Is Linen The Most Sustainable Fabric In Fashion?

A fabric that's lightweight yet durable, versatile and at the same time effortlessly elegant. A material that treads lightly on the planet and can be worn with good conscience. Too good to be true? Not really. In fact, the only downside to this fabric is its constant need to be ironed. And in fact, this miracle material is likely to already be in your wardrobe – or elsewhere in your home. We're talking about linen.

By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist, and vegan fashion expert. 

In this story, we will look at:

  • What is linen?
  • Is linen sustainable?
  • Is linen vegan?
  • Is organic linen better?
  • What brands use linen?

What is linen?

A natural material made from the inner fibre of flax plants, linen is used in clothing, but also in bedding and other homeware products. Linen is similar to cotton in its look and feel and can be used in dresses, tops and sometimes lightweight trousers.

Baukjen Vanessa linen chambray tunic

Is linen sustainable?

This fabric requires no pesticides or chemical fertilisers to be able to grow. Considering the fact that these substances affect soil fertility and contribute to loss of biodiversity, this is a big point in linen's favour. It's easier to grow organic linen than many other crops used in fashion, and the farming of linen treads lightly on the planet.

Linen is also less thirsty than many other materials: it doesn't require anywhere near the amount of water required to grow cotton. Water waste is a major issue in the industry - fashion is notoriously thirsty, and with so many people around the world experiencing droughts and water scarcity, it's vital that the fashion industry reduces its waste. This is where material choice comes in, with linen possibly being one viable solution to fashion's water crisis. Linen is also biodegradable.

Furthermore, the process of turning flax into linen is not very intensive, meaning that linen – especially when organic – is arguably one of the most sustainable materials in fashion. 

Is linen vegan?

No animal-derived ingredients are used in the production of linen – a plant-based fabric. It is an entirely vegan material and can often be used in the place of silk in vegan dresses, skirts, tops and scarves. Hitting the perfect balance between cruelty-free and eco-friendly, linen is the perfect material for the planet-conscious vegan.

Baukjen Nancy linen dress

Is organic linen better?

Organic linen is grown without any pesticides or chemical fertilisers, which are very harsh on the soil. These substances harm ecosystems and threaten biodiversity – like with organic cotton, the amount of toxic chemicals used in the production process of organic linen is significantly lower than with conventional production. Organic farming also benefits soil health and often allows farmers to work in better conditions. Therefore, the organic option is always preferable if available.

AmourLinen Isabella Wide Linen Trousers

 What brands use linen?

Baukjen, famous for their breezy summer collections, offer daytime dresses, casual-chic tunics, and relaxed trousers in linen. Eco-fashion pioneers KOMODO are great for linen tops and shirts that are ideal for casual, weekend-friendly outfits.

One brand that sings the praises of this miracle material is AmourLinen. Sourcing their materials locally in Europe, the Lithuanian company uses flax woven in their home country. "At AmourLinen, we are passionate about linen and its benefits," says founder Lukas Ezerskis. "That’s why we create beautiful and high-quality linen products that are handcrafted on order and come in a diverse colour palette." Other than its aesthetic qualities, Ezerskis also raves about the material's ethical benefits and comfort factor: "Linen is not only good for the planet, it is also good for you. It can help you stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter, as it regulates your body temperature and absorbs moisture."

A material that comes from nature and offers comfort as well as sustainability - next time you're shopping for a top, skirt or dress, consider choosing a design in linen.

By Sascha Camilli

About Sascha

Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her or listen to her podcast Catwalk Rebel. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Cover image by Bibico. Second and third photo from Baukjen, final photo by  AmourLinen.

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