What Is Cupro Fabric & Is This Vegan Silk Really Sustainable?

Giada Nizzoli

What Is Cupro Fabric & Is This Vegan Silk Really Sustainable?

Cupro fabric was actually invented all the way back in 1890, and yet we feel it’s been talked about more over the past couple of decades than the previous 100 years!

Maybe you know it as “vegan silk”. But what is cupro fabric made from? And most importantly: is it actually ethical?

What is cupro fabric exactly?

Cupro (also known as cuprammonium rayon, ammonia silk, cupra, or Bemberg) is a regenerated cellulose fabric made from linter, which is cotton waste.

Basically, it’s the tiniest fibres of cotton seeds, which are too small to be spun into cotton yarn.

Much like viscose and other modal options, cupro fabric is soft, smooth, and drapey. That’s why it’s also known as vegan silk!

Cotton used to make cupro fabric

So, is cupro natural or synthetic?

Neither… and both!

Cupro relies on a natural material (cotton linter) but a synthetic production process: it needs to be treated with chemicals that break it down and rebuild it. 

So, cupro fabric is actually semi-synthetic.

Is cupro the same as polyester?

Absolutely not! In fact, cupro and polyester couldn’t be more different. 

Even though it does involve chemicals, cupro is made using a natural material. Polyester, on the other hand, is derived from fossil fuels and is basically plastic.

It’s also one of the worst fabrics for the environment.

Cupro’s sustainability: vegan silk and the environment

Sustainable cupro top

Ok, you’re clear on what cupro fabric is. Let’s answer your other question: is vegan silk good for the environment?

The eco-friendly and ethical pros of cupro fabric

  • Vegan. No silkworms are frozen to death or boiled alive to make cupro fabric (yes, that really happens with traditional silk!)
  • Biodegradable. Unlike polyester and most synthetic fabrics, cupro clothes won’t stick around in landfills for centuries
  • It’s a byproduct of the cotton industry. From pesticides to high quantities of water, cotton production is actually really bad for the environment. However, no additional resources and energy are needed to grow its linter
  • It reduces waste by using all the linter that would otherwise be discarded

The cons of cupro fabric from an eco-friendly and ethical standpoint

Its main problem is its chemical-heavy production process that includes toxic substances

  • These chemicals are highly polluting. If cupro fabric isn’t manufactured in a closed-loop system (reusing most of that water and disposing of the rest safely), these chemicals will pollute local water sources and even groundwater!
  • They can be harmful to the workers exposed to them

Because of these reasons, cupro production was banned in the US.

So, is cupro fabric sustainable?

It’s not perfect, but overall, we can say that cupro is a fairly sustainable fabric.

It’s particularly ethical when compared to traditional silk, and it’s usually more eco-friendly than most vegan alternatives involving plastic-derived synthetic materials.

However, it’s important that it’s produced using a closed loop and keeping workers safe. That’s why fashion brands using cupro must be transparent and have a traceable supply chain.

Outfit involving cupro fabric

Finding cupro clothing on Project Cece

Now that you know what cupro fabric is and why it’s considered ethical, would you like to give this smooth vegan silk a go?

On Project Cece, we’ve brought hundreds of fairtrade fashion brands together. 

You can use our filters to narrow down your search, but you’ll also find dozens of cupro clothes.

Was this article helpful? Start receiving our tips and inspiration to make even more sustainable fashion choices. 

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Project Cece is a platform that collects ethical fashion from vetted brands and shops in one place. Browse ethical fashion for women and men and find items that fit your style, budget and values!

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