Synthetic fabrics fall under a class of materials generally seen as man-made and cheap. Widely used synthetics include: nylon, polyester, elastance and acrylic.
These fibres are made from petrochemicals. As part of the distillation process the polymers are extracted at an exact point and formed into long linked threads. Once dry they can be woven into fabric.
Due to their mass use in fashion production they are a key component in the apparel industry's emissions. In 2019 the total amount of chemical fibre produced was 80.5 million metric tons.
Polyester ranks as one of the most widely used synthetic fabrics. It's increase in usage drives prices down making it a more attractive option than it's natural equivalents.
Plastic over-usage and the contamination of waterways with microplastic is a hot topic. There is no argument that plastics are poisoning the planet, yet there is a way we can work with this waste. Companies like Econyl are repurposing discarded plastic waste into usable fibres, giving plastic a second life.
Brands selling items made from recycled plastic are certainly noble, in lots of cases they partner with the communities effected by waste plastic, but there is still the problem of what happens with their products at the end of their life.
The answer to this lies in the evaluation of our relationship with clothing and buying only when necessary. Even further than that, if we can repair or donate towards the end of a products life then it can be prolonged or shared with others.