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What is Velour Fabric: Properties, How its Made and Where

by Boris Hodakel  • November 25, 2020 • 7 min read

Fabric name Velour
Fabric also known as Velours
Fabric composition Cotton, synthetic fibers, or leather
Fabric possible thread count variations 100-300
Fabric breathability Medium
Moisture-wicking abilities Depends on the material used
Heat retention abilities Medium
Stretchability (give) Depends on the material used
Prone to pilling/bubbling Usually low—higher with synthetic materials
Country where fabric was first produced France
Biggest exporting/producing country today China
Recommended washing temperatures Depends on the material used—usually machine wash cool or cold
Commonly used in Stage curtains, bathrobes, hats, dance wear, upholstery, jewelry cases, sweaters, jackets, pants, shirts, tracksuits, dresses

What is velour fabric?

Originating from the French word for velvet, velour is highly similar to velvet and velveteen. Unlike velvet, which is a pile weave fabric, velour is a pile knit fabric, which means that it is simpler to produce and slightly less sumptuous. Velour is more durable than velvet while retaining many of the desirable properties of this luxurious fabric, which has led to its extensive use as a stage curtain material.

History of velour

The historical origins of velour are contested. Based on etymology alone, it’s clear that this fabric originated in France, but it is less clear which manufacturer first developed velour as an alternative to velvet. Records of velour fabric date to the 1840s, and this fabric remained a staple fabric for upholstery throughout the following century.

The need for an inexpensive alternative to velvet had been apparent for quite some time. While this fabric was universally prized among members of every economic stratum, the complex production processes needed to manufacture velvet resulted in prohibitively high prices.

Efficient velvet production methods did not appear until the early 20th century, and by this point, velour had firmly established itself as a low-priced fabric with velvet-like attributes. Since it remained coarser than velvet despite the best efforts of textile manufacturers, velour never attained significant popularity as a material for upscale garments. Instead, furniture manufacturers commonly used velour as an upholstery material, and at some point, velour replaced velvet as the default material for stage curtains.

The use of velour in apparel was remarkably limited until the mid-1960s. At this point, fashion designers began capitalizing on the trend away from conservative apparel and started making jackets, pants, shirts, and all manner of other apparel types using this velvet-like fabric. Initially ridiculed as being too similar to upholstery, velour clothing became normalized throughout the 1970s before losing popularity in the 1980s.

During the late 1990s and early 2000s, velour once again enjoyed a surge of popularity as prominent fashion designers started dressing celebrities in velour tracksuits. Characterized by their tight-fitting upper portions and flared legs, these brightly-colored tracksuits were momentarily popular before becoming decidedly passé.

Velour fabric today

These days, velour has lost significant popularity as an apparel material. While velour tracksuits are still available, they are usually only fashionable among members of particular cultural affiliations and derided within mainstream society. Sweaters made with velour still, however, hold some degree of universal popularity, and velour shirts and jackets remain reasonably common.

One application of velour that will likely never go out of style is stage curtain production. Usually made with polyester, velour stage curtains have become such an inextricable part of theatrical culture that alternatives will most likely never gain significant traction.

How is velour fabric made?

The production of velour fabric follows a few basic steps. While weaving velour is similar to weaving velvet, it is simpler and therefore more cost-effective.

1. Production of fiber yarn

The first step in the production of velour fabric is the acquisition of an appropriate textile material. Traditionally, velour was made with cotton as an alternative to silk, which was used to make velvet. Today, however, the majority of velour fabric consists of polyester fibers.

Polyester is a polymer constructed of components of coal and petroleum. Using a variety of toxic chemicals, textile manufacturers render this polymer into a liquid and extrude it through spinnerets to form fibers. Polyester may be spun into yarn, but it is also commonly produced in the form of thick fibers that resemble yarn.

2. The pile knit weaving process

Traditionally, it was only possible to produce velvet using a specialized type of hand loom that essentially wove two fabrics at once. The development of velour was a direct response to the time-consuming attributes of this process, which drove the price of velvet incredibly high. While both velvet and velour are considered to be pile weave fabrics, the unique process used to make velour is referred to as “pile knit.”

3. Post-weave treatment

After velour fabric has been woven, it may be exposed to a variety of post-production treatments. While it’s possible to dye polyester or cotton fibers prior to weaving, the dyeing process may also take place after entire bolts of fabric are complete. Polyester velour used for stage curtains is commonly exposed to flame-retardant treatments to prevent this fabric from becoming a flame accelerant in the event of a theater fire.

How is velour fabric used?

Today, the most notable use of velour is in stage curtains. While the use of velour in apparel has significantly declined over the last few decades, this fabric remains in high demand by theatrical companies all around the world. Most live theaters have multiple velour stage curtains on hand as backups, and even movie theaters often use velour as a screen border material.

Velour also remains a reasonably popular material for upholstery. However, most velour-upholstered pieces of furniture are vintage or antique since velour is not particularly in vogue at the moment. In the realm of apparel, it’s possible to find velour tracksuits, sweaters, shirts, skirts, blouses, jackets, and pants. Another modern application of velour is as a lining material attached to the inside of jewelry boxes.

Where is velour fabric produced?

Most velour on the market consists of either cotton or polyester fibers. While India produces more raw cotton than any other nation, China exports the most finished cotton products. China is also the largest producer and exporter of synthetic fabric products.

How much does velour fabric cost?

Velour fabric is relatively inexpensive. This textile is much less expensive than genuine velvet, and it is comparable in price to other natural or synthetic textiles. Cotton velour is usually considerably more expensive than polyester velour.

What different types of velour fabric are there?

There are a variety of different types of velour, and there are also a few different fabrics that are easy to mistake with this unique textile. Here are a few examples:

1. Velour leather

While usually a reference to the woven cotton or synthetic fabric, “velour” can also refer to velour leather, a type of animal hide textile that’s similar in texture to suede or chamois. Tanned using chromium, this delicate type of leather has a remarkably soft top surface, so it is commonly used to make shoes and watch bands. Velour leather can also be used to make jackets and upholstery.

2. Cotton velour

Until the mid-19th century, all velour fabric was made using cotton. As a cheaper alternative to silk velvet, cotton velour nonetheless offered many of the same properties as the textile it was designed to imitate. With the rise of synthetic velour, cotton velour is now used primarily to make apparel or upholstery, and it is no longer a popular material for stage curtains.

3. Synthetic velour

Cheaper to produce than cotton velour, synthetic velour consisting of polyester or a similar material also takes well to flame-retardant treatments, making it an ideal material for stage curtains. While polyester velour looks almost identical to cotton velour, it is not as soft to the touch, so it’s relatively uncommon to find 100% polyester velour used as an apparel material. Many types of velour apparel, however, feature blends of cotton and polyester.

4. Velvet

As the fabric that velour was designed to imitate, velvet shares many of the properties of its less-expensive textile cousin. While velour was traditionally made using cotton, velvet was traditionally made using silk, making velvet the softer fabric by far. These days, however, both velour and velvet are commonly produced using synthetic fibers, and it’s now possible to mass-produce velvet using machine looms. Combined, these two factors have all but erased the significant price difference that used to separate velvet and velour.

5. Velveteen

While velvet and velveteen are made using similar variants of the advanced weaving process that originally made velvet so expensive, velveteen was traditionally made using cotton instead of silk. Therefore, velveteen was originally less expensive than velvet, and this price difference still exists when these fabrics are not made using synthetic fibers.

6. Duvetyne

Highly similar to velour, duvetyne is a velvet-like fabric with a twill weave. Like velour, duvetyne is commonly used as a stage curtain material, and film producers and live theater managers may also use this fabric as a backdrop or theatrical cyclorama material.

How does velour fabric impact the environment?

In comparison to more popular fabrics, very little velour fabric is produced every year, so the overall environmental impact of this fabric is minimal. Certain types of velour harm the environment more than others, however, and since this fabric remains the default material for stage curtains around the world, it’s worth examining the environmental impact of velour in detail.

Increased reliance on synthetic materials for velour production has significantly worsened this fabric’s environmental impact. Synthetic fibers like polyester and rayon are not biodegradable, and they release microfibers into the hydrosphere with every washing. Since velour stage curtains are rarely washed, microfiber pollution is more of a concern in the context of synthetic velour clothing. Fabric manufacturers also use toxic chemicals in the process of manufacturing synthetic fibers, and these chemicals can harm textile workers and the environment.

Cotton velour is more desirable from an environmental perspective for a variety of reasons, but the global cotton production industry isn’t without its own negative environmental effects. The majority of worldwide cotton production heavily involves the use of toxic agrochemicals, and cotton monocropping inevitably leads to soil erosion. As a biodegradable fabric, however, cotton velour itself is not a significant pollutant.

Velour fabric certifications available

Individual velour fabric manufacturers may provide certificates proving the flame resistance of their textile products. These certificates usually contain notices of approval from fire marshals or other relevant authorities.

Cotton velour fabric may be eligible for USDA or European Commission organic certification depending on where it is produced. Regardless of its nation of origin, cotton velour may also be eligible for OEKO-TEX or Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certification.

GOTS also certifies synthetic velour if it is made using recycled materials, and the Global Recycle Standard (GRS) offers similar services. Fully synthetic velour may be eligible for International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification.

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About the author:

Boris Hodakel is the founder and CEO of Sewport - an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former founder of various clothing manufacturing services. He is passionate about e-commerce, marketing and production digitisation. Connect with Boris on LinkedIn.