Updated: Apr 21, 2020
What is Sustainable Fashion?
The term ‘sustainability’ is thrown around a lot on social media these days. To begin, we should discuss what sustainability even is. ‘Sustainability’ is a term which can be applied to almost everything. It’s a balanced idea, with the ultimate goal of sustaining Earth’s resources. It’s about future generations being able to enjoy the beauty of life, as we do today. Sustainability has three broad categories, all of which are equally important- environmental, social, and economic. Sustainability is a complex topic, and doesn’t have one answer. Answers to sustainability vary depending on your personal values, where in the world you live, and our ever-changing environment. When it comes to sustainability, it's important to maintain an open mind, and realize nothing is black and white!
Generally, for a garment to be considered ‘sustainable’ it should be eco-friendly, ethically-made, long lasting, and accessible.
image : Concept Draw
Sustainable Fashion is an umbrella term for all of the other terms listed below. They all play a part in sustainable fashion, but don't carry as much weight when used alone.
Regenerative Fashion: Probably the most important term of all of these, given our current world state. It is said we have ~60 years of topsoil left, which is vital in feeding the planet. If we don’t work to change farming to utilize regenerative practices, we won’t be able to grow anything later on. There are certain brands which are currently working with regenerative farms to create textiles, and hopefully many more will join suit. Read more about regenerative fashion here.
Ethical Fashion: This term is typically in reference to the way workers are treated. Does the brand pay the manufacturer fairly? Is the farmer growing the cotton treated fairly, as well? Depending on your values, there will be different things you look for when shopping ethically. For example, if you are vegan, you would make sure the product did not contain any animal testing or byproducts.
Zero-Waste Fashion: With the gross amount of waste created in the fashion industry, not to mention the piles of unworn thrown away clothes we are sitting on, brands are becoming more aware of their left overs and are using fabrics which already exist. Zero-waste fashion can be practiced a few different ways. 1. Your production can create minimal waste with pattern cutting and its scraps used for different projects. 2. Fabrics and notions are pulled from discarded materials and clothing. Some brands will make sure every part of their business is zero-waste, which is difficult yet amazing!
Eco-Fashion: This type of fashion is focused solely on the environment, and aims to keep their carbon footprint as minimal as possible.
Slow Fashion: We used to have 4 seasons in the fashion industry, we now have 52. Every week, sometimes in the matter of days, fast fashion brands are able to turn over a new collection - a BIG collection. It’s rather insane how quickly it can happen. Slow fashion can be seen a lot with capsule brands and other brands practicing sustainability. They focus more on quality over quantity, and timeless pieces that will never go out of style.
Sustainable Brands: Find a list of sustainable brands, by category, here! Although you shouldn’t do any unnecessary spending, if you want to add something new to your wardrobe, these brands are a great way to support a better fashion industry.
Thrifting: Some of us are lucky to have great thrift and consignment stores in our backyards. If you have the ability to find what you are looking for, we highly recommend doing so! It’s wonderful to keep re-loving a garment for as long as you can.
Pieces You Intend to Love for Years: Sometimes what you’re looking for can’t be found at a sustainable brand or thrift store, and it’s perfectly okay to purchase a garment you know will be in your closet for many many years. It may not be made in the fabric you would prefer, or the brand may not be super transparent, but in terms of longevity and value, it holds a lot of weight.
Your Own Closet: Every few months, do a big try on and play with what you have. You will probably end up falling in love all over again. Before getting rid of something,try keeping it on hand for a bit longer. If it’s a simple tear or in need of a button, take a day to do some mending. You can even start up a clothing swap with some of your besties.
Organic Cotton: According to The World Counts, we produce 29 million tons of cotton a year, which is the same as 29 t-shirts for everyone on the planet. However, it is one of the dirtiest industries in the world. There are a ton of chemicals used in order to refrain from pests, and child labor is abundant. That’s why it is SO important to purchase organic cotton over conventional cotton. This ensures there are no harmful chemicals (less water, too) used to grow the fiber, and there are stricter rules for farmers to adhere to. GOTS Certified Cotton is one of the best options on the market, today. It ensures, not only a clean fabric, but an honest process from start to finish.
Hemp: This fiber has so much potential, and comes with many amazing properties. You don’t need any pesticides, it requires less space, it’s incredibly durable, it’s great for blending other fibers, and even the actual hemp plant absorbs more carbon than trees.
Organic Linen: This is one of our favorite fibers. We love the look, and it’s incredibly easy to care for. However, just like cotton or any other fibre listed here, it depends on how it's grown and treated when spun into fabric.
Wool: Nothing can quite keep you as warm in the winter as wool can. There are a lot of ethical farmers who produce this fiber, and it can be a great way to regenerate the land. Check out FiberShed to see how they are nurturing our soil through wool.
Lyocell: If you love the feel of silk or bamboo, this fabric is one you should try! One of our favorite forms of Lyocell, TENCEL, is created from sustainably-harvest eucalyptus trees, and processed through a closed-loop system where solvents and water are continuously reused.
A sustainable closet is going to look different for everyone. We all have different values, budgets, access and styles. It truly is an ever evolving journey, but one which, hopefully, brings you joy and appreciation for what you have. When looking at a brand you are unsure of, just ask! A simple email to their customer service might make a big difference down the road. Don’t see your size? Don’t see any transparency on manufacturing? Don’t feel there is enough representation of all women? LET THEM KNOW! If enough people voice their concerns, it will help aid in more change.