06/09/2022 – Sustainable silk alternatives

Pine and Eucalyptus instead of Silkworms

Fashion designer insists that natural silk will be replaced by sustainable textiles. The silk alternatives are considered to be a game changer in luxury fashion industry.


Gretes is a boutique-style international brand. It focuses on creating handmade, fashionable, and high-quality sleepwear and loungewear. © Gretes


The growing pressure from conscious shoppers on clothing brands is changing the face of the fashion industry: 95% of British fashion enthusiasts seek vegan options, while 90% of Gen X consumers are prepared to spend more for sustainable items. It’s no surprise they get a response from luxury brands: Gucci has launched a vegan leather alternative Demetra, and other luxury fashion giants like Hermès and Stella McCartney have introduced mycelium – mushroom-based – leather clothing.

However, although there is already a range of alternative leather options – from banana and mango skins to leather made of food waste – silk is still widely used in luxury clothing, and the demand for it is continuously growing.

Grete Švegždaite, a new generation Lithuanian fashion designer and the founder of a luxury sleepwear brand Gretes, insists that with the vegan values entrenching many layers of fashion, natural silk will be replaced by sustainable textiles in due time.

Will sustainable alternatives push silk out?

Approximately 6,600 silkworms are killed to produce 1 kg of silk by boiling them alive in their cocoons. It is also estimated that one silk shirt requires 376 liters of water, leaving a severe water footprint on the environment.

Fortunately, there are silk alternatives like Naia cellulosic fiber that provide the same luxurious feel without harming living organisms. Besides being vegan – sourced from pine and eucalyptus wood pulp – the manufacturing process is sustainable, recycling the solvents for reuse and leaving low carbon and water footprint. Another sustainable alternative is viscose.

“Viscose, which is made from plants, can be made to resemble the softness of natural silk. Many people choose silk garments because they are hypoallergenic. However, clothing made from viscose or other similar fabrics have the same hypoallergenic properties but are vegan and sustainable,” said Grete Švegždaite. “Of course, recycled viscose, or any other textile for that matter, would be an even better option to reduce pollution and water waste, but it is still hard to find textiles that are 100% recycled.”

Švegždaite also believes that the drive to replace natural silk with sustainable and vegan alternatives will be further bolstered by consumers who want to live in harmony with the environment around them. “Our shopping behavior has already been detrimental to the nature, therefore, choosing sustainably-made, recycled, vegan textiles, even upcycling old clothing, shoes, or items can at least partially offset the damage made,” said the designer. “It is also our duty as consumers to push the fashion brands to make a real change and produce products in line with our values. Only 1% of collected textiles is recycled. It is time to increase this number.”