The Reality Behind Cupro Fabric: Is The Material Sustainable?

The Reality Behind Cupro Fabric: Is The Material Sustainable?

With sustainability gaining more and more space within the fashion industry, the use of eco-friendly fabrics – like the cupro fabric – has become increasingly more common. Often created and implemented to reduce waste and find greener alternatives to traditional textiles, sustainable materials are commonly found on our shelves today.

But it is important to note that fabrics associated with an eco-friendly message do not always tick all the boxes necessary to accomplish that mission. 

Along with the sustainable movement came the concept of greenwashing, meaning the outward appearance of greener attitudes and behaviors by brands, for example, came first to the actual adoption of such measures. 

Aspects of production like resources and materials aren’t immune to this: fabrics that were once considered sustainable for having one or a few objectively “eco-friendly” features turn out not to be quite what they seem when we get down to it.

Having gained a name for itself as “vegan silk,” cupro fabric has been commonly used as a great animal-free alternative for silk, great for dresses and other lightweight pieces. While the material is, in fact, vegan and features a lot of the same aesthetic qualities as silk, that’s not the end of the story.

Let’s take a closer look at cupro, what it is, and how we can intentionally place it on the scale of eco-friendly fabrics we should invest in today. 

What is cupro fabric?

Cupro is a semi-synthetic material that falls under the wing of Rayon fabric. Featuring the silk-like look and texture discussed above, cupro fabric has gained fame as a silk alternative. 

Eliminating the need for silkworms and boasting practical features such as machine-washability (something silk lacks!), there seem to be quite a few built-in sustainable characteristics to the cupro fabric when we first start digging. 

Cupro’s primary element is linter, a commonly disposed part of the cotton plant. Linter, the tiny fibers surrounding the cotton plant, is recycled and used for the production of the fabric rather than being eliminated as waste during cottonseed oil production. 

Also known as cuprammonium rayon, cupro material is made mainly by the Japanese company AhasiKASEI, under their brand, Bemberg.

How is the cupro fabric made?

After the linter has been sourced, chemicals like copper, ammonium, and sulfuric acid, amongst others, are used to create the silky fabric known as cupro. More specifically, chemical processing includes steps like spinneret machines to be processed into thin fibers.

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Is cupro sustainable?

Undeniably eco-friendly features make cupro’s often premature designation as a sustainable fabric an understandable assumption. Beyond being a vegan material, cupro is bio-degradable and made from an otherwise discarded byproduct of a popular, massively-produced commodity. 

Compared to traditional fabrics like polyester and cotton, which are extremely popular in the fashion industry but notoriously harmful to the planet, cupro’s green features do call attention in a good way. Despite these features, it is also imperative to note how this fabric lacks when it comes to being truly sustainable.

The truth is, the high levels of chemical solutions used in cupro production must be disposed of once the process is through; while this can seem simple enough, it’s not that straightforward. Properly disposing of harsh chemicals like copper and ammonia is a costly and challenging process to master, which means it often isn’t done correctly. 

In addition to having adverse long-term effects on the workers that deal with them regularly, these chemicals cause incredible damage to the environment once they leave factories and production centers in less than ideal ways. 

While the cupro itself may be biodegradable, the chemicals used to produce it will remain as harmful agents on our planet. Ultimately, this isn’t a viable solution that can save us in the long term. 

At the end of the day, while we can celebrate some of the progress made by the textile industry when it comes to cupro, it can’t be said that the benefits of this fabric outweigh its adverse effects on the earth. 

The benefits of using cupro fabric

When it comes to its usability and benefits beyond the production process, cupro has a lot going for it.

Comfort and aesthetic 

This beautiful material is known to be incredibly soft and lightweight, as well as breathable and perfect for hot weather. 

Featuring a gorgeous and sophisticated look, cupro is also incredibly visually appealing, able to be used in high-end clothing that would otherwise depend entirely on the usage of silk. 

Affordable and practical 

Far more affordable than traditional silk and entirely cruelty-free, cupro fabric has various practical features contributing to its benefits.

Hypoallergenic and easy to maintain, this fabric caters to a broad audience through its practicality.

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Brands using cupro fabric today

Curious to see how cupro is used by brands and present on the market today? 

Here is a list of some brands that are using cupro! Browse these shops to learn more about their missions and look at their cupro pieces.

A step in the right direction 

While it’s clear that cupro fabric is not the end all be all of the sustainable materials in the fashion industry (or anywhere else, for that matter!), it’s also valuable to note how it has contributed positively to the green movement.

Its popularity is another way of bringing attention to how new and old textile alternatives can be successfully implemented into the fashion scene without sacrificing quality and style. 

While there is undoubtedly a long way to go in finding more feasible, long-term alternatives as we move forward, cupro certainly stands as an example of the right direction, featuring admirable characteristics we hope to continue seeing in the sustainable fabric movement.

The fashion industry’s journey towards sustainability continues!