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Natural latex leaves and flower
Natural latex leaves and big flower drawing

Latex has a rich and fascinating history that spans thousands of years. It is known for its distinctive appearance, but only few people know that it is biodegradable and plant-made. It is a material that sparks intrigue and fascination because of the way it catches the eye and makes you feel when you wear it. Here I have tried to answer some of the questions that often pop up when I talk to people about latex.

Where does natural latex come from?

Natural rubber, also known as latex, is made from the sap of rubber trees that grow in tropical areas.

The origins of natural rubber can be traced back to ancient civilizations in Mesoamerica, specifically the Olmec and Maya cultures. These civilizations discovered the milky sap of the rubber tree, Hevea brasiliensis, and recognized its remarkable properties. They used the sap to create various items, including balls for games and waterproof clothing.

It wasn't until the 19th century that natural rubber gained global recognition and became a valuable commodity. Since then, the demand for natural rubber grew rapidly and led to the establishment of rubber plantations in various regions, such as Southeast Asia and Africa.

Most latex sheets for fashion are made by one of two manufacturers: Radical Rubber and 4D/Supatex. Both state on their websites that the rubber farmers and workers have good working conditions, adhering to the guidelines of their countries of production, Malaysia and Thailand.

Is natural latex sustainable?

Compared to similar looking textiles such as leather, latex has a much lower environmental impact, with 160 times lower CO2e emissions¹. Latex is a plant-based product, which means that no animals are harmed in the process, making it a great vegan alternative. Other alternatives to leather are often made from fossil fuel derivatives that can be harmful to the environment. Unlike fossil fuel-based alternatives to leather, latex is also biodegradable.

Latex is harvested from the rubber tree. After a rubber tree is planted it takes around 5-6 years before the sap can be harvested. A skilled tapper makes a diagonal incision in the bark of the tree, allowing the sap, or latex, to flow out. This process does not harm the tree and is similar to tapping maple trees for syrup. It can be tapped every second day for up to 30 years, yielding around 9,5 kg of solid rubber a year². When the tree stops producing latex, it can be used for high quality wood products, such as furniture. In this way, very few resources are wasted.

All consumption does carry an impact on the environment and despite the fact, that latex has a much lower impact than leather, it still has an impact. This impact largely depends on the specific latex plantation and their production method. For this reason, I recommend that you take good care of your clothing, to make it last as long as possible.

 Latex sap is dripping from a rubber tree



Durability and the number of times you will wear a piece of clothing are key to making fashion more sustainable. Clothing items are worn only, on average, seven times before being tossed, and the average person now keeps clothing for half as long as they did 15 years ago³. It is crucial to buy fewer clothes and buy quality that can last for many years to make the fashion industry more sustainable.

Latex can last for many years. I have several customers who own latex that is more than 20 years old, and it still looks beautiful. Latex is however a delicate material and it needs some special care to last for many years. Read more about latex care here →

The downside to biodegradability is that the material won’t last forever. After several years of use, latex might start becoming a bit sticky because it is decomposing slowly. It will lose some of its flexibility at this stage and it might tear more easily. It can still be used, and if it has only degraded in some areas, it might be worth replacing some of the more worn material to give new life to the design.

Of course, it is much more problematic that some materials (plastic e.g.) take hundreds of years to decompose while being harmful to the environment, yet start looking worn and unattractive after a very short time span. Latex can last for many years while looking fantastic and it will not be harmful to the environment when disposed of. It can also be renewed and made into other products at the end of its life, but this depends on the way waste is dealt with in each country.

Fashion accessories made from latex are resistant to wear and tear, making them a great investment. Unlike other materials that may lose their shape or color over time, latex accessories retain their original form and vibrant colors, ensuring that you can enjoy them for years to come.

If you want to learn how to work with latex and make repairs and alterations, you can check out my online courses here →

Why use natural latex for fashion?

Natural rubber designs are known for their distinctive appearance. Latex has a glossy finish that adds a touch of fierceness and elevates any outfit. Whether you're attending a big event or looking to make a fashion statement, designs in latex are sure to turn heads and make you stand out from the crowd. It will make you feel daring and elegant.

Most latex designs are made from sheets of latex which are cut carefully and glued together by hand. This is a very slow process compared to sewing a design from more widely used fabrics. It is an art that takes time and patience which makes latex clothes more costly. Liquid latex can also be used to adorn and upcycle clothes made from normal fabrics.

Latex is an extraordinary fabric not commonly used by most designers. That is part of the reason why I like working with it. It is largely an unused material and it speaks to my inner inventor and designer. I like to explore how to use it in a fashion context and combine it with traditional materials to create new exciting designs. The green aspect makes it a great contester for future sustainable fabrics.

Comfort and Flexibility

One of the key advantages of natural latex is its exceptional flexibility. This property allows latex garments to cling to the body like a second skin, accentuating curves and creating a visually striking silhouette. Latex accessories, such as belts and necklaces, follow your movements and provide a comfortable fit. The natural elasticity of latex allows designs to stretch and adapt to your body, ensuring a snug and secure fit.

The water-resistant ability of latex can be used as an advantage for designs such as rainwear, bags, and other designs that can benefit from its water-resistant probabilities. The only caveat is that a tight latex outfit will capture dampness from your skin underneath its surface because the material doesn’t breathe. It helps to put a fabric lining in latex clothes and save a little room for air to the design instead of making it completely skin-tight. These practices can make the material more versatile and accessible to more people.

Is natural latex safe? What about allergies?

Latex is a natural material, and like most other plant-based products, it can cause allergies in a small number of people. Nicoline Hansen products are made from medical-grade rubber that conforms to the American FDA and many other international medical standards. The production process involves extensive leaching of the sheeting to reduce naturally occurring allergenic proteins in the latex. Not all latex sheeting manufacturers conform to these standards and this could sensitize you if you are prone to latex allergies. If this applies to you, make sure to check the practices of the manufacturer if you decide to buy latex sheeting to create your own designs. If you know you are susceptible to allergic reactions from latex, you should avoid contact with the material, but some people who believe they are allergic to latex, are actually allergic to talc. Always use medical-grade unscented talc with your latex or a silicone-based polish that is safe for your skin.


Natural latex is a versatile and comparably sustainable material that offers numerous benefits; its biodegradability, elasticity, longevity, and durability make it an excellent choice for individuals who prefer high-quality products while reducing their negative environmental impact. It is a plant-made material that can be used as an alternative to leather and as a shiny and sophisticated fashion statement.


Find showpiece designs and courses below if you want to learn more.


¹ Documentation of latex and CO2 emissions