We can’t get away from it. Everywhere we look, “sustainability” is right around the corner. It has been and still is the buzzword in the fashion industry, and it's not going anywhere fast.
Big and small brands are riding on it. We hear sustainable design, sustainable products, sustainable materials … But what does it all mean? More importantly, what forms of sustainability as consumers should we support and follow? It can all get a bit confusing, so let’s break it down.
Photo: Aja Edmond
Sustainability can mean many things and come in many forms. For a brand, this includes everything from production to distribution. For a customer, sustainability comes from the knowledge and power of purchase. Making conscious decisions.
The 7 forms of sustainability we have listed below are the most common and the easiest to incorporate in your everyday life. With the growing pressure of making the fashion industry more sustainable, it's not surprising that consumers must look at alternative ways of buying clothes or managing their wardrobes.
We always say, the most sustainable wardrobe is the one you already have, so our number one form of sustainability is;
Repair, Redesign & Reuse
The concept of making do with what you already own might not seem very appealing, but this step is where lowering your fashion footprint gets creative. Our grandmothers and mothers have been fixing our clothes for years. Extending product life from one to two years alone decreases their carbon footprint by 24%.
Nowadays Redesigning / up-cycling our clothes has become a trend, not only among consumers getting creative in creating a capsule wardrobe, but many brands have created take back programmes, where consumers can send back their used items, in turn these get amended or redesign and are reintroduced to get a second chance. These are the most prominent forms of sustainability in fashion because it allows us to use the materials & products already existing.
It's important to support the brands with resale programmes rather than take back for recycle. Recycling materials is not easy and the industry still lacks proper systems and processes to take care of discarded clothing. It's also hard to keep track of what happens to our clothes once they’ve been dropped into in-store recycling bins.
Rent & swap
It’s now easier than ever to rent a designer piece or an amazing one of a kind vintage piece,
which would otherwise break the wallet. There have been many new concepts in the past few
years making this available. Some you can see in our previous post.
These methods allows people to try the latest trends without the guilt of buying something new, to avoid overcrowding their wardrobes all while extending the life of these rented / swapped pieces. Renting clothes that already exist slows down the fast fashion cycle.
However, this method also has a few downfalls to think about. Transportation being one of them.
We must keep in mind the environmental cost of constantly shipping a few items back and forth. Some also argue that the dry cleaning process that goes with rental can use a lot of harmful chemicals that impact the environment. So as much as this method is high of our list, it is unclear how it can impact the planet long term.
Vintage & Second Hand
As consumers find ways to adopt to a greener mind set, while satisfying their thirst for something “new”, something “unique” … a one of a kind piece. Vintage and Second Hand is edging towards the top of the shopping agenda. Consumers are embracing the resale market. We know history repeats itself in fashion and people are choosing their wardrobe based on their individuality and personal expression.
To be considered true vintage, items should be up to 20yrs old … This is not the case with all vintage concepts now a days. Labels and tags might be misleading, so always check your purchase.
While we support any method of reusing existing products that help break the cycle of fast fashion, you should still be wary of those synthetic materials on the rack, which present problems like the shedding of microplastics whenever washed. So second hand or not, choose wisely.
On Demand & Custom Made
Made to order is what it says it is .. making clothes only as and when they are ordered, which is a more ethical and sustainable approach to the over-production problems in the industry. More and more brands are seeing the advantages of made to order, not only to prevent waste, but it prevents stock build up and it allows brands to understand their customer needs better.
With this method being readily available from many brands, competition on lead-times for goods to be ready is getting fierce, but with the greener mind set and consumers opting more on quality than quantity, many are willing to wait for their on demand pieces.
Made to order creates impactful change in shopping habits and has a significant role to play in moving towards a more sustainable fashion industry, which could be a starting point to tackle the waste problem this industry generates.
Photo: Victor Virgile
Green and Clean
This is not as easy as it sounds. This is one of those forms of sustainability in fashion, where you have to be on your toes, do the research and make sure these brands are actually living up to the promises they make. There are lots of big and small sustainable brands out there, so it can be hard to set them apart with the ones greenwashing.
The key is to look for brands that are transparent with their products. Where information on their process and production is readily available. Look out for brands that carry sustainable certificates. The use of sustainable materials like organic, natural, recycled etc. Choose brands that are actively committed to limiting their environmental impact and reducing their carbon footprint.
Fair & Ethical
It’s not just about looking after the planet, a sustainable supply chain is crucial to maintain a sustainable fashion industry. Make it a priority in choosing brands that are also fair and ethical in their production. This includes ensuring the fair working conditions of garment workers and fair wages in every part of the supply chain. Fashion can and should exist without inhumane working conditions.
Transparency is also key here. Look for brands that provide information on their social responsibilities. Brands that can disclose the good, the bad and the ugly. Honestly is the best policy. If you can't easily find this information, don't be shy to ask #whomademyclothes ? and choose brands that have the same values as you.
Handmade fashion is the definition of slow fashion, so support brands that work directly with highly skilled artisans. Ethical fashion should benefit those working along the supply chain and help create a better future for everyone.
Photo: Christy Dawn - Farm to Closet Collection
High quality, Timeless Design
Lastly, if your only option is to shop new. Invest in quality over quantity. Yourself, the planet and your wallet will thank you in the long run. Choose high quality, organic and natural material with good finishing and that you know have been made in an ethical way. Build your capsule wardrobe over time to be able to last.
Don't give in to the seasonal trends that will only last a few months, instead go for timeless designs, that can be worn over and over again. Design that won’t end up in the trash after one season or worst ..after just a few wears, as so many of these fast fashion items tend to.
"The way we manage our wardrobe is changing. We need to continue finding new and refreshing ways of playing with fashion in a sustainable way."
Levi N Larsson