What is Sustainable Fashion & How to Be A Sustainable Fashion Brand
The goal of sustainable fashion is to design apparel that does good in addition to looking nice.
The goal of sustainable fashion brands is to reduce their negative environmental effects while also enhancing their social, economic, and environmental business practises.
You'll learn some advice on being sustainable in this blog post, whether you're an individual or a business.
A recent development in the industry is sustainable fashion, which emphasises social and environmental impact.
Giving back to communities and educating consumers about sustainable practises are central to the mission of sustainable brands.
What does it involve, though? Naturally, there are a variety of domains where sustainability is interesting.
Still, I'll concentrate on the four parts of branding that are most crucial: manufacturing, the creative process, production materials, and consumption.
In the industry, sustainable fashion is a hot topic.
Making a difference requires being deliberate about your decisions for what you buy, where you shop, and how much food you consume.
There are five things that every business should do to become a sustainable fashion brand: reduce consumption, reuse materials from other products or industries, recycle materials from production processes for new uses in clothes design, and reduce consumption once again.
Increase consumer awareness of companies' environmental footprints so that consumers can decide who they want to support with their money (you! ), educate every employee on sustainability practises, such as recycling practises and ways to cut back on energy use in workspaces (yet another way to improve transparency! ), and raise awareness by informing people on social media.
Over the past few years, the movement for sustainable fashion has gained momentum.
It is a method of creating and designing more ethical, sustainable, and environmentally beneficial clothing for upcoming generations.
Being a sustainable fashion brand has advantages like as better working conditions for employees, superior manufacturing quality with less waste, a beneficial impact on the environment by lowering pollution, and cost savings on recurring expenses like water use.
Customers who want to support sustainable fashion might support businesses that promote environmental protection or buy used items from consignment shops.
Being conscious of the effect your clothing has on the environment has long been at the heart of sustainable fashion.
It involves making little adjustments to become more sustainable in whatever you do.
There are various ways to be more sustainable when getting dressed every day, such as selecting items made of organic materials, going for used clothing, or simply being aware of how much you buy at a time.
Setting and achieving goals is the key to building a sustainable fashion brand.
You can't merely declare, "I want my business to be environmentally friendly," without doing anything to make it happen!
Because sustainability begins from within, be sure you are adhering to all the rules outlined above for both yourself and your staff.
Although the business model used by the fashion industry is not sustainable, there are numerous other options.
The act of minimising your environmental impact through careful adherence to a few rules is known as sustainable fashion.
This way of life is based on three fundamental principles: minimising consumption, recycling materials, and creating durable products.
This blog will explain how to design clothing that lasts longer and introduce you to some companies who have made it a mission to produce environmentally friendly apparel.
Let's get going!
What Is Sustainable & Ethical Fashion?
In a word, sustainable and ethical fashion is a method for finding, producing, and designing clothing that maximises advantages to the fashion industry and society at large while minimising negative environmental effects.
Although the ideologies of the two concepts are similar, they each have somewhat distinct issues that are equally important for the development of fashion.
As much as the next person, we both adore fashion: what's not to love about cute outfits, glitzy accessories, and individuality?
For instance, grave violations of human rights and irreparable environmental damage.
As it turns out, fashion is far more complicated than pencil skirts and shoulder pads, and all the greenwashing makes it difficult to locate ethical and sustainable apparel.
It's important for everyone to understand what constitutes really ethical and sustainable fashion, even though the path to sustainability isn't always straightforward.
Exactly that is what this article teaches you, from looking at the raw materials utilised to the procedures used farther down the supply chain.
In order for you to assess if a clothing company or item is truly ethical, we want to inform you (and ourselves) on the problematic state of the industry as it stands today.
Consider it a clothing framework.
Use the quick links below to traverse the article, especially if you plan to refer back to it in the future while looking for eco-friendly companies. We hope you will!
What To Consider
1. Buy less and buy better
Despite being overused, the adage "buy less and buy better" is crucial when you consider that an astonishing 100 billion clothing are created annually worldwide.
Harriet Vocking, chief brand officer at sustainability consultant Eco-Age, suggests that you address these three crucial questions before making a purchase: "What and why are you purchasing? Which do you require? Do you intend to use it at least 30 times?"
2. Invest in sustainable fashion brands
Supporting designers who use repurposed materials in their creations, such as Collina Strada, Chopova Lowena, and Bode, is another way to support those who promote sustainable methods.
Searching for brands that produce activewear, swimwear, denim, or other products in a more environmentally friendly manner, such as Outland Denim and Re/Done, Girlfriend Collective, and Indigo Luna, will help you focus your search.
3. Shop second-hand and vintage
When wanting to expand your wardrobe, take into account purchasing preloved goods because second-hand and vintage clothing are becoming more and more accessible owing to websites like The RealReal, Vestiaire Collective, and Depop.
By doing this, you'll not only make your clothes last longer but also lessen the influence your clothing has on the environment.
You can consequently discover one-of-a-kind items that are exclusive to you. Look to celebrities like Bella Hadid and Rihanna, who both enjoy antique fashion, for inspiration.
4. Try renting
It's now simpler than ever to rent something to wear in instead of purchasing a new dress for that wedding or barbeque this summer (Covid limits allowed, of course).
The equivalent of one garbage truck's worth of textiles are burned and dumped every second, so it's shocking that 50 million clothing are purchased and worn just once per summer in the UK alone, according to one research.
5. Avoid greenwashing
Greenwashing, or brands making ambiguous, deceptive, or false claims to suggest that they are more environmentally friendly than they actually are, is becoming more and more common as customers grow more conscious of their environmental impact.
Examine firms' precise policies in addition to buzzwords like "sustainable," "eco-friendly," "aware," and "responsible" to see if they can support their claims.
6. Know your materials
Making more sustainable purchasing requires an understanding of how resources are used.
A reasonable rule of thumb is to stay away from pure synthetic materials like polyester, which accounts for 55% of clothing globally and takes years to degrade.
Not all natural materials are created equal; for instance, organic cotton consumes a lot less water than regular cotton and doesn't contain any hazardous pesticides.
To be sure the materials used to produce your clothes have a lower impact on our world, look for certifications from the Global Organic Textile Standard (for cotton and wool), Leather Working Group (for leather), and Forest Stewardship Council (for viscose).
7. Ask who made your clothes
The pandemic has brought to light the enormous challenges that garment workers endure all across the world, and it is important that they receive a decent wage and work in a safe environment.
Therefore, look for companies that are transparent about their practises regarding wages, working conditions, and factory information.
8. Look for scientific targets
Checking whether a brand has committed to scientific targets is an excellent place to start to see whether they are serious about minimising their environmental impact.
Brands who have joined the Science-Based Targets Initiative, such as Gucci's owner Kering and Burberry, are required to establish CO2 emission reduction goals in line with the Paris Agreement.
9. Support brands who have a positive impact
Eco-conscious companies like Mara Hoffman and Sheep Inc are beginning to think about how fashion may have a positive impact on the environment rather than just lessen it.
Regenerative agriculture, which focuses on restoring soil health and biodiversity, includes agricultural methods including no-tilling and producing cover crops.
10. Watch out for harmful chemicals
Hidden chemicals used to clean our clothing are a big worry since they contaminate nearby rivers and endanger those who work in the textile industry.
Watch out for certificates like Made in Green by OEKO-TEX and Bluesign, which specify the specifications for the chemicals that must be used in manufacturing.
11. Reduce your water footprint
We should all be more aware of the water footprint of our clothing given that the production of textiles utilises an incredible 93 billion cubic metres of water yearly, which is the same as 37 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.
As was already established, organic cotton uses substantially less water than conventional cotton (one research found 91% reduced water use), and low-water colours likewise use less water.
12. Be conscious about vegan fashion
While products made from animals, such leather and wool, raise ethical and environmental questions, vegan substitutes, which frequently use synthetic materials, can also be detrimental to the environment.
Fortunately, innovative products are starting to appear on the market, like Bolt Threads' Mylo leather, which Stella McCartney has already started using. Mycelium is the root material of fungi.
13. Take care of your clothes
Increasing the lifespan of your clothing is essential for reducing the environmental impact of your clothing and making sure that it doesn't end up in landfills after just one or two uses.
Make sure your clothing lasts as long as possible by avoiding overwashing it (which will help reduce your water and CO2 emissions), as well as by mending it rather than tossing it out.
14. Avoid microplastic pollution
Since it's challenging to completely avoid synthetic materials (activewear and undergarments still need nylon and elastane for that crucial stretch), washing clothes can unleash thousands of microplastics into our streams and oceans, harming marine life that ingests the microscopic particles.
Fortunately, there is an easy fix: buy a microplastics filter, like a Guppyfriend washing bag, in which you can place your synthetic clothing, or a Cora Ball, which you can throw in with your clothes.
15. Ensure your clothes have a second life
Being mindful of how you get rid of your clothes when cleaning out your closet will help prevent them from going in a landfill.
The easiest method to make sure your clothes have a second life is to resell them or host a clothing swap, as well as donate them to charities and organisations that are in need of used clothing.
Wherever possible, search for recycling programmes that are designed for those goods if you have worn-out items that can no longer be fixed or used.
The Problem With Fast Fashion
In the world we live in, artisan coffee is more expensive than a T-shirt.
This is the fast fashion industry, and it is a serious issue.
"An strategy to the design, creation, and marketing of apparel designs that emphasises making fashion trends swiftly and affordably available to consumers," according to Merriam Webster, is what fast fashion is.
Four seasons have virtually been reduced to 52, one for almost every week of the year, thanks to fast fashion. As a result, fashion trends come and go quickly. It's also not surprising to notice a hole after one wear because they are built so shoddily.
However, there is no need to work too hard because if it breaks, it will only cost a few dollars to replace it.
Among the leading retailers in fast fashion are H&M, Forever 21, Primark, Zara, and Target (yes, even Target).
Reducing consumption is a step in the right direction, but it won't be enough to do rid of fashion's less-than-glamourous underbelly, which lurks beneath all the satin and sequins.
Problem #1: Human Rights Violations
Let's begin by addressing the issue that the majority of people are only dimly aware of, which is the working circumstances for millions of individuals.
The Fair Fashion Center estimates that the global apparel business affected 150 million lives per day in 2016. The majority of these folks labour in appalling conditions and do not make a decent wage.
In the words of Lucy Siegal, "Fast fashion isn't free. Someone is making a payment somewhere.
People didn't start paying attention until the 2013 Rana Plaza catastrophe, which involved the collapse of a garment factory in Bangladesh, killing 1,135 people and injuring 2,500 more.
The Fashion Revolution movement was launched by this one incident.
The True Cost is an incredibly eye-opening documentary, if you haven't watched it already.
Check out the Garment Worker Diaries, a podcast and data gathering project that documents and delivers interactive reports on the working conditions of employees in Bangladesh, Cambodia, and India, for a deeper exploration of this problem.
And, don't be deceived, these human rights abuses occur along the WHOLE supply chain:
- Raw material production: Unhealthy working conditions for farmers and processors as well as exposure to a variety of toxic pesticides and plasticizers.
According to this study, 61% of cotton pickers in Pakistan report having health issues such skin rashes, coughing, headaches, and more.
- Garment manufacturing: More unjust and dangerous working conditions (such as Rana Plaza) in nations without worker or union rights. In Asia, primarily China, where 40% of clothing was produced in 2016, this is very important (though that number is declining).
- Post-production (sales, wear, use): The industry of fashion isn't known for being particularly inclusive or diverse. Diversity and inclusion may not be as important as the slave-like working conditions on the production side, but they are still a big issue.
Over the years, body image concerns have arisen as a result of fashion's emphasis on thin, white models and the marginalisation or complete disregard of ethnic groups.
Problem #2: Complex Supply Chains And Lack Of Transparency
Because it's so challenging to have complete oversight over every component of the supply chain, according to a friend of ours who works in sustainability monitoring for a fashion firm, every company that manufactures anything has contributed to modern slavery in some manner, even if only little.
There are several manual alterations made throughout the highly drawn-out and complicated process of making just one garment.
A seed-to-shelf supply chain essentially consists of the following steps:
- Locating raw supplies for each of the involved fabrics (this includes farming techniques as well as soil and seeds used)
- Creating fibre by spinning raw ingredients
- Creating fabric from fibre
- Fabric preparation and dyeing
- Production of clothing (adding all the extras like thread, buttons, and zippers, and wondering where they came from)
- The last touches (adding tags, pre-shrinking, etc.)
- Shipping to international merchants
- Shipping to international customers
There are a tonne of different production teams and hands at work here.
Additionally, keep in mind that all of this frequently changes for each season and type of clothing, so each brand doesn't constantly work with the same supplier pool.
Because they don't even KNOW every step of their supply chain, even the best-intentioned brands are likely to be complicit someplace.
It's nearly impossible to stay organised.
Problem #3: The Rate Of Fashion Consumption
The size of the fashion business and its insatiable need for economic expansion are astounding.
However, capitalism keeps the wheels turning.
On the production side, it has boosted many people's overall living standards and keeps people working (although miserable that employment may be).
We are told to "have it all; you deserve it" from a consumer standpoint. Remember to #TreatYoSelf.
We now consume 80 billion articles of clothes annually, a 400% increase from 20 years ago.
With an average annual use of 80 pounds of textiles, North America leads the world in this regard. Australia's annual per-person clothing consumption rate of 60 pounds follows them closely.
This is inversely correlated with the rapid population growth (more people = more clothing).
However, fast fashion's cultivation of overconsumption and unsustainable buying habits also plays a significant role.
People all throughout the world aspire to have the same level of consumption as people in wealthy nations. Clothing is bought by consumers 60% more frequently each year on average, but it lasts barely half as long as it did 15 years ago. The social and environmental repercussions of this unrestrained expansion business model are not taken into account.
Problem #4: Chemical Use In Fashion Production
When you think about pollution, images of gas-pumping oil refineries, companies that emit carbon dioxide, and other detrimental sights come to mind.
You don't consider the fashion sector.
However, the fashion sector has been identified as one of the most environmentally harmful ones.
About half of all textiles are made from cotton, according to the WWF. Unfortunately, cotton is the most chemically intensive crop when cultivated conventionally, using 25% of the world's insecticides and 18% of the world's pesticides.
In actuality, 17 teaspoons of chemical pesticides and fertilisers are used to cultivate the 9 ounces of cotton needed to make an ordinary t-shirt.
In addition to being utilised to create the fibres, toxic chemicals are also infamous for being employed in the dying and processing of textiles.
These substances include formaldehyde, phthalates, which are known carcinogens, and heavy metals including nickel, lead, and chromium.
These toxins pose a risk to us wearers as well as to producers and manufacturers. Fashion can't possibly be worth the cost of wearing formaldehyde, can it?
Problem #5: Water Waste & Water Pollution
After manufacture and dying, all those chemicals don't simply go.
For rivers and the oceans, they mean a tremendous quantity of runoff and pollutants.
For instance, the Buriganga, the city's primary river and source of water, receives 22,000 cubic litres of toxic waste per day from Bangladesh's leather tanneries in Dhaka.
Even the people who wear our clothes continue to pollute the water supply. Small pieces of microplastic enter our pipes, streams, and ultimately the ocean every time we wash clothing made of synthetic fibres.
They are eaten by fish and other marine life there, and we, in turn, eat them. Microplastics are so growing to be a major problem.
Using the Guppy Friend microfiber catching washing bag is one method to stop this.
With between 6 and 9 trillion litres consumed annually, the fashion industry is also the second-largest worldwide water consumer.
Once more, we'll blame conventional cotton in this situation because it's such a thirsty plant. One pair of jeans made of cotton uses roughly 2000 gallons of water.
But surely there is enough water in the world? Well, not really. Devastating repercussions of cotton growing are already evident. For instance, cotton farmers' reliance on it for water has caused the Aral Sea in Central Asia to shrink by 15%.
Problem #6: Textile Waste
Fast fashion most definitely does not promote a circular economy, and the majority of apparel has a bad end-of-life situation. Additionally, of all recyclable materials, textiles have one of the lowest recycling rates, according to the EPA.
Let's look at all the ways that fashion causes actual textile waste. First, there are all the production-related waste, trimmings, and scraps.
Then there is "deadstock," or apparel that is produced, placed on the market, but fails to sell before becoming outdated. Finally, rather than giving it away or recycling it, fashion corporations typically burn this extra material.
We consumers are just as careless when it comes to getting rid of our old clothes. Although the Fair Fashion Center estimates that 21 billion tonnes of textile waste are shipped to landfills each year, just 15% of Americans recycle or donate their old clothes. The fact that 64% of contemporary fabrics include plastic in some way also means that they will never biodegrade.
Less than 20% of the small portion that is donated really ends up being sold again. The remainder is instead sent abroad to businesses who earn from recycling textiles.
Problem #7: Climate Change
Climate change, the dreaded double C, is the result of all this. 10% of the global carbon footprint is attributed to the fashion sector.
First, massive amounts of fossil fuels are consumed during production (the making of fabrics based on petroleum), manufacturing (the processing of coal), and distribution (gasoline which transports the majority of clothes halfway around the world).
In order to complete the anti-cotton trifecta, we'll mention that the worldwide cotton industry alone generates 220 tonnes of CO2 annually.
Second, GHG emissions are also increased by all the clothing that is thrown away rather than recycled, reused, or composted.
If they are in a landfill, even natural fibres like organic cotton are no more sustainable than synthetics. The most potent glasshouse gas, methane, will be released as a result of their anaerobic biodegradation there.
Solutions: What To Do About Fast Fashion As A Consumer?
The supply side is mostly to blame for these issues. What then can we as customers do?
We may influence things by using our purchasing power. We (and countless others) have said it before, but it bears repeating: Every purchase we make—of anything—is a vote for the kinds of goods we want to see produced, and by extension, the kinds of societies in which we want to live.
We simply express our desire for more sustainable products by supporting ethical brands that make them. Only because we continue to encourage it does fast fashion survive.
The industry doesn't have to be completely transformed overnight by you. Instead, start small and make simple consumption changes that only call for a brief moment of mindfulness before making a purchase.
The following actions are listed in order of impact!
1. Don’t Buy Any Clothes At All
The most environmentally friendly fashion purchase you can make is to take care of what you currently have using straightforward repair methods.
According to Fashion Revolution, "We're going to have to change the way we think about what we wear and why we wear it if we want to see fashion become a force for good.
We should cherish our clothing more. We must consider them to be priceless keepsakes and reliable companions.
Study up on REALLY taking care of your belongings. Here are some quick tips for extending the life of your wardrobe:
- Less frequently wash your clothes: Did you realise that just wearing something once doesn't make it dirty? Shocking! Treat every piece of clothing like your favourite pair of sustainable jeans because they don't feel the same after being washed (maybe with the exception of your ethical underwear).
- Launder on cold: conserves electricity and keeps your clothing's colour for a longer period of time.
- Handwashing as opposed to machine washing Once again, it is energy-efficient and won't strain and rip your clothes like agitators in washing machines.
- Instead of using a dryer, line dry: The most significant source of fabric wear and tear, in my opinion (far more than actual wear). Consider the lint trap in your dryer for a moment; all of it was generated by your clothing.
Learn how to repair anything that becomes soiled or damaged on your own. Many how-to guides are available on Fashion Revolution for mending sweaters, darning socks, and sewing on buttons so that you don't have to throw away clothing due to small functional concerns. Learn how to properly remove stains from all types of surfaces.
Find someone to fix it for you if you're short on time or a little inexperienced with a needle and thread (even if it costs a tiny bit more than just buying a new one).
If you like to wear the newest styles, get inventive by upcycling and repurposing your possessions to create new ensembles. You can start your own DIY fashion line! Alternatively, ask a creative buddy to make something special for you.
The capsule wardrobe idea and Project 333 show how few pieces of clothing are need to build a varied and thorough closet.
2. Borrow, Swap, And Rent Clothing
Trading clothes with friends is a terrific method to update your everyday appearance without having to make any purchases. Invite some pals over and organise a closet exchange. That is a method to not only be environmentally friendly in style but also to have some fun.
You have a fancy fundraiser coming up, but what should you wear? Consider renting or leasing items from local retailers rather than spending money on something you won't wear again.
Alternately, from the comfort of your couch, peruse the numerous online clothing and outfit rental businesses offering an endlessly sustainable wardrobe.
Or simply make the most of what you have and know that doing so makes you wonderful! In any case, confidence is 9/10 fashion.
3. Buy Used Clothing
If you enjoy purchasing clothing, at the very least, set a goal to #NeverBuyNew.
There is a vast selection of used and antique apparel available to you (and for absolutely bargain prices). Jeans with rips are currently popular. So why shouldn't those rips contain a true narrative? It's a terrific approach to fulfil your inner fashionista and maintain sustainability to give pre-existing clothing a second life.
You don't even need to leave your house or wade through endless racks of items that smell like your grandmother's basement because there are so many fantastic online thrift stores.
If you have clothing that you no longer wear, close the loop by giving it to a charity or selling it online to make some extra money.
One man's aesthetic is another man's latest season trends, as the saying goes.
But once more, giving should only be done as a last resort and not as a quick fix. Particularly for used clothes or those with no resale or thrift value, composting clothing made of cellulose fibres is a superior solution with numerous environmental advantages (like most fast-fashion pieces).
Clothing made of natural fibres can be composted, but it must be 100% natural; even tiny amounts of synthetic mixtures cannot be. Shredding the fabric into little pieces and taking off any tags, zippers, buttons, and other embellishments are the initial steps in composting (which you save for reuse or donate to a local sewist).
4. If You Absolutely Have To Buy New…
...do it deliberately. Consider all of your alternatives carefully, then choose the highest quality you can afford.
You can simply extend the life of your clothing on a budget by purchasing basic styles that aren't vulnerable to whimsy in-and-out trendiness. This doesn't mean blowing your cash on a new pair of expensive jeans. Some things simply never outgrow their appeal or season!
Execute quick quality inspections by examining the stitching. Avoid anything with unkempt seams or unfinished edges. Visit our Fashion Revolution zine for visual guides on the kind of stitching you should be looking for.
Choose brands that prioritise ethics and sustainability above everything else. Recognize that no brand is 100% sustainable, but do all in your power to determine which ones are the actual deal and have the biggest impact by acting more morally than otherwise. Discover what issues are indisputable.
We hope to be of assistance here.