Explore Synthetics

The compounds used to make synthetic fibers come from fossil-fuel-derived resources including petroleum-based chemicals and petrochemicals. Synthetics have different properties to natural fibers, and are often stretchier, more waterproof, and more stain-resistant, making them highly consumer-friendly. They made up 64% of the global fiber market in 2021.

Polyester

Polyester is the most commonly used synthetic fiber. It’s strong, durable, crease-resistant, and quick to dry.

Nylon

Nylon, the commercial name for a group of polyamides, is widely used in activewear, swimwear, and other technical performance garments.

Biosynthetics

Wholly or partly derived from natural, renewable sources, biosynthetics could represent a more climate-friendly alternative to traditional synthetics and are attracting a lot of attention across the industry.

Other Synthetics

Including elastane, polypropylene, polyurethane, and acrylic, these synthetics are used in a range of products including socks, footwear, and intimate apparel.

Synthetics in numbers

72m

Tonnes of synthetic fibers produced in 2021

54%

Polyester’s share of the global fiber market in 2021

5%

Nylon’s share of the global fiber market in 2021

5.2%

Other synthetics’ share of the global fiber market in 2021

SOLUTIONS

We’re working to stop new fossil-based resources entering the system. 

We’re working to help the fashion and textiles industry switch to materials that have less of an impact on people and the natural world. Our vision is for synthetic fiber production to drive beneficial impact through preferred fiber choices. No new virgin fossil-based synthetics should enter the supply chain, and all materials used in this category should come from a recycled or regenerative source.

recycled plastic bottles compressed into cubes.
Materials Production Dashboard

Get the latest data

You can access our latest data on production volume for synthetics in our Materials Production Dashboard.

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Frequently Asked Questions

If you have a question not answered here, get in touch with us directly, and we’ll be happy to answer it for you.

What are synthetic fibers and how can they be used?

Synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon are produced through chemical processes and are used in a range of application including apparel, accessories, home furnishings and footwear. Synthetic fibers currently represent 64% of global fiber production volumes.

How can a synthetic fiber be sustainable?

Recycled and biobased synthetic fibers can offer an alternative to conventional fossil-derived synthetics.

How can I get involved as a brand?

Brands wanting to get involved are welcome to join the Recycled Polyester and Biosynthetics Round Tables, commit to the 2025 Recycled Polyester Challenge, and invest in the scaling of innovations such as textile-to-textile recycling.

Where can I find out more about Textile Exchange standards (RCS and GRS)?

You can find further information about our standards here.

Other material categories

Plants give us fibers like cotton, hemp, flax, jute, and more.

Manmade cellulosic fibers are commonly made from wood pulp.

Animal fibers and materials are popular natural choices for textiles.