The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world. It takes over 2600 litres of water to make just a single T-shirt and a pair of jeans. Widely used cotton is water intensive and the chemicals used for dyeing it end up in the environment where they are hazards to animals and people. People work in unhealthy condition to produce clothing. Finally, a vast amount of apparel ends up in the landfill causing adverse changes to the planet we all live on.
Ethics + Aesthetics
Even though fast fashion is still in its bloom, more and more consumers and fashion companies see the issues that fashion is causing and they are putting pressure on the need for more environmental and human-friendly apparel. Manufacturing of clothing with the mindset for human rights, smaller environmental impact and greater social responsibility have evolved into the concept of what is called today – sustainable fashion.
Sustainable fashion is often much more than that. For many fashion brands, it is also about storytelling, personalised clothing, human touch fabrics, and long-lasting products.
Some large companies, such as H&M, Nike, Esprit or Gap have made significant progress towards implementing sustainability, by e.g. introducing sustainable lines of products, educating customers on ecological product care and promoting recycling.
While for some brands sustainability is a response to changes happening on the market, for others it is the brand’s core value that leads every single choice in the process of designing.
Patagonia produces long lasting outdoor apparel from recycled and certified fabrics. Honest By raises its sustainable standards high with social and ecological transparent manufacturing process, and all the information accessible to customers’ on the website. Stella McCartney is in constant pursuit of sustainable, renewable resources and recycling solutions for her brand.
Closing the Loop
While traditional, fast fashion uses linear economy model, sustainable brands choose to go for recycling or circular economies.
The Linear economy model that starts with sourcing of raw material and ends up with the product being disposed at the end its life cycle. Circular economies source from both raw and recycled fabrics and make a loop by recycling the product at its expected end of life. Closed loop model is the core of sustainability. Up to 99% fabrics can be reused (2). By doing so brands that use circular economy leave a minimal environmental impact.
The process of implementing the circular economy in the product life cycle starts at the level of the product ideation. Thanks to that the whole loop is more likely to stay closed during the product’s lifecycle, resulting in eco-friendly, easy to recycle fabrics and trimmings that will endure the whole period of using the product.
Sustainability is becoming the new black. Although the changes are happening slowly, one can feel that the fashion revolution is already happening and like a snowball effect, involving more companies and customers. Fingers crossed for this revolution being a great (and victimless) one.