fbpx

What is Sustainable Fashion?

 In Blog, Blogs

By now, many of us have heard of ‘fast-fashion’ and a growing number are embracing ethical clothing initiatives such as ‘Fairtrade’ and ‘Organic Cotton’. With increasing awareness of environmental initiatives, we take a closer look at ‘sustainable fashion’ and what this means for you as a consumer.

Whether you’re a fashion enthusiast, currently ‘trending’ or you barely give it a second thought, clothing is an integral part of our society. We clothe our bodies every day, both as a societal requirement and purely from a practical standpoint; clothing can keep us warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather, it may be practical for our everyday activities and some smart textiles even help to regulate body temperature. In a cultural sense, fashion plays a key role in how we express ourselves in society and can help us to connect with others who share our interests and character. Most of all, we can use clothing to convey information about our personality.

While garments made in years gone by were proudly produced by hand by using quality materials made to last, modern clothing in comparison is often poorly produced with the intention of being thrown away. It is not designed to last and is often of a low quality, designed with the assumption that current trends are popular for a limited time only. The fashion industry is a big business with the global apparel market expected to expand in value from 1.5 trillion US dollars in 2020 to 2.25 trillion dollars in 2025, according to statistics.

This is the age of ‘fast fashion’ where it is the norm to buy trendy, affordable garments, wear them once and then toss them into landfill. Once the new trend takes hold, old fast-fashion pieces can be thrown away and replaced with new ones. Because new garments are so inexpensive, people can buy them in bulk and the cycle continues eternally; of course, the costs are externalised, with child labourers in developing countries forced to produce poor quality garments often without pay and in inhumane conditions, but this is the face of fashion we don’t see. Instead, cheap, mass-produced apparel influenced by current trends, pop culture icons and the catwalk is packaged and marketed as a rite of passage for many people.

On top of the ethical nightmare of fast fashion, such ‘disposable’ apparel has created a serious environmental problem. Poor-quality clothes that are tossed out often end up in landfills, where they degrade and release carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas. Add to that the production of raw materials used to create the garments and the long list of other processes involved in getting clothes to the consumer, such as repeated international shipping between factory, warehouse and shop floor.

Our clothing needs have been taken to the extreme by the fashion industry, which produces an unsustainable amount of new clothing. It is estimated that 100 billion new items of clothing are produced each year, with 450 billion dollars’ worth of textiles discarded worldwide. The fashion industry as a whole is believed to contribute more to climate change than the aviation and shipping industries combined, which highlights the industry as being far from sustainable, second only to the oil industry in terms of pollution. Simply put, the fashion industry is one of the most significant contributors to environmental devastation.  Each year, the fashion industry emits more than 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases, accounting for more than 10% of global carbon emissions. Along with water pollution from chemical dyeing processes, microplastics from synthetic materials, packaging waste and bad working conditions, the fashion business generates 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 every year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. While this all makes for staggering reading and may leave you feeling anxious about your clothing purchases to-date, there is a silver-lining. Welcome: the future of sustainable fashion.

What is Sustainable Fashion?

In the last few years, sustainability in fashion has evolved from a niche to a genuine revolution. The demand for ecological, ethical and sustainable fashion is increasing, fuelled by a growing awareness of the environment, climate change prevention and conscious consumerism. As a result, many brands, including major corporations, now offer a sustainable collection. But what exactly is sustainable fashion?

‘Sustainable fashion’ refers to clothing, shoes and other items that are created and used in the most environmentally and socially responsible manner. Environmental and social responsibility are promoted through the concept of sustainable fashion, as well as through the movement as a whole. With 60% to 80% of the environmental impact of a garment coming directly from choices made during the design and development stages, the use of innovative design methods offers huge scope for cutting emissions and going greener even before production.

Sustainable fashion incorporates the following popular fashion elements:

  • Conscious Fashion: Green, eco-conscious fashion
  • Circular Fashion: Upcycling, thrifting and recycling
  • Ethical Fashion: Fair-trade, sufficient working conditions and fair production.
  • Slow Fashion: Renting and Sharing

Sustainable fashion is not some passing fad: it is a social movement and has emerged as a critical requirement for being relevant and competitive in the fashion industry. More than an eco-buzzword, the poor carbon footprint produced by the fashion industry means ‘sustainable fashion’ is now an obligation and moral duty. Customers and businesses alike actively seek the need for fashion renovations with further transparency and sustainability at the top of the agenda. According to studies published by, for 30% of consumers, sustainability is the primary factor influencing their purchasing decisions.

The key considerations for sustainable fashion are the following: 

Green energy /Low Carbon Resource:

  1. Low resource consumption & Green Energy: Reduced resource use entails not only reducing water consumption but also implementing more environmentally friendly manufacturing processes.
  2. Respectful and fair production: Working circumstances should always be fair – this includes having reasonable working hours, receiving fair compensation, and not using child labour in any capacity.
  3. Natural tinting and colouring techniques: Natural dyeing procedures should be used exclusively by sustainable fashion brands, without any exception.
  4. Plastics reduction and mindful packaging disposal: Plastic-free or recycled packaging should be used.
  5. Carbon Neutrality Purpose: Brands should try to offset their emissions by financially sponsoring projects such as reforestation, among other things.
  6. Using natural & biodegradable fabrics: Textiles used should not only be organically grown but they should also be constructed entirely of the same material as well. This not only makes a thing biodegradable, but it also makes it recyclable.

Fashion companies who are committed to long-term viability pay special attention to every step of the manufacturing process and go to great lengths to minimise their impact on the environment, producing ethically sustainable garments using environmentally friendly materials and methods. The ethical and environmentally sound options are gaining momentum and the more attention you give to smaller, independent makers, the easier it will be to spot sustainable fashion. Online marketplaces like Etsy are a great place to start, with social media such as Instagram providing a great platform for sustainable fashion to thrive. From children’s’ clothing that grows with them to hand-dyed garments made to last, we can all play our part in treading more lightly on the planet with conscious clothing choices made to last for years to come.

Leave a Comment

0

Sign up to our newsletter

You have successfully subscribed to our mail list.

Too many subscribe attempts for this email address.

/ ( MM/DD )

Sign up to our newsletter

You have successfully subscribed to our mail list.

Too many subscribe attempts for this email address.

/ ( MM/DD )