7 Examples of Natural, Organic Fabrics Used for Clothing

Look for organic plant fibers from cotton, jute, kapok, linen, hemp, and organic animal fibers from silk & alpaca, cashmere, and mohair wool.

By Sander Tamm

Organic Fabrics
Organic Fabrics / Sander Tamm / Ecolife

Sustainable fabrics are exploding in popularity, with organic cotton harvests increasing 37% year-over-year and recycled fabrics getting more attention in the apparel industry. Folks are increasingly aware of the environmental impact their clothing habits have, and this trend is only bound to grow.

As far as global standards for organic fabrics and textiles are concerned, the benchmarks are set by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). Unless the product contains at least 95% of GOTS-certified organic fibres, it cannot be marketed as “organic” in the USA. This means that any clothes boasting the organic label must have been sourced from the types of organic fabrics allowed by GOTS.

Here are 7 organic fabrics that are allowed in GOTS-certified products:


Cotton boll nearly ready for harvest
Cotton boll nearly ready for harvest / Wikimedia Commons

The conventional cotton industry leads to a wide range of issues, such as water contamination and soil erosion. Organic cotton farming methods can help combat some of them while ensuring that the soil is kept healthy. Organic cotton grown in the US must follow the conditions outlined by the National Organic Program Standards.


Man sorting jute in 1908
Man sorting jute in 1908 / Wikimedia Commons

More known for its industrial use than for its use in clothing and accessories, jute is a plant-based fibre that is fully biodegradable and the second most popular vegetable fibre in terms of worldwide usage. As long as the jute is grown without the use of inorganic chemicals, products made from the jute are considering organic, and can be marketed as so after being certified.


Kapok tree in Mexico
Kapok tree in Mexico / Wikimedia Commons

Made from the Kapok (Ceiba pentandra) tree, organic kapok is a natural fibre that has never seen widespread use in clothing manufacturing. But, there are people and companies trying to change that fact. Kapok is a biodegradable, moisture-resistant, quick-drying, resilient, buoyant, and sustainable natural fibre.


Flax at Oostburg, Netherlands
Flax at Oostburg, Netherlands / Wikimedia Commons

Organic linen made from organically grown flax (Linum usitatissimum) is as organic, sustainable, and natural as any fabric can be. It’s biodegradable, lightweight, has a beautiful drape, and is stronger than cotton. While more difficult to find than organic cotton fabrics, organic linen fabrics are available online.


Japanese hemp kimono from 1746 -1841 AD
Japanese hemp kimono from 1746 -1841 AD / Wikimedia Commons

Hemp, a sometimes underrated crop, is naturally resistant to most pests and bacteria and therefore does not require pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers, making it an easy choice for organic farmers. Hemp fabrics are durable, resistant to odors and molds, and either soft or hard, depending on the weave. There are good reasons why hemp fabrics have been used since 5000-8000 BC.


Australian Cashmere Goats / Wikimedia Commons

A naturally organic animal fibre, wool is famous for its thermal insulation and durability. It is water-repellent, flame-resistant, anti-static, and odor-repellant. Organic wool fabric comes from many different animals, and GOTS certifies organic alpaca, cashmere, and mohair wool. Supporting any type of animal wool, though, even if organic, may be damaging to animal rights.


Silkworm (Bombyx mori) / Wikimedia Commons

A more sustainable alternative to traditional silk, organic silk is a naturally organic animal fibre made from silkworms fed without the use of pesticides, herbicides, and synthetic fertilizers. Unfortunately, the traditional silk-making process involves killing the cocoons. Ahimsa silk, or non-violent silk, aims to provide a cruelty-free solution.