What is sustainable fashion?
As described by WTVOX, sustainable fashion is a term used to describe activities, processes, and products employed by fashion actors in their attempt to shift the current fashion industry from its unethical, wasteful, and inconsiderate approach towards a carbon-neutral model based on equality, social justice, animal welfare, and ecological integrity.
Firstly, the clothing industry has complex supply chains. Therefore, it is difficult to account for all of the emissions that come from producing a pair of jeans. Then there is transportation and disposal of an item when the consumer no longer wants it. To put it simply, sustainable fashion makes an effort to minimize the negative effects of the industry. It includes all areas of production, consumer behavior and disposal of an item.
While most consumer goods suffer from similar issues, what makes the fashion industry particularly problematic is the frantic pace of change. The industry not only undergoes, but encourages it! With each season (or microseason), fashion market is pushing consumers into buying the latest styles to stay trendy. This status quo of fast fashion is leading to the largest negative impact and that’s why new ideas and movements have started to grow to oppose it.
Some of the synonyms for sustainable fashion:
• Ethical fashion – this movement is relating to the welfare of people working in fashion. It is child labor, gender rights, safe working conditions, fair trade activities, and all other social justice aspects.
• Eco or Green fashion – it focuses on the materials and fabrics used. It’s not a secret that a lot of clothing waist ends up in the landfill and oceans. The main purpose of eco fashion movement is to reduce production of non-biodegradable materials in the first place.
• Vegan or Cruelty-free fashion – refers to clothing and accessories made without the use of animal-based raw materials. Although initially a good idea, it sometimes results in using plastic based alternatives that are known to pollute the environment.
• Slow fashion – it involves not only the production process, but a consumer mindset as well. The main idea is that we should buy quality clothing and wear it longer. This concept is commonly associated with a term sustainable fashion.
• Recyclable fashion – advocates recycling, reusing, and repurposing materials in fashion. It has both pros and cons: although it helps with waste reduction, these fabrics still release microfibers into the environment when being washed.
As you have noticed, all these branches of sustainable fashion carry their own message. Nonetheless, all of them, each from their own perspective, aim for less waist, more transparency and more responsibility in fashion industry.
Problem of sustainability in the fashion industry
After we established what sustainable fashion is, we can tackle the main problem: there is no such thing as being 100% sustainable in fashion. In order to make any piece of clothing you need resources, such as water, plants, synthetic fibers, human labor, etc. Even after you purchase an item, you have to wash it using a detergent (which is not always eco-friendly). A carbon footprint of the garment gets multiplied with every step of the way.
If you are interested in sustainable or “slow” fashion, try to find as much information as possible about the brand. Read are their guidelines for sustainability, what kinds of fabrics do they use, do they outsource the labor to third world countries. With this in mind, make a judgement if you still want to buy that new dress.
According to “Good housekeeping”, there are 5 main issues being addressed in the fashion industry:
1. Water usage: the demands for fresh water for drinking and agriculture is far surpassing what’s available.
2. Hazardous chemicals: dyes and finishes from the production processes are dangerous for the workers, plus they get into the community water sources.
3. Short lifecycle: stores are constantly launching new designs and consumers are regularly updating their wardrobes.
4. Waste: on top of having a short lifecycle, there needs to be a way to create less trash by making products useful again once they’ve run their course.
5. Agriculture: natural fibers like cotton are often grown using pesticides and treatments that are harmful to the farmers, workers, and wildlife in the area.
What can we do?
The way we shop has a big impact. The most sustainable fabric is one that’s previously been used. Anything new – regardless of what material – has a negative impact on the environment. A simple way to reduce the footprint from online shopping then is to only order what we really want and intend to keep. Carefully evaluate if a piece of clothing is something that you really like, is it good quality. Never buy an item if it does not fit your body well. If you want to know how to be more mindful with your clothing choices read our blog post on capsule wardrobe.
Purchasing anything new has a bad influence on our Planet by default and therefore every choice you make really matters. Many of the changes needed to make clothing more sustainable have to be implemented by the manufacturers and big companies that control the fashion industry. The changes we all make in our behavior not only add up, but can drive change in the industry, too.
P.S. Pictures you see throughout this blog post are from our own sawing factory. Everything is made in Lithuania, ensuring good working conditions and faire wages for the workers.