How to Achieve Sustainable Fashion: More Ecological, Healthy and Socially Responsible Clothing.
The fashion industry and the textile sector have made great progress in recent years, betting on sustainable fashion and a more circular economy. Much is said about that, but do you actually know what ethical fashion is?
Sustainable fashion and ethical clothing consists of making clothes and accessories from materials that come from nature and even waste materials – as long as they can be recycled – such as plastic bottles or paper. These sustainable materials are used to manufacture new fabrics that allow making garments.
In addition, sustainable fashion is beneficial for our health. Ecological garments, or “eco-garments”, are made with natural materials such as organic cotton, bamboo, algae, tencel (cellulosic fiber), nettles, fish skin (used for shoes and bags) and natural dyes that give color to the sustainable fabrics. All these materials are free of toxic and dangerous chemicals, which prevents allergies and skin irritations, in addition to the low environmental impact.
The fashion industry has an important role to play in approaching global sustainability challenges, both because of its impact and its influence, but it is notoriously under-regulated on ethical practices and is the second most polluting industry.
Did you know:
– 80 billion garments are acquired worldwide in just one year.
– 70 million tons of fabrics are used worldwide, annually, to manufacture clothes.
– 60 to 70 hours per week are the working hours of Asian garment workers.
– 25% of garments remain unsold in stores.
– 10% of water pollution in rivers comes from textile industries.
– 7 is the approximate number of times people wear a single garment before throwing it away.
– Less than 1% of products are recycled into new garments.
Luckily that is starting to change. In Europe and the US, governments are considering new policies and regulations that could add sustainable practices, improve the wages and working conditions of garment workers and transform the fast fashion industry. Pressure to change is coming from investors, consumers and even brands themselves. Companies are responding with social and environmental commitments to do better.
But are they actually making a difference?
One way for fashion to reduce its environmental impact is by scaling circular business models, through which companies employ a range of strategies to reduce deadstock fabrics and recycled materials to make more efficient use of resources. Measures such as the EU’s carbon border tax will promote circular fashion by making the economics of onshore recycling and other sustainable practices more attractive.
How to Impulse the Future of Circularity?
A more circular fashion industry requires collective efforts in which fashion companies, customers and all participants in the value chain collaborate. The priority must be to set circular strategies, low environmental impacts and tackle scalability challenges.
One company that has embraced ethical fashion design is Dai Wear, a London-based company which employs recycled materials and sustainable fabrics to produce performance wear. The company uses biodegradable yarns for seams and air-dried fabrics to reduce washing needs.
Another American brand that is committed to sustainability is Christy Dawn, a fashion brand that creates vintage pieces with a big 70s influence. All clothes are manufactured in a very limited quantity, the brand uploads about 2-3 new pieces a week and are ethically made by artisans in Los Angeles. The creator Christy Dawn is highly committed to low environmental impact, so in addition to using deadstock fabrics, she makes sure to have fair trade conditions through long-term commitments with the manufacturers, suppliers and artisans who create the clothes.
How can you engage consumers to overcome stigmas and embrace sustainable practices?
As consumers become more engaged with sustainable fashion and ethical practices, circularity will be the key that unlocks the door to more sustainable fashion brands. While circularity is winning fans among some consumer groups, recycled materials still have some negative connotations. Nevertheless, consumers are willing to return recent purchases with the incentive of a refund.
More than three in five consumers in a recent McKinsey survey said environmental impact is an important factor in making purchasing decisions.
Although social and environmental commitment of sustainable fashion is quite clear, by taking advantage of deadstock fabrics, plastic bottles,organic cottons and other natural resources, as well as fair trade conditions, these are the positive impacts of sustainable fashion brands:
- Transparency and ethical practices in the fast fashion industry.
- Implement fair labor conditions of workers in the textile sector.
- Reuse of sustainable fabrics and recycled materials in fashion labels.
- