Textiles are an essential part of our day-to-day lives; as personal as a fragrance, due to how close they sit to our skin. This is why it’s becoming increasingly important to understand what materials are actually found within our wardrobes and where they have come from.

Traditionally, the most commonly used fibres include cotton, hemp and linen, however, the popularity of viscose has grown in recent years due, in part, to its broad range of functionalities.

Australian brands, including ESSE Studios, KITX, Lee Mathews and Matteau, are paving the way by rebranding how viscose is both perceived and used within the industry.

A semi-synthetic fibre, the material has become a favoured textile within the fashion industry as an affordable alternative to silk. Derived from the cellulose from fast growing, regenerative trees (such as eucalyptus and pine, as well as plants which include bamboo, soy and sugar cane), it is classified in some cases to be a plant-based product – though there is concern regarding how the material is manufactured when it comes to accessing the cellulose and regenerating it into a woven fabric.

Numerous Australian brands, including ESSE Studios, KITX, Lee Mathews and Matteau, are paving the way by rebranding how viscose is both perceived and used within the industry.

Matteau is another Australian label that sources FSC certified viscose, and works closely with their supply chain to trace the viscose that’s used throughout their range of subtle statement jersey pieces. Dedicated to prioritising the use of materials that are regenerative, organic, renewable and recycled, Matteau continues to pave the way for more conscious consumerism and ethically sourced fashion. 

Created with sustainability and transparency in mind, ESSE Studios highlights what a socially and environmentally aware brand should look like. Known for its wardrobe essentials and season-less designs, the brand sources viscose yarn that is 100 per cent Australian made and handcrafted from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) approved sustainable forestry (meaning it is responsibly managed and ethically sourced).

So why use viscose? The brand’s founder and creative director, Charlotte Hicks, explains that it offers “a really nice level of performance to the fabric,” she says. “It adds a softness and a drape but also a level of durability. Ultimately, I hope which add to the longevity and performance of the garment and do my best to control the environmental impacts also.”

Another example of a local Australian brand taking this leap is sustainable-design lead label KITX. Founded in 2014 by Kit Willow, the luxury brand consciously sources sustainable materials from around the globe and utilises 100 per cent viscose in a range of their garments. The fibre is certified by ‘lenzing’, a closed loop system that guarantees no toxic effluent waste damage, as the chemicals required to create the material are reclaimed and reused. Lenzing is an ecological and responsible manufacturing process as it is derived from certified renewable wood sources. These sources use up to 50 per cent lower emissions and water compared to that of generic viscose allowing the fabric to be biodegradable and recyclable.

Like all fabrications, Hicks acknowledges there are pros and cons. “It’s really important that viscose comes in a lot of shapes and sizes and, like everything, there is better quality and poorer quality versions out there.”

“Producing something from nothing has an impact, so really it is attempting to understand how you can make better choices,” she says. “Ultimately for me it is about … considering the impact on a few fronts - from both an environmental point of view, along each part of the supply chain of course – then secondly a performance point of view. How does it make her feel, does it function for her? Does this piece have longevity? Is it durable will it withstand her wear and last? What will happen at the end of its life cycle?”