Sustainable Fashion - What You Need to Know
In a world of fast fashion, living sustainably is a challenge. This article explains sustainable fashion to help us make conscious decisions in clothing consumerism.
'Sustainable fashion’ is well and truly a current buzz word, whether it is from small independent brands to huge luxury brands. Even 'fast fashion’ brands have started jumping on the bandwagon in the past few years.
Essentially sustainable fashion consists of high-quality products with reduced environmental impact, produced in facilities with well treated workers. This article is a tool to look more into brands whether they claim that they are sustainable or not. Think of it as an aid to making conscious consumer decisions.
It’s 2019, and quite frankly we need to give the environment a break. We need to make sure our products last and do not end up in landfill.
Up to two thirds of fashion sustainability impact happens during the raw material stage: before clothes are actually made. Most people do not take into consideration how much pollution occurs during this stage. I will leave a link at the end to an article to provide further insight into the waste created during a garments production: everything from the very beginning right to the end.
Fibres make up fabrics. Hundreds of thousands of these tiny fibres are required in order to create fabric for a certain article of clothing. They need water input, energy input, and plant juice, while they increase ecotoxicity, greenhouse gas emissions and human toxicity. On top of all of these aspects is the care for the fibre once it is actually a garment. Fibres are grouped based on a grading scale from A-E, E being the worst. It is well worth searching for this scale if it interests you.
So, deadstock and post-consumer product are the rulers, let’s say, of sustainability. In relation to fabric usage companies may have bought a larger quanity than needed because they thought a higher amount of items would be produced. This occurs all the time in manufacturing, as these corporations only have one thing on their mind: they have to meet high minimum orders while trying to keep the product cost as low as possible.
Bigger companies will order more fabric than needed and in turn this creates deadstock fabric. Some companies do donate deadstock fabrics to other retailers to then sell to other designers.
If you keep up with the fashion news you’ve seen or heard of the recent scandals with high-end luxury brands being caught for destroying and burning millions of money’s worth of merchandise. Popular brand ‘Burberry’ were caught out on this, but they are not the only ones. It’s becoming more and more common among retailers to destroy stock, in order to keep up with supply and demand.
Another reason to support smaller brands to create smaller batch productions because they aren’t over-ordering by thousands of quantities. There are various certifications you can look out for when shopping in order for your items to be sustainable. ‘Oeko-tex 100’ and ‘GOTS’ are both popular certifications to look for.
In contrast the following fabrics are extremely environmentally and socially insensitive and you should not extensively purchase or support if you really do want to have a sustainable wardrobe. Mohair, a popular luxury fabric alongside Gora (wool), Spandex, Fur, and Leather are non-sustainable. There are numerous industries out there trying to tackle the issues with all these fabrics, in order for them to be all ok to use.
In relation to production and its facilities it is always smart and more sustainable to shop locally. A lot of times you will see sustainable brands manufacturing in their home country where they are based (not always). It means that the working conditions are better for the employees making your clothes, quality control is up to standard so less clothes are wasted, destroyed or thrown out and the clothes aren’t moved all over the world before getting to the consumer. At the same time, it does not mean a brand cannot be sustainable if they produce in a different country. Some countries get more bad rep than others, so it’s essential to look for factories that are certified in that case.
Nothing is perfect by any means. Fashion is one of the biggest polluters in the world whether it is from dyeing or fabric yield. However, shopping second-hand is another affordable way to shop and still be sustainable. You’ll find a guide to my favourite second-hand/charity shops on the site very soon.
I hope this article has given you more insight and that you check out the resources below if you’re at all interested in learning more. If you are shopping and information is not available to you about a business’s sustainability of goods, I encourage you to contact them. Sometimes when brands are hiding things it’s not the best sign. Just you taking the step to email or comment on their social media really does make a difference, especially for smaller brands, as long as it is done in a kind and encouraging way.