What actually is sustainable fashion?
While there’s really no such thing as eco-friendly clothing, as all clothing has some form of negative impact on the environment, there are many brands trying to make a difference. As ‘fast fashion’ refers to cheaply made clothing for short-term use, ‘sustainable’ fashion describes the opposite; ‘slow fashion’, which takes into account the lifecycle of the item, and the ethical processes to make it. It considers everything, from the design and production process, to the workers and places where it is produced.
What are the issues around sustainability?
There are five main issues that deem whether an item or brand is sustainable. These are water usage, chemicals, short lifecycle, waste, and agriculture.
Water: The need for freshwater is surpassing what’s actually available. Even though the Earth offers wide spreads of open water, a lot of it is unsuitable saltwater or polluted water. Brands are realising this and trying to look at how they can cut back on the water they’re using.
Hazardous Chemicals: Dyes and finishes are essential to fashion production, but they are dangerous for workers and the chemicals are released into community water sources. Even though the chemicals do not affect consumers, they are a problem for people living where the clothing factories are. Fashion brands are now being pushed to find new sustainable dyes and finishes.
Short Lifecycle: Fast fashion brands are constantly creating and producing new designs to keep up with the short-term trend changes. The biggest aim is to make wardrobes more sustainable, by buying less, buying better quality, and making things last longer.
Waste: As well as having a short lifecycle, brands need to find a way to create less waste as a result of producing and shipping garments, and pushing people to repair and recycle their own clothes.
Agriculture: Even though natural fibers, like cotton, seem the most sustainable at first glance, they are being grown using pesticides that are harmful to the wildlife and workers in the area. Organic cotton uses less water than conventional cotton, but the aspect of organic needs to continue through the whole process, not just growing the crop.
What are the most sustainable fabrics?
Realistically, the most sustainable fabric is actually one that has been used before. Any new fabric that has been produced has a negative impact on the environment. But generally, any fabrics made of recycled materials or organic fibers are the best, as they create the least waste. Some brands might market any aspect of recycled fabric on their clothing, even if it’s only a small part, so look for details stating 100% recycled.
Is sustainable fashion expensive?
Sustainable fashion tends to be more expensive as you’re paying for more ethical practices and essentially paying for care to be taken in making your item, but these items are also meant to last longer. If you still want to be sustainable but can’t always afford to buy new clothes, buying from second hand stores and charity shops is effective, as you’re buying something that’s already been used.
Which brands can you actually trust?
There are many brands at the moment trying to improve their environmental impact and changing resources to lower their carbon footprint, but here are some brands doing sustainable fashion well:
Levis: The average pair of jeans uses over 2,000 gallons of water to make, and Levi’s focuses on the finishing process to remove water where possible with its ‘Water<Less’ collection, which uses 96% less water.
PACT: All of PACT’s cotton garments are certified by GOTS, as organic cotton.
Everlane: Everlane focuses on transparency by showing the process for each garment to give an idea of where they come from.
H&M Conscious: Each item from the H&M Conscious collection has an aspect that is environmentally friendly, like organic or recycled fabric.
Verloop: Verloop uses fabric scraps and excess to make matching accessories.
Vera Bradley: While some brands focus ethics on production, Vera Bradley has been using recycled plastic bottles to make their bags.
Patagonia: On top of using sustainable fabrics, Patagonia helps you repair your clothes and make them last longer. They also encourage bringing back old styles for store credit so they can recycle them.
Sustainability is a very important but broad subject and something everyone should care about when buying from fashion brands, and especially online shopping as shipment and packaging impacts the environment further. Choosing to shop from sustainable brands like these is a little change everyone can make.
If you have enjoyed this blog, then check out our blog on our favourite affordable and sustainable fashion brands, or find all our blogs here.