Posted at 6:00 • 20 March 2020 • Chelsea from Kraywoods
Sustainable Fashion – a term you’ve most probably heard of already, but not with enough importance. What is sustainable fashion and what does it mean?
Sustainable fashion, also known as slow fashion or ethical fashion, represents eco-conscious and ethical behavior when it comes to the making of and use of fashion products. Sustainable fashion is not only about the types of materials and textiles used in making the fashion products, it’s about the entire supply chain, the production process and product afterlife. When we’re talking about sustainable fashion, we’re talking about the brands as well as the consumers, it’s about the whole system of the fashion industry.
For brands, sustainable fashion means creating products that aim to reduce the use of materials that have a negative effect on our planet in a way that is most considerate of humanity. Sustainable fashion brands must consider how a product is made, who is making it and what kind of environment their workers are subjected to.
For consumers, sustainable fashion or slow fashion means being eco-conscious in your fashion buying behavior. This means thinking about what you’re buying, why you’re buying it and how you’ll be able to make good use of it. The aim is to reduce your use and waste of fashion textile and products, all while making sure to support sustainable and ethical fashion brands.
Now that we’ve covered what is sustainable fashion, let us tell you why you need to care about it!
The fast fashion industry tends to cater to the general consumer that is brand and price conscious. Most people look for the renowned brands in style and fashion and try to purchase products at a reasonable price. Most of the time, we don't know the details of what we’re wearing, where it was made and who made it. Since a few years, the fashion industry and the consumers are gradually both evolving and becoming more and more eco-conscious. Both brands and consumers are paying more attention to solve the complex consequences of unethical and environmentally harmful effects of the fashion industry.
Let’s talk some numbers. Studies shows 150,000,000,000 of new clothing is produced each year. Used clothing thrown in landfills end up to be around 2500,000,000 pounds each year. The apparel and textile industry (second after the petroleum industry) produced 2,100,000 tons of co2 emissions. To make cellulose fabrics such as rayon and modal, the number of trees cut down per year is between 70,000,000 and 100,000,000. One T-shirt takes 700 gallons of water to produce. In consequence, the apparel industry is responsible of 10 percent of the world's total carbon footprint. Approximately 61 percent of garment companies are not aware of the environment in which their product is made, 76 percent don't know the types of fabric that was woven, knit, or dyed, and 93 percent don’t know the origins of the raw materials that were used.
The fashion industry has been responsible for doing immense damage to the environment and our planet. Without taking into consideration the water consumption and negative carbon footprint, mass-production of garments and use of harmful chemicals and materials continue until today. With that being said, consumers are becoming more informed and aware of the negative environmental effects of the fashion industry and are starting to pay attention to the source and quality of their garments.
For good reason, sustainable fashion has become not only a necessity but also a trend. With the considerable environmental effects of climate change on the rise in the past decades, awareness for sustainability is following. Today, people are becoming eco-conscious with their purchasing habits and the type of products they buy. Therefore, the fashion industry is slowly transforming and sustainable fashion is growing to cater to the eco-conscious and consumer.
In the fashion industry, there is a vast comparison in the products created today versus the products created a decade ago. The use of synthetic materials like nylon, acrylic, and polyester which require harmful chemicals to be produced and take up to 1000 years to decompose is slowly diminishing. Instead, the use of all-natural and organic fabrics like cotton, wool, silk, bamboo, hemp, jute, cashmere, tencel and alpaca is increasing with sustainable fashion on the rise. Textile recycling experts are saying that sustainably manufactured clothing have a much lesser negative effect on the environment.
Why Sustainable Fashion Matters
Sustainable fashion is not only to consider the raw materials used, but also the process it takes to turn these materials into the final product. 'Fast Fashion' has always been one of the biggest culprits in the fashion industry. To meet demands for new styles, clothes and high fashion dupes made cheaply.
For example, let’s consider the process it takes to make a cotton t-shirt to be sold at a competitive price. Cotton is picked, then spinned, then weaved, then dyed, then finally sewn and finished. For each of these steps, it takes many workers to do the job. Fast fashion brands that want to sell you this t-shirt at the lowest price possible will have to pay an extremely low cost to make it profitable. Often times than not, at some point in the production chain, a child was among the workers, working in an unsafe environment and being payed a non-livable wage.
This is why it is crucial to shop sustainable and know the origin of every product you buy. The sustainable fashion industry has coined the the term “Traceability” to help consumers learn more about how and where their clothes came from. Sustainable fashion is helping improve ethical trade and labor laws. The Fair Trade Act is implemented to ensure fair, safe and ethical working conditions and manufacturing. It also ensures that companies invest more in protecting and caring for their employees.
To understand the true environmental impact that the fast fashion industry has on our planet, we have to understand the full supply chain process that goes behind the making of a product. With brands and consumers becoming more environmentally conscious about their choices in the materials used to make our clothes and our fashion accessories, there is a growing trend popularity in eco-friendly production technologies and organic and sustainable textiles.
Sustainable fashion brands aim to replace the use of environmentally harmful materials and chemicals with sustainable eco-friendly materials all while taking into account the entire life cycle of a garment and the supply chain behind it, from how and where it is made up until it ends up in landfills.
As for you, the consumers, along with purchasing clothes from sustainable fashion brands made with eco-friendly and sustainable materials, make sure you’re well informed of the origins and “traceability” of your product. Invest in long lasting and versatile pieces that will have a longer life cycle in your wardrobe. If you feel like you want to change up your style and for new or more updated pieces, try clothes swapping or secondhand buying in order to save garments from ending up in landfills. Each and every step in sustainable fashion has an immense positive environmental impact on our planet.
Each and every step we take towards transforming the fast fashion industry into a more sustainable one, brands and consumers together, has an immense positive environmental impact on our planet and helps build a better future for generations to come.