Yes and no. Traditionally, chiffon is made out of silk, which is non-vegan. However, many chiffon clothes are now faux-chiffon, made out of rayon, nylon, or polyester. These are vegan and cruelty-free.
What is Chiffon?
Chiffon is a lightweight, sheer fabric that is used in luxury garments, wedding dresses, and lingerie. It can be made out of many different materials, including silk, rayon, nylon, and polyester. When it is made of silk, it is considered a premium product; many brands prefer silk chiffon as it adds a sheen and silkiness not present in chiffon made from other materials – but, as stated above, this is not vegan.
Chiffon made from other materials is made using a similar process (see below), but the resulting fabric is not quite as luxurious and smooth. It is, however, both vegan, as well as being considerably less expensive to produce.
How is Chiffon Made?
Chiffon can be made out of several different materials, so the initial stages of production differ depending upon the material. Once the yarn is ready, the chiffon fabric is produced by weaving one high-twist yarn in an S-shape into another arranged in a Z-shape. This creates small puckers that give the fabric its distinctive texture.
The production process used to make the yarn used will depend on the material. In the case of silk, the process involves breeding silkworms, who, once they start to make a cocoon around themselves, will excrete silk from two glands on the top of their head. The silkworms are killed when the silk is harvested. This is not vegan and thousands of silkworms are killed to produce even a relatively small volume of silk.
Chiffon made using synthetic (nylon or polyester) and semi-synthetic materials (rayon) is cruelty-free and suitable for a vegan lifestyle. The synthetic fibers are made through complex chemical reactions using petroleum derivatives, while the semi-synthetic rayon is made by chemically treating wood or bamboo cellulose.
Is Chiffon Sustainable?
As with many other fabrics, vegans are forced to choose between fabric that is cruel and inhumane but more “sustainable,” and alternative fabrics that are not animal-derived but are more damaging to the planet.
Aside from cruelty issues, silk is relatively sustainable and eco-friendly. Synthetic fibers such as polyester and nylon derive from petroleum oil and their production creates a number of pollutants (and they’re rarely biodegradable), as well as being energy and water-intensive.
Vegans who prefer a sustainable approach have two clear choices they should look for – chiffon products made from recycled polyester or nylon and products made from sustainable types of rayon, such as lyocell or, to a lesser extent, modal (viscose rayon is less sustainable). In particular, Tencel is a branded type of rayon that is particularly sustainable.
Verdict: Should Vegans Buy Chiffon
Before buying any chiffon clothing, you need to check from which material it is made of. Avoid buying chiffon that is made out of silk and look for natural fibers like rayon or synthetic materials like polyester or nylon. If possible, choose recycled materials or lyocell rayon.