What is Sustainable Fashion + Why Does it Matter?
You've certainly heard a lot about sustainable fashion in the recent years. Since people are becoming aware of the severity of our environmental situation, it is no longer merely a trendy phrase.
What exactly is sustainable clothing? Why does it matter, too? Find out by reading on!
Let's start by defining what we mean when we use the word "sustainable" in this context because different people's interpretations of the word vary.
Clothing and accessories manufactured from materials that may be used endlessly without endangering the environment or its inhabitants are referred to as sustainable fashion (including humans).
Toxic chemicals like formaldehyde should be avoided, and whenever possible, recycled materials and natural dyes should be used.
For some people, sustainable fashion may be defined as using organic cotton or recycled materials in apparel, while for others it may involve paying textile workers a decent wage and promoting fair trade.
There are many reasons why sustainable fashion matters, regardless of the criteria, so long as you stay true to yourself.
The goal of the sustainable fashion movement is to lessen the damaging effects that the manufacture of clothing and textiles has on the environment. We only have one Earth, thus we must take care of it, so it is crucial.
This article will go over sustainable fashion, why it's important, and how you can participate.
Consumers are becoming more conscious of the effects of their purchases as well-known brands jump on board.
Nevertheless, since this problem is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon, it is imperative that everyone understands what sustainable fashion is and why it is important.
Sustainable fashion is defined as clothing that has been produced in methods that are both environmentally and socially responsible, such as through fair labour practises and environmentally conscious manufacturing procedures, while also using recycled or organic materials when practical.
This blog post will offer you the inside scoop on a brand-new way of viewing our clothing and thinking about how it ended up in our closets!
The phrase "sustainable fashion" refers to apparel and accessories produced without endangering the environment or exploiting people.
It involves making thoughtful decisions when we shop and how we interact with one another in our local communities.
More people than ever before are talking about sustainable fashion since it has developed dramatically in recent years, both in the media and online.
However, as with any trending topic, there might be some misunderstanding as to what "sustainable" actually entails; here is a brief review of why sustainable fashion is important (and how you can get involved).
The future of fashion is sustainable. It's critical to understand what sustainable fashion is and why it matters in light of the pollution and waste our planet faces. You can learn everything you need to know from this blog post.
More than ever, sustainable fashion is in style as consumers become aware of the harm that our excessive fast fashion consumption has caused.
This damages not only the environment but also garment workers who are subjected to harsh working conditions so that clothing can be produced at incredibly low prices.
Understanding what sustainable fashion entails is the first step in resolving this issue, which is precisely what I'll do in this blog post!
Let's get going!
What Is Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion calls for a full paradigm shift in how people think about fashion and consumption in addition to generating more environmentally friendly things.
Slow fashion is becoming more popular among consumers, organisations, and merchants as a reaction to quick fashion. Slow fashion promotes a humane, eco-friendly, and animal-friendly method for producing clothing.
One of the leading environmental research charities, World Resources Institute, advises businesses to invest in closed-loop business models that reuse textiles and extend their useful lives rather than prioritising speed and profit.
Governments must also place more laws and limits on sustainable fashion.
For instance, in order to reduce production, pollution, and compliance with labour laws, hazardous fashion companies should not be permitted to outsource their operations elsewhere.
A global authority must provide widespread, obligatory, fundamental standards for the treatment of workers and the environment, which fashion companies must follow or risk being cited and shut down.
Why Most Of Fashion Today Is Not Sustainable
"Capable of being sustained" is the definition of the word "sustainable."
As a result, the sustainable fashion business needs to function in ways that will be effective for many years to come.
Unfortunately, this is not the case with today's prevalent "fast fashion," which is defined as clothing that is consciously made to be consumed quickly and affordably. As a result, consumers tend to view clothing as disposable, wearing it only a few times before throwing it out or switching to newer, trendier, cheap clothing.
The fast fashion cycle is not sustainable since it causes an enormous amount of trash, abuses workers all over the world, and rapidly depletes the planet's natural resources.
