What is really Sustainable Fashion?
How can we distinguish what is within the standards of sustainability from what is not?
More and more people are concerned about consuming more cleanly, so many brands use terms like eco, vegan and green. How do we know that these designations correspond to reality?
There are brands committed to changing their standards and investing in new technologies that can revolutionize the way clothes are produced. Other brands use these designations to reach new customers, but they do not always meet sustainable standards. This phenomenon is called greenwashing.
Therefore, we must be well-informed about what kinds of conscious fashion exist, and which ethical standards they follow in order to use green designations. Often, what is sustainable for one group of people may not be for another; consequently, sustainable fashion does not mean the same for everyone. It lives on a wide spectrum and it is up to each of us to explore it.
There are brands that, in the production cycle of their clothes, are dedicated entirely to maintaining a code of ethics – from the choice of materials to the way pieces are packed. Others try to focus only on some code of ethics, be it human rights or animal rights.
Below is a comprehensive guide to the types of conscious fashion that exist so you’ll be better informed about the choices you make with your wallet.
This term was inspired by the Slow Food movement, which advocates quality, fairness, and transparency. Thus, the same ideas were transferred to the fashion field. This “slow movement” suggests that we have to slow down our lifestyle and the way we consume. Products with a longer life, such as high-quality parts and timeless design, are valued.
Sustainability can be defined as our ability to interact with the world while preserving the environment, so that we do not compromise the natural resources of future generations.
Therefore, it pays attention to brands belonging to this movement, as they must incorporate healthy practices such as reducing unnecessary consumption, promoting fair rights for workers and responsibly using these natural resources.
Slow Fashion prioritizes values such as estimating and repairing instead of buying new. It thus supports other types of fashion that respect the same values as eco, sustainable and ethical.
Buying second-hand clothing remains the most sustainable form of buying, as used clothing eventually ends up in a landfill in a third-world country, decomposing for hundreds of years. If we buy second-hand clothes, we can avoid waste. There is so much clothing out there; if you can, instead of buying new, shop second-hand.
Besides not contributing to production processes that harm the environment, you can find unique items in second-hand stores. You can explore your creative side too and find pieces that you can repair, sew, re-sell or exchange. Find more about your personal style with my free eBook that you can download below.
According to the previously given definition of sustainability, sustainable fashion should not be detrimental to the ecosystem in the process of creating any piece.
Sustainable fashion is concerned with three essential points: the carbon footprint left, the amount of water spent, and the number of agro-toxins (pesticides, chemicals, etc.) used in the process.
Usually materials such as organic cotton, linen, Tencel, organic wool, recycled polyester, hemp, etc. are used because they are less polluting than others. These materials avoid pesticides and use natural pigments to dye their parts, protecting the planet and the health of workers. From peasants to factory workers, sustainability must include the well-being of everyone and everything involved in the process of making a piece.
Sustainable fashion has always been perceived as being expensive, and being worn by hippies and elitists. I have already been told that I was a hipster for saying that I try to dress more sustainably.
We need to improve our relationship with ourselves and the planet to see beyond the surface.
Sustainable fashion is for you, it’s for me, it’s for everyone. See here why it’s so important.
Ethical fashion usually goes hand in hand with sustainable fashion. But sometimes this does not happen; that’s why we have to put our knowledge into practice here.
Brands sometimes launch sustainable collections but are not ethical because they do not give their workers fair working conditions. Sometimes, other brands provide fair conditions of work but with practices harmful to the environment.
Ethical fashion must respect human rights, benefit the communities involved in the process while minimizing the impact on the environment.
It is a good starting point to respect some of these values, but we must pay close attention to the labels and tags on items and ask questions. Is it produced in a place with good working conditions? What materials are used in the production of this item?
If the brand is truly ethical, the answer to these questions will be very transparent and easy to find.
Fair Trade Fashion
Fair trade means fair trade. This type of trade fights the injustices that end up creating social problems in the market, supporting traders in developing countries and giving them jobs; boosting communities.
But I think you should know that the School of Oriental and African Studies in London did a 4-year research project to find out if Fair Trade even improved the conditions of workers in less developed countries, and came to the conclusion that it did not.
In contrast, according to this research by the CEIS institute, the absence of a Fair Trade system could end up worsening the situation of workers located in developing countries.
Small daily decisions can have a major impact on improving the lives of others. But to see more tangible changes, we can also join in some cause that affects us. We can also donate money to some organization that pressures lawmakers to make changes within the sphere of politics. These attitudes are important because our local governments can have the power to create positive changes for communities and the environment. These changes can change the world in a way that we alone can’t.
Green represents nature, environment. By analogy, sustainable fashion and green fashion represent the same principles. Garments are produced using organic raw materials, without pesticides or harmful chemicals, focusing on the protection of the environment. Many times, we can find fashion produced with up-cycled clothing and even recycled pet bottles.
Vegan clothing is any garment made without animal products such as leather, fur, silk, feathers, bone, horn, shell, wool, cashmere, shearling, etc. Much is discussed about vegan alternatives and how sustainable they are. The alternative to animal leather is vegan leather, which consists of “PU” (polyurethane), a plastic that does not decompose for a long time, nor can it be recycled in a sustainable way.
We must always read the label to know where it is produced and which materials were used.
According to Jen Vuk, you can find legitimate manufacturers of vegan leather products that use more sustainable materials such as Vegetan, which can be 70-80 percent biodegradable, or Lorica (or EcoLorica). She also says there’s also cork, barkcloth, glazed cotton and waxed cotton.
Throughout this article, we start from the principle that sustainability is important and complex, so it is important to know how to differentiate the various codes of ethics followed in conscious fashion. For this, I have introduced you to the alternatives to traditional commerce so that you can be informed the next time you make a purchase.
The fashion industry is one of the greatest pollutants in the world. We can, with each action, change the future of traditional trade, where sustainability will not only be an option for a particular group of people, but will be available to all. Where there is demand, there is supply. And the demand is more and more informed.
If you missed any posts about Ethical Fashion you can check them out in these posts: