Shopping for sustainable fashion and feel a bit overwhelmed with new terms such as Pinatex and Tencel? Or, maybe you don't know the meanings behind cruelty-free, eco-friendly, vegan, ethical, or sustainable terms? That’s why we’ve put together a sustainable fashion dictionary whenever you’re in doubt or unsure what's right for you. If we've missed a new concept or material, feel free to let us know.


Acrylic – a synthetic fabric.

Aertex – trademarked brand for a loosely woven cotton fabric.


Bamboo viscose – a semi-synthetic fibre made of cellulose from the bamboo plant. Modern bamboo clothing apparel is made from either 100% bamboo yarn, or a blend of bamboo and cotton yarn.

Batiste – lightweight, semi-sheer cotton fabric used for heirloom sewing, lingerie, and blouses.

Biodegradable – materials that break down and decompose in nature to combat landfill waste and environmental pollution.

Broadcloth – thick, plain woven cloth, in the past made of wool. Modern broadcloths are made of cotton or cotton blends.

Buckram – thick cloth, made of cotton or linen, used in bookbinding, and to stiffen clothing.


Calico – a plain-woven textile made from unbleached – and often not fully processed – cotton.

Cambric – a finely woven white linen.

Canvas – an extremely durable plain-woven fabric used for clothing on chairs, sails or tents.

Challis – a lightweight woven fabric from a silk-wool blend, which can also be made from cotton, or synthetic materials such as rayon.

Chambray or Cambric – a linen-finished (flax) gingham cloth with a white weft and a coloured warp, used for linens, shirting, handkerchiefs and as fabric for lace and needlework.

Chenille – a heavy fabric woven with chenille cord, used in rugs and bedspreads. Usually manufactured from cotton, but more recently made from acrylic, rayon and olefin.

Chiffon – a lightweight, sheer fabric made from cotton, silk, or synthetic fibres.

Chino – twill fabric initially made of 100% cotton or cotton-synthetic blends.

Chintz – a brightly printed and glazed cotton fabric.

Cork – a sustainable material obtained by stripping the outer layer (bark) of the oak tree.

Cord, Corduroy – usually made of twisted cotton fibres that – when woven – resemble a ‘cord’, the cloth’s distinct pattern.

Cotton – a soft white fibrous substance that surrounds the seeds of a tropical and subtropical plant and is used as textile fibre and thread for sewing.

Cotton flannel, Canton flannel – a stout cotton fabric with a nap on only one side.

Crepe, Crape, Crepe de Chine – a soft woven fabric, of various fineness, originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn. Nowadays is made from either cotton or synthetic fibres.

Cretonne – heavy cotton fabric, typically with a floral pattern printed on one or both sides, used for upholstery.

Cruelty-Free Fashion – fashion apparel and accessories that might contain materials of animal origin such as silk and fur obtained in natural ways, either after the moth has left the cocoon, or after the animal has naturally shed its fleece, skin or feathers.

Cupro – also called ‘Bemberg’, is a type of rayon fabric derived from what is left of the cotton plant when the longer fibres of cotton yarn have been extracted. Cupro is as soft as silk and as breathable as cotton.


Damask – a reversible figured fabric of silk, wool, linen, cotton, or synthetic fibres, with a pattern formed by weaving.

Denim, Dungaree, Jean – a coarse, durable twill-weave cotton fabric.

Dimity – hard-wearing, sheer cotton fabric woven with raised stripes or checks.

Duck – a dense, plain woven cotton fabric used for clothing and tents.

Downcycle – recycling process of a material that results in a new material of lower quality.


Eco-Friendly Dyes – natural dyes extracted from organic sources such as plants, with no environmental harm.

Elastane – a polyester-polyurethane copolymer synthetic fibre known for its exceptional elasticity. It is stronger and more durable than natural rubber.

Etamine – light cotton or worsted fabric with an open mesh used for curtains or clothing.

End of Roll – leftover materials from previous products used to reduce the environmental cost of production and cutting room floor waste.

Ethical Fashion – fashion made under fair conditions and labour standards. It requires ‘transparency of production’ so that consumers can see how brands manufacture fashion.

Ethical Silk – silk obtained through cruelty-free breeding and harvesting by allowing the completion of the metamorphosis of the silkworm to the butterfly.

Ethical Wool – Unlike other animals, most sheep are unable to shed and shearing is essential for their health and hygiene. After several years without shearing, the wool becomes suffocatingly hot and restrict the sheep’s movement. Excess wool also predisposes sheep to infections and parasites, which is why the American Society of Animal Science responded to PETA’s sheep campaign with one of their own. The tagline read: “There is no such thing as humane wool when it is left on the sheep.”


Faille – a somewhat shiny closely woven silk, rayon, or cotton fabric characterised by slight ribs in the weft.

Flannel – soft woven fabric, originally made from carded wool or worsted yarn, but is now often made from either wool, cotton, or synthetic fibre.

Flannelette – light cotton fabric imitating flannel.

Foulard – lightweight fabric, either twill or plain-woven, made of silk or a mix of silk and cotton (usually with a printed design).

Fustian – sturdy cotton and linen fabric with a short nap, often dyed in dark colours.


Gabardine – tough, tightly woven fabric used to make suits, overcoats, trousers, uniforms, windbreakers, and other garments, traditionally worsted wool, but may also be cotton, texturized polyester, or a blend.

Gingham – lightweight plain-woven cotton cloth, typically checked in white and bold colour.

Grosgrain – silk or silk-like fabric with crosswise ribs.


Hemp – tough, coarse fibre of cannabis plant, used to make cordage, yarn, and fabric.


Jersey – knit fabric initially made of wool, but is now of cotton, and synthetic fibres.


Khaki – a sturdy twilled cloth of a yellowish-brown colour used mainly for military uniforms, usually made from cotton and linen.

Khadi – or khaddar is a fiber cloth originating from India, Bangladesh and broadly used in Pakistan and India, hand woven from hand spun yarn, in the past made from cotton, silk or wool.


Lame – an interwoven fabric with threads of metal.

Leatherette – imitation leather made from paper or textile fabrics and cloth.

Linen – a very absorbent textile made from the fibres of the flax plant, Linum Usitatissimum. Garments made of linen are valued for their exceptional coolness and freshness in hot weather.

Linsey-woolsey – a durable, coarse fabric with a linen or cotton warp or a woollen weft.

Lint – cotton or linen fabric with the nap raised on one side, in the past used to dress wounds.

Lyocell – generic name of fibres made from cellulose from plants. The production of lyocell fabrics is environmentally friendlier than the production of rayon in general.


Mackintosh, Macintosh – a lightweight waterproof, and usually rubberised, fabric.

Madras – a lightweight cotton fabric with typically patterned texture and plaid design, used primarily for summer clothing such as pants, shorts, dresses, and jackets.

Marseille – a sturdy cotton fabric with a raised pattern; used for bedspreads.

Microfiber – a very fine synthetic yarn.

Modal – a type of rayon, a semi-synthetic cellulose fibre made by spinning reconstituted cellulose, in this case often from beech trees. Modal is used alone or with other threads (usually cotton or spandex).

Moire, watered-silk – a fabric with a wavy (watered) appearance produced mainly from silk, but also wool, cotton and rayon.

Moleskin – A durable cotton fabric with a velvety nap.

Monk’s cloth – A heavy cloth in basket weave, made from cotton.

Moquette – a thick velvety synthetic fabric used for carpets and soft upholstery.

Moreen – strong fabric of wool, wool and cotton, or cotton.

Mousseline de soie – literally: muslin of silk, a thin gauze-like fabric of silk or rayon.

Muslin – a cotton fabric of plain weave.

Modal – a semi-synthetic fibre made from the cellulose of beech wood, branded as Lenzing.


Natural Fibre – derived from nature without chemical modifications.

Nankeen – a yellowish cotton cloth.

Ninon – a sheer fabric of silk, rayon, or nylon made in a variety of tight smooth weaves, open lacy patterns, or open mesh-like appearance.

Nylon – a synthetic fabric.


Oeko-Tex – independent international certification for textiles that guarantees no harmful chemicals are left in the final products. Oeko-tex and GOTS are the most used third-party certifications in the fashion industry.

Orange Fibre – a sustainable fabric created from citrus juice by-products.

Oilcloth – a cloth treated on one side with a drying oil or synthetic resin.

Organdie, organdy – a sheer stiff muslin.

Organza – a thin, plain weave, sheer fabric made from silk, polyester or nylon.

Orlon – a brand of synthetic, acrylic textile fibre. Lightweight, wrinkle and chemicals resistant.


Piñatex – a natural, sustainably-sourced, cruelty-free textile made from pineapple leaves.

Peace Silk – silk obtained through cruelty-free breeding and harvesting by allowing the completion of the metamorphosis of the silkworm to the butterfly.

Percale – a fine, tightly woven cotton fabric; typically used for bed covers.

PET, PETE – the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family used in fibres for clothing, or containers for liquids and foods.

Pilot cloth – a heavy twilled woollen overcoating with a thick nap used especially for seamen’s blue uniforms.

Pique – a weaving style, generally used with cotton yarn, which is characterised by raised parallel cords or fine ribbing.

Plush – a fabric, as of silk, cotton, or wool, whose pile is more than ⅛ inch (0.3 cm) high.

Polar Fleece, Polar Wool, Vega Wool – a soft napped insulating fabric made from a type of polyester called polyethylene terephthalate (PET) or other synthetic fibres.

Polyester – a large class of synthetic fabrics.

Poplin – a plain-woven fabric, typically lightweight cotton, with a corded surface.

Prima Loft – a brand of patented synthetic microfiber thermal insulation material developed for the United States Army in the 1980s.


Quilting – a coverlet or blanket made of two layers of fabric with a layer of cotton, wool, feathers, or down in between, all stitched firmly together, usually in a decorative design.


Ramie – a fabric made from a flowering plant native to eastern Asia, mainly known for its ability to hold shape, reduce wrinkling, and introduce a silky lustre to the fabric appearance. It is not as durable as other fibres, and so is usually used as a blend with other fibres such as cotton or wool.

Rayon – a synthetic fibre made from purified cellulose, primarily from chemically treated wood pulp.

Rep, Repp – a cloth woven in fine cords or ribs across the width of the piece, usually made of silk, wool, or cotton.

Rayon – semi-synthetic fabric derived from the cellulose found in plant materials. Specific types of rayon include viscose, modal and lyocell.

Recycled Polyester – a synthetic, plastic-based fabric made from post-consumer waste materials such as old fishing nets or PET plastic bottles.


Semi-Synthetic Fibres – derived from natural resources such as cellulose – derived from plants, viscose, bamboo, and Tencel.

Sailcloth – any of various fabrics, as of cotton, nylon, or Dacron, for boat sails or tents.

Sateen – a cotton fabric with a satiny finish.

Satin – a smooth fabric formed with a satin weave using filament fibres such as silk, nylon, or polyester.

Screening – a fabric of metal or plastic mesh.

Scrim – a woven material, one a finely woven lightweight fabric widely used in theatre, the other a heavy, coarse woven material used for reinforcement in both building and canvas making.

Seersucker – a light fabric of linen, cotton, or rayon usually striped and slightly puckered, used to make clothing for spring and summer wear.

Shag – a fabric with long coarse nap, a rug or carpet that has a deep pile, giving it a shaggy appearance.

Shantung – a type of silk fabric used for bridal gowns.

Shark Skin, Shagreen – textile often used as a decorative material or as an abrasive for its natural rough surface of pointed scales.

Silesie – a sturdy twill-weave cotton fabric; used for pockets and linings.

Spandex – a synthetic fibre or fabric made from a polymer containing polyurethane, used in the manufacture of elastic clothing.

Sponge cloth – any of various porous fabrics, usually made in a loose honeycomb weave.

Sustainable – the overall process of fostering change to the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice.


Taffeta – a crisp, smooth plain-woven fabric made from silk or synthetic fibres.

Tapa, Tappa – a paper like cloth made in the South Pacific by pounding tapa bark.

Tapestry, Tapis – a heavy textile with a woven design; used for curtains and upholstery, typically made with a naturally based warp thread such as linen or cotton but may include silk, gold, silver.

Tencel –  one of the most eco-friendly fibres, this is a branded name of a cellulose fibre manufactured by Lenzing AG.

Thinsulate – a brand of synthetic fibre thermal insulation used in clothing. The word is a portmanteau of thin and insulate.

Toweling – any of various fabrics (linen or cotton) used to make towels.


Upcycling – a type of recycling which uses old materials to create a new product of higher value.

Ultrasuede – a synthetic microfiber fabric used to substitute suede leather used in fashion, interior decorating, vehicle upholstery, and industrial applications.


Vegan – no animal products or by-products of animal origin have been used at any stage of production.

Viscose – a semi-synthetic fibre derived from plant-based cellulose.

Velcro – a nylon fabric used as a fastening.

Velour – a plush, knitted fabric or textile made from cotton or polyester.

Velvet – a silky densely piled fabric with a plain back. In the past, made of silk, linen, wool, mohair, more recently, synthetic velvets are made from polyester, nylon, viscose, acetate, and mixtures of different synthetics and natural fibres.

Velveteen – a cotton fabric with a pile resembling velvet.

Viscose, viscose rayon -a rayon fabric made from viscose (cellulose xanthate) fibre, commonly used in dresses, linings, shirts, shorts, coats, jackets, and other outerwear; it is also used in industrial yarns (tyre cord), upholstery and carpets.

Voile – a soft, sheer fabric, usually made of 100% cotton or cotton blends including linen or polyester.

Vulcanised Fibre – a laminated plastic composed of only cellulose. The material is a tough, resilient, hornlike that is lighter than aluminium, tougher than leather, and stiffer than most thermoplastics.


Whipcord – a strong worsted or cotton fabric made of hard-twisted yarns with a diagonal cord or rib.

Wire cloth – a fabric woven of metallic wire used for window screens and strainers.


Zero Waste – the way we produce and consume fashion, to reduce or eliminate the waste we produce.