In an effort to promote constant, mindless consumption, fast fashion businesses may release as many as one new collection per week (or more), in contrast to conventional fashion houses that only have a few seasonal collections each year.
"In an effort to promote constant, mindless consumption, fast fashion brands may release as many as one new collection per week, in contrast to conventional fashion design houses that only have a few seasonal collections each year."
1. The Rana Plaza tragedy sparking global awareness:
Because of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, the worst garment industry disaster in history, the slow and sustainable fashion movement is on the rise today (2013).
Over 1,100 people died in this well-known catastrophe, which served as a stark reminder to many of how expensive their cheap apparel is in the west.
However, it turns out that beneath the gleaming facades of spotless and immaculate fashion boutiques, there are just a lot of social and environmental consequences associated with fast fashion.
2. Shedding light on “The True Cost” of fashion:
A documentary movie called The True Cost, which was published not long after the factory collapse, revealed more details regarding the destruction brought on by the fashion business.
Following these tragic occurrences and a greater awareness of the true costs associated with the industry, numerous activists and organisations actively began raising awareness of the issues raised by fast fashion, urging both customers and brands to alter their behaviour and take responsibility for the social and environmental effects of their decisions.
After all, as Whitney Bauck of Fashionista noted in a podcast:
No of your background, everyone can agree on a few fairly fundamental principles: no one should die to produce a T-shirt, and we shouldn't pollute the environment.
Sustainable Fashion And The SDGs
Major organisations are forming alliances and setting criteria for eco-friendly fashion. For instance, the UN has established the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, a project of UN organisations and affiliated groups dedicated to advancing the UN Sustainable Development Goals within the fashion sector.
The Alliance encourages programmes and policies that ensure the fashion sector contributes to the achievement of the SDG targets as well as coordination across UN organisations that operate in the industry.
The Alliance is involved with every facet of the fashion business, including raw materials, production, distribution, use, and waste.
The objective is to transform the fashion industry's trajectory and public perception from one that supports social and environmental degradation to one that serves as an example of successful, intersectional SDG implementation.
How To Be A Sustainable Fashion Brand
You must take into account every link in the value chain if you want to be a truly sustainable fashion company.
In addition to reducing waste and emissions, the brand must also advance global gender and pay parity, encourage better environmental protection and restoration, and invest in practises and research that will help set a sustainable norm.
The guidelines listed below should be used to create a sustainable fashion brand:
- Start with thorough preparation and investigation.
- Make sure your procedures are well-thought-out, doable, and maintained before releasing them.
2. Environmental Considerations
- Build factories in places devoid of endangered species, and, if possible, develop damaged land and restore it
- Maintain the highest environmental and social standards in production facilities:
— If politically and geographically feasible, provide power using renewable energy
— Comply with local environmental rules, and if necessary, improve them
— Use safe dyes and detergents
— Install catchment devices to stop the influx of microfibers waterways
3. Resource Considerations
- Determine the demand for resources, accounting for the initial extraction.
- Avoid textiles that require a lot of water, land, or energy.
- Avoid wearing clothing that contains fossil fuels.
- Create long-lasting, high-quality products.
4. Waste Considerations
- Provide instruction on how to minimise errors and fabric waste.
— Learn how to reuse fabric waste.
— Establish a sale for "mistake clothing"
- Remove single-use plastics from the supply chain at all points.
- Use sustainable packaging.
- Complete the lifespan of the garment.
- Return worn-out clothing and implement a programme for repair or upcycling
5. Social Considerations
- Aim to advance the SDGs through your production, particularly SDG 1: No Poverty, SDG 5: Gender Equality, and SDG 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth.
- Include improving the local community, economy, and rights as part of the company's mission
- Follow the strictest local work regulations, and if they aren't up to par, make improvements.
- Paying workers a living salary and scheduling their workdays sensibly
- Give appropriate breaks.
- Ensure that factories have sufficient ventilation, lighting, and windows.
- Make sure the cloth is sourced from moral producers who offer decent working conditions and fair remuneration for their employees.
- Give employees the chance to advance to managerial roles and get trade-specific training.
What To Look For To Support Sustainable Fashion
1. Low impact natural and organic materials:
Over virgin, petroleum-derived synthetics like polyester, acrylic, and nylon, natural materials like hemp, linen, cotton, silk, wool, leather, and cellulose fibers—synthetic fibres created from plant sources—are generally prefered
Unlike synthetic fibres, which will not disintegrate and instead sit in landfills, continuously seeping dangerous chemicals and gases, natural fibres can compost neatly back into the soil (provided there are no harmful chemical residues left in the fabric).
Hemp, linen, and organic cotton are typically among the more environmentally friendly natural materials, but certain natural materials are more environmentally friendly than others.
Even some plant fibres and wool can be farmed in a way that regenerates healthy soils and sequesters carbon (which helps combat climate change).
Since cellulose fibres are derived from plants, some of them are removed through destructive harvesting, which worsens the deforestation.
In addition, many are manufactured in a method that results in the production of hazardous chemical byproducts.
For plant-based fibres, look for organic certifications (like GOTS), and for wool, look for ethical indicators and standards, such ZQ-certified wool.
Additionally, prioritise lyocell or Tencel for cellulosic fabrics. Lenzing is a market leader in environmentally friendly fibre innovation.
2. Recycled or deadstock materials:
It is always a sensible decision to use pre-existing materials to build new apparel since it avoids the need to mine fresh resources from the planet and instead makes the best use of materials that might otherwise be thrown away.
Pro tip: Look for clothing manufactured from deadstock fabric, upcycled materials (such as reused fabrics), or recycled fabrics, such as recycled nylon, polyester, and cotton (materials created, never sold nor used and would otherwise be thrown away).
3. Eco-friendly dyes and Bluesign or OEKO-TEX certifications:
Consider the environmental impact of the dyes and textile treatment techniques whether you're looking at natural or synthetic fibres.
Numerous dyeing and finishing procedures employ hazardous chemicals and excessive volumes of water.
Pro tip: Eco-friendly dyes include water-efficient digital printing dyes, plant-based natural dyes, and dyes that have been approved as non-toxic. Additionally, you can search for the Bluesign or OEKO-TEX 100 labels.
4. Zero or low waste design:
Some environmentally friendly fashion firms are creating patterns with no waste because cutting out patterns causes a lot of waste in the fashion industry.
Brands may also work to reduce the amount of water and energy used during the manufacturing process, cut down on waste by avoiding unnecessary plastic packaging when transporting goods from the manufacturer to the warehouse and the customer, and ship in bulk using recycled or biodegradable shipping materials.
Pro tip: Look for companies who prioritise reducing packing waste during transportation and byproduct waste during manufacturing.
Clothes produced locally and in factories using renewable energy sources:
The amount of dyeing, stitching, and shipping that occurs in the fashion sector has a significant impact on climate change.
Some companies address this by manufacturing clothes locally rather than sending it abroad for shipping. Others reduce their carbon footprint by putting up wind and solar power generators to power their factories and offices.
Support regional designers who use local fibres and outfit their facilities with renewable energy sources to make their clothing.
5. Second hand or durable clothes:
You can choose to be a more sustainable fashion consumer by choosing slow fashion, which is expensive and intended to be thrown away rapidly, or by buying used clothing, which keeps garments out of landfills for longer.
Even if it costs a little more, investing in higher-quality, more durable apparel that you can see yourself wearing regularly over the years can be beneficial because it will likely survive longer in your wardrobe.
Finally, caring for your clothes well can have a significant, beneficial influence as well, as much of the environmental impact (such as water and energy use) from the lifecycle of our garments may result from this stage of care.
Pro tip: Buy secondhand clothing first, wash things in cold water, and hang them to dry. Prioritize sturdy, high-quality clothing that you know you'll wear for years.
Other strategies for extending the life of your clothing include basic adjustments, spot cleaning stains, and mending holes.
Sustainable Fashion Brands
A lot of fashion companies have made sustainability commitments. With its organic cotton, recycled materials, fair trade, product repair, and secondhand Worn Wear collection, Patagonia was one of the pioneers of sustainable fashion.
Despite the fact that their clothing items are quite popular, they design them so that buyers only need one jacket or pullover and advise them not to buy more than they require.
LLBean has a lifetime return and repair policy and has been a longtime proponent of product accountability.
1. Petite Lucette: Green Business Bureau Member
Petite Lucette is a sustainable fashion company that was established in 2014 to develop an organic line of items. To further its sustainability endeavours, the company has joined the Green Business Bureau.
Their company model already placed sustainability at the forefront, and they gradually realised that the only way to produce food that used less water and resources was through organic means.
As a result, they are continuously looking for ways to grow as a sustainable company and are creating a collection that will be available in the summer of 2022 and be created entirely out of recycled yarn.
In addition, Petite Lucette takes social responsibility seriously and values its close relationship with its Portuguese producer.
They make several trips a year to the facilities to assess the working conditions and happiness of their staff.
To help finish the loop of a garment's lifecycle and lessen the production of new apparel, they also recently teamed with Kids O'Clock, a secondhand children's clothing market in London.
2. United By Blue: Wholistic Accountability
Another eco-friendly company, United By Blue, has committed to removing one pound of trash from the ocean with every product sold and has implemented comprehensive accountability for its business practises and offerings.
Each material has been sourced as responsibly as feasible, and product descriptions even include the sources. Customers may study information on the factories that made their products and understand what components are in them as a result.
They uphold the strictest social standards in their factories, and they have won numerous accolades and certificates.
Additionally, they pledge to offer repairs if their items do not work as intended and offer a lifetime guarantee for the duration of the products' predetermined lifespan.
They promised to use no plastic by 2020, but the pandemic caused them to reevaluate their goals. They have since put their task force back on track.
Understand The Sustainable Fashion Consumer
Consumers may incorporate sustainable fashion into their lifestyles in a variety of ways. These changes, which are as simple to implement as others eco-conscious consumers have already made, such using reusable bags, straws, and containers, can enhance general quality of life and establish a standard that businesses will follow.
The best ways for consumers to lead sustainable fashion lifestyles are listed below:
- Buy less clothes.
- Purchase long-lasting, high-quality goods
- Purchase practical, essential apparel
- Invest on apparel from eco-friendly manufacturers.
- Invest in brands that are honest.
- To stop the release of microfibers and trash into rivers, wash garments in cold water.
- Use non-toxic, biodegradable detergent to avoid polluting rivers.
- When feasible, fix or repurpose garments.
- Purchase used clothing
Hope for a more sustainable future in fashion
With the aforementioned in mind, there are many ways to make fashion more sustainable, from using organic materials and biodegradable colours to designing designs that produce no waste.
Shopping "more sustainably" can prove to be overwhelming at first, with a myriad of aspects to consider, due to the vast variety of approaches to improve the business.
My advice is to prioritise those areas as your entrance point into sustainable fashion by considering whatever social or environmental issues you are most concerned about.
The sector is still figuring out the best ways to raise its social and environmental standards. The movement is still developing, so instead of aiming for and expecting perfection now, it helps us concentrate on constantly improving.
Environmentally friendly practises are emphasised in the design, production, distribution, and usage of sustainable fashion.
The only solution for a future with a healthy earth, sufficient resources, and equal human rights is sustainable fashion.
Customers have demonstrated that they place a high priority on sustainable fashion, and manufacturers are starting to change their business operations in response.
Fashion companies must consider society, resources, waste, and the environment while making decisions.
Customers have the ability to support sustainable fashion by buying it and incorporating it into their daily life.
In addition to letting impulse buys pass, you can prioritise the following in order to green your wardrobe:
- Buying clothing produced locally, at facilities powered by renewable energy, or using deadstock, recycled, or other low-impact materials, eco-friendly colours, and zero- or low-waste designs;
- Buying used or thrifted clothing;
- Extending the life of your clothes by caring for them properly, having them tailored or repaired as necessary, and modernising their appearance to suit your current tastes.