Cotton is known for its light texture and makes a great fabric for comfortable daily wear, however, it wrinkles easily and tends to shrink on washing.
Properties of Cotton Fabric
Like polyester fabric, cotton also has an environmental impact. Cotton cultivation is water-intensive and involves the use of harsh chemicals, pesticides, and fertilizers while growing the crops. These harmful chemicals harm the soil, runoff into the surrounding water, and end up being present in end products.
However, it is possible to produce cotton sustainably. Cultivating organic cotton requires less water and does not involve any synthetic chemicals, such as pesticides or fertilizers, resulting in reducing the environmental impact.
3. Nylon Fabric
Nylon or Polyamide is the second most used synthetic fiber. According to the Textile Exchange, Polyamide accounted for a 5% market share of the global fiber market in 2020.
Derived from petrochemicals, nylon fabric is known for its excellent strength, durability, and elasticity. With such incredible properties, Nylon fabric has a variety of uses. It is used for making toothbrush bristles, military vests, ropes, fishing nets, and bridal veils.
The fashion industry relies on nylon fabric and uses it for making stockings socks, tracksuits, and sportswear. Nylon has high water resistance and is ideal for making swimwear. Umbrella and luggage manufacturing units also rely on nylon.
Nylon fiber blends well with other fibers, such as polyester, cotton, and spandex to create fabrics with great stability, reliability, and other properties. For instance, blending nylon with cotton fiber makes it more breathable.
Properties of Nylon Fabric
While nylon fabric has numerous advantages and excellent properties, it has some environmental impacts as well. Nylon is made from a non-renewable resource (petroleum), which has adverse environmental impacts during extraction.
Nylon requires more energy to manufacture compared to polyester and cotton. Furthermore, the energy-intensive manufacturing and processing of nylon create emissions of greenhouse gases, contributing to global warming. Nylon is not biodegradable and can remain on earth in a landfill or an ocean unless disposed of properly.
4. Wool Fabric
After synthetic fibers and cotton, wool is one of the most commonly used fabrics in the world. The annual global wool production volume stood at around 1 million tonnes with a
market share of around 1 percent in 2020. Wool is a natural
fiber that is widely used in making clothing items.
Different varieties of wool fabric are derived from the hair of various animals, however, sheep wool is the most commonly used fiber. Some other animals from which wool is derived include cashmere goat, angora rabbit, llama, and yak.
Wool is widely used to make clothing items, such as sweaters, caps, gloves, cardigans, fleece items, and socks. Clothes made of wool give more warmth compared to clothes made of other fibers, such as cotton and polyester. Wool is popular for its properties of absorbing moisture and insulating against heat and cold. It can keep you warm in winters and cool in summers. It can be woven into both heavy fabrics and lightweight fabrics.
Properties of Wool Fabric
As for environmental impact, wool does not tend to harm the environment. However, it may have some ethical issues associated with it, such as animal cruelty and animal suffering. But it is possible to produce cruelty-free wool. Certified organic wool is an ethical option that requires the wool producers to comply with animal welfare practices and standards that the animals are treated with care in proper conditions.
5. Silk Fabric
Silk fabric is another widely used animal-based fiber. In 2020, the annual silk production stood at 109,111 tonnes. One of the most luxurious fabrics, silk is a natural fiber that is soft, strong, absorbs moisture in warm weather, and retains heat during cold weather. Silk comes in different varieties, including ahimsa, organic, fair trade, wildlife-friendly, and recycled silk.
Although silk is considered to be one of the strongest natural fibers, its strength tends to reduce on getting wet.
Silk is the most ideal fabric for ties, scarves, gowns, dresses, bridal wear, formal wear, bedding, and parachutes. While silk is strong and breathable, it may not always be the ideal fabric for every type of garment. It is often blended with other fibers for added properties and features. For instance, silk blends well with cotton for more durability.
Properties of Silk Fabric
Just like wool, silk is also not vegan as it is produced by insects as a material for their nests and cocoons. According to PETA India, around 6,600 silkworms are killed to produce
just 1 kilogram of silk, and approximately 50,000 silkworms are killed to make a single saree.
In the fashion industry, silk is often replaced with synthetic silk alternatives derived from non-renewable sources that may take decades to degrade. However, some vegan silk alternatives are naturally derived and do not involve synthetics. Some of the vegan silk alternatives include cactus silk and cotton sateen.
We hope our blog helped you gain a good understanding of the commonly used fabrics in the fashion market.
If you’re thinking about embarking on a new clothing venture or want to improvise your existing clothing line, we can help you source top-quality fabrics that can set you apart from other fashion brands. Zilingo can help you with everything you need to launch your clothing business including fabric suppliers, garment manufacturers, design support, and more.
Get in touch with us to source the perfect fabric that meets
your brand’s needs.