Textile Spotlight: Cupro

Image: Donna Karan Cupro Shirt Dress

Do you dream of creating a collection from silk, but are prevented from doing so by your vegan sensibilities? Check out this unique, silky substitute: Cupro.

This lesser known fiber is gorgeous, vegan, and quite a bit easier to care for than silk.

So what is Cupro?

Technically, it’s cotton, but from another part of the plant, giving the resulting fabric a significantly different hand than typical cotton.

The fiber itself is derived from cotton linter, which is the very fine, soft material that sticks to the cottonseeds and is left behind after the cotton has been ginned. Usually, these fibers are discarded, however, they are now recycled for the production of this surprisingly beautiful textile.

Like tencel and modal, it is a cellulose fiber, two fabrics that are also often used in lieu of silk.

The hand of the fabric is much more luxurious than one would expect from the cotton plant- it drapes beautifully and feels similar to rayon or silk.

While the hand of the fabric is upgraded, cupro still retains many benefits of cotton.

The fabric is breathable and regulates body temperature well. Additionally, there is no need to take this textile to the cleaners- it can be washed and dried in the machine (unlike silk!), is anti-static, and resists stretching out at high temperatures. If sensitive skin is a concern, cupro is hypoallergenic as well.

If you are an eco-conscious designer, we’ll stress again that cupro is vegan and made from a recycled part of the cotton plant. It also retains dye very well, meaning its dye process is much more streamlined in terms of waste.

What do you think, designers? Would cupro bring a silky, eco-friendly touch to your collection?

Jessica Bucci

Jessica has been trained in a wide variety of textile and fiber processes, traditional as well as computer-aided, which she uses in both her design and sculptural work. Jessica has also served as a teaching assistant for beginning weavers and drawers.

  1. Tanya

    Hi, what ironing temperate should be applied when handling Cupro since it is more delicate than cotton.
    thank you

  2. Elizabeth Chesney

    I agree with Kathleen’s comments. I would like to add that calling man-made fibers eco-friendly is not appropriate. Rayon (Cupro) is a man-made fiber that uses chemicals to produce it. When fabrics are man-made, they create pollution for the earth and the air.

  3. Kathleen

    Cupro is the older term for the fabric better known as rayon. Maybe they’ve resurrected “cupro” since people have forgotten what it means and it sounds sexier than rayon?

    I’m trying to track down just where the rumor that it was cotton based was started; references on ecouterre from 2011 have proliferated like mad. In actuality, rayon -or cupro if you prefer- is a cellulose based fiber. Inputs are not limited to cotton but include wood pulp etc. Most recently, bamboo has been used extensively. Regardless of the cellulose source, it’s rayon. Or again, cupro if you prefer that term.

    The ecological record for rayon/cupro is mixed, ranging from bad to terrible. Tencel is better because the processing takes place in a closed loop system. Bamboo production for rayon has become highly problematic because demand has driven market forces toward a mono-culture, destroying the diversity and ecological benefits that drove demand to begin with. Lastly, it cannot be overlooked that the largest superfund clean up site in the USA, was a rayon production factory. I’m wondering if that’s why use of the term cupro fell out of favor and now that it has been forgotten -it is a whole new generation out there, but us grey hairs with over 3 decades of experience in the trade, still remember.

  4. Shivani Patel

    Hi, could you tell me any good suppliers for this kind of fabric? I’m looking to buy small quantities.

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