What is Textile in Fashion? Textile vs. Fabric vs. Material

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Textile plays a central role in the fashion world, functioning as the backbone of garment construction and a platform for artistic exploration.

In this article, we’ll explore the definition and role of textiles in the greater realm of fashion.

What is Textile in Fashion?

In fashion, a textile refers to any material made of interlacing fibers that can be used to manufacture garments, accessories, or even functional or decorative items.

Whether natural fibers like cotton and silk, synthetic fibers like polyester and nylon, or both, textiles form the basis of fashion products such as clothes, footwear, accessories, etc.

What is Textile in Fashion

The History of Textiles in Fashion

Used for practical purposes and as a means of artistic and cultural expression, the history of textiles is as ancient as human civilization.

The Egyptians spun flax into linen around 5000 BCE, and the Chinese were weaving silk as early as 4000 BCE. [1]

An Egyptian illustration of how they spun flax into linen, and Chinese painting of weaving silk.
An Egyptian illustration of how they spun flax into linen and a Chinese painting of weaving silk.

The development of textiles has always been tightly interwoven with technological advancements and socio-cultural changes.

Nowadays, textiles are a significant economic driver in the fashion industry.

For instance, the global market for textiles made from eco-fiber was expected to reach $43.07 billion by 2022, highlighting the textile sector’s immense financial impact. [2]

Textile Innovation and Sustainability

In the modern fashion industry, textiles are at the forefront of sustainability and technological innovation, aiming to reduce the fashion industry’s environmental footprint.

Seeking to meet environmental guidelines, textile companies are exploring recycling fibers and bio-fabrication methods.

Textile Innovation and Sustainability

As such, a new wave of cultured textiles has emerged, lab-grown from cells or obtained via microbial fermentation. [3]

Textiles in High Fashion vs. Ready-to-Wear

High Fashion – uses luxurious textiles like cashmere and fine silks to augment the garment’s quality and exclusivity.

Fine silk is usually used for luxurious apparel, and cotton is mainly used for ready-to-wear items.
Fine silk is usually used for luxurious apparel, and cotton is used for ready-to-wear items.

Ready-to-Wear – easy to obtain and less expensive textiles like cotton and polyester are prevalent.

What is the Difference Between Textile, Fabric, and Material in Fashion?

In fashion parlance, the term “textile” is used interchangeably with “fabric” and “material.”

However, there are essential distinctive nuances between these terms:

  • Textile – refers to any material that can be woven, knit, or bonded. Textiles can be made from single or multiple fibers.
  • Fabric – a planar structure made by weaving, knitting, crocheting, knotting, or pressing fibers together (for example, faux leather).
  • Material – raw materials or substances used to make textiles and fabrics. Materials can be natural, like cotton or wool, or synthetic, like polyester, polyurethane, and blends of metallic alloys.

What Are the Different Types of Textiles in Fashion?

Types of Textiles

While the textiles used in the fashion industry are diverse and specialized, the most popular four types are:

  • Natural Fibers – cotton, wool, silk, linen, bamboo, etc
  • Synthetic Fibers – polyester, acrylic, nylon, lycra, etc
  • Blends – combinations of natural and synthetic fibers to create textiles like poly-cotton.
  • Specialty Textiles – textiles engineered for specific purposes, such as moisture-wicking fabrics and mart textiles able to react to environmental conditions.

Final Takeaways

In fashion, textiles go beyond function, serving as the structural foundation, an avenue for artistic expression, and a medium for sustainable innovation.

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[1] Linen history. Deck Towel.

[2] Global Eco Fiber Market Size, share and growth report, 2030. Grand View Research.

[3] Four future fabrics transforming textiles for the better of the planet. Fashion Revolution.

After years of managing hundreds of fashion brands from London's office of a global retailer, Mandy has ventured into freelancing. Connected with several fashion retailers and media platforms in the US, Australia, and the UK, Mandy uses her expertise to consult for emerging fashion brands create top-notch content as an editorial strategist for several online publications.

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