Sustainable fashion is very broad and can be a bit overwhelming. When do you know whether brands are sustainable? What should you look for?
There are many different forms of sustainable fashion. You just have to see which you prefer. Therefore in today’s blog post, we will discuss 6 different forms of sustainable fashion.
We know that the making of new clothing items uses a lot of energy, and also generates a lot of waste. Next to this many fast fashion items are made from materials such as polyester or acrylic. Both materials are forms of plastic, made from byproducts of the oil industry, and often end up polluting the environment. Of course, there are natural and biodegradable materials that can be used to make clothes. Nevertheless, even these materials use energy and water. There are no materials that do not have an environmental impact.
However, when you buy second-hand clothing no new materials are made since you are simply extending the life cycle of the items. Secondhand or pre-loved clothing does not use the same water, energy, chemicals, and other resources that “Firsthand” clothing does use. Therefore, second-hand clothing causes less harm to the environment.
Besides, millions of tons of clothing are thrown away each year, and by buying second-hand clothing you prevent those items from ending up in landfill and polluting the environment,
Nowadays it has become common to follow each and every trend that is created, and for this many new items are bought every season. Think about when you bought your last clothing item. It was probably less than 3 months ago. This year alone around 80 billion items of clothing items are produced in order to fit the customers’ needs. By 2030 it is expected that the amount of clothing produced will amount to around 100 million tons each year. This generates enormous amounts of waste and uses a lot of different harmful resources.
A solution for the large production of clothes is slow fashion. Slow fashion is quite the opposite of fast fashion. It is timeless, high-quality clothing that is meant to be worn for a long time. It seems kind of boring to wear the same clothes for such a long time when new trends are coming out every month. However, did you know that most trends last around three years? Therefore, it is possible to follow each trend without buying new clothes every 4 to 6 weeks, which is common in the fashion industry.
So how do you create a slow wardrobe?
First, something that is important for slow fashion is to buy high-quality items that can be worn for a long time. Next to this, basics are also a must in your closet. You can always use these items as the base of your outfit. Another important factor is repairing your clothing when there is a tear or a lost button. And last, to avoid impulse purchase, ask if you can borrow certain items from friends.
Slow fashion brand
An example of a slow fashion brand is Eileen Fisher whom I already mentioned in a previous article. Eileen Fisher is known for its simple minimalistic clothes. The brand revolves around circularity. They collect the items when they are no longer wanted by the owner, and then resell those that are still in perfect conditions. With the ones that are damaged, they find another way to reuse them so that no item ever ends up in landfill.
It is no secret that the working environment of the fashion industry can be quite harmful to its employees. Every millions of people are injured on the work floor, and accidents like the Rana Plaza are, sadly, not uncommon. Besides, the wages in the industry are incredibly low, often not even touching the minimum living wage. In the fast fashion industry, forced labor is a huge issue, as is child labor.
This is where fair fashion comes in. Fair fashion fights against the brutality of the fast fashion industry. It is against child labor, sweatshops, and exploitation of the workers. Fair fashion empowers its employees, mostly women, by creating safe, and healthy working conditions. It ensures that the employees are paid a fair wage, and no children are involved in the making.
To make sure whether a clothing brand falls under fair fashion take a look at the certifications they use.
Examples of important certifications
An important certification to ensure ethically made clothing is the “Who made your clothes?” Certification of Fashion Revolution. This certification ensures that the clothes are made in safe and healthy working conditions. Besides this certification also indicates that the employees are paid a fair wage and that the production chain of the brand is completely transparent and traceable.
Another certification that is relevant for fair fashion is the fair wear foundation membership. This membership means that the brand has followed all the steps based on the U.N Declaration on Human Rights. These steps include equal opportunities for all, no child labor, and a living wage for all employees.
The last certification that we will talk about is the Ethical Trading Initiative. This initiative ensures safe manufacturing worldwide, and actually upholds the same nine criteria as the fair wear foundation.
Research has shown that switching to a vegan or plant-based diet can lead to an enormous reduction in environmental degradation. But veganism isn’t only about foods. Did you know that vegan fashion is also a thing and has become quite popular over the last decade?
Vegan fashion is completely cruelty-free, meaning that no leather, fur, pelts, wool, or other animal-based materials are used. It has become increasingly important over the years due to animal welfare, but also due to the environmental problems as a consequence of the fur trade leather industry.
Vegan fashion is an excellent choice if you want to reduce animal suffering. However, what you should keep in mind is that not all forms of vegan products are necessarily better for the environment. For example, alternatives for leather are often made from synthetic fibers or plastics. Which is quite the opposite of sustainable.
I’ve talked about this before, but the materials that are currently used in the fast fashion industry are mostly made of byproducts of the oil industry. Instead of recycling these materials, they are often thrown away after which they end up in landfills. And not only clothing items end up in landfills. Many plastic bottles and other single-use plastics are also scattered across our environment.
Nevertheless, with our current technologies, it becomes way easier for us to recycle materials. Recycling reduces waste in the environment and also reduces the amounts of new materials that we need for certain products.
An example of recyclable materials is PET bottles. These bottles can be made into fibers, that then again can be woven into clothing items. Sportswear brand WOLVEN uses recycled PET bottles in their products. Next to PET, there are many other materials that can be recycled. Cotton and Nylon are two other examples, but there are many more.
Nonetheless, we should remember that recycling is not always the most eco-efficient option. Creating recycled materials also costs a lot of energy, and for some recycled materials this amount is even higher than “new” materials.
In 2013 Karin Jade founded sports – and – swimwear brand WOLVEN. Alongside her partner Will Ryan, she created a brand that empowered different shapes, sizes, cultures, and identities while being as sustainable as possible.
WOLVEN uses OEKO- tex certified recycled P.E.T fabrics in their activewear to counteract the increasing plastic pollution. Next to this, using recycled P.E.T instead of virgin P.E.T reduces carbon emission by 79%. By using this fabric, plastic will get a second life, while simultaneously reducing carbon emission.
Last on the list is organic fashion. As some of you might know growing fibers such as cotton can be very intensive. The plants use a lot of pesticides, and fertilizers in order to grow which can end up harming the biodiversity and the environment when it runs off with the water. Next to this, these plants often require tremendous amounts of water in order to have optimal growing conditions. Cotton plants can require up to 17 000 liters of water in order to produce 1 kilogram of cotton. Another consequence of regular cultivation is the intensive working conditions for farmers. Farming all these plants is extremely heavy work, and farmers sometimes have lasting injuries because of this.
This is where organic fashion comes into play. Organic materials do not use pesticides and use little to no fertilizers. Organic plants also require up to 70 percent less water than regular plants. Besides, the working conditions for organic farming are way better since it is less intensive, and farmers earn a higher wage.
Organic fashion also does not use dyes and chemicals in their clothing which is also a plus for the environmental aspect. If you want to be sure that the brands you’re shopping at are legit you should take a look at the certifications they use for their materials and products.
Examples of certification
A certification for organic fashion is EcoCert. This certification ensures that the materials sourced for products are organically grown. The foundation also gives training to farmers in order to move towards more organic farms.
The Global Organic Textile standards, also known as GOTS, is another certification that is quite important. This certification unifies the different standards and production stages in different countries. This certification ensures that the materials are organically made.
So all in all, there are many different forms of sustainable fashion, but what is the best? In my opinion, you should not look at one form and try to pursue only that one. Instead, combine all of the different forms. But, the most important of all is to lower your purchases. You do not need 100 different tops in order to look cute. Make use of what you already have. I guarantee you will find a cute outfit to wear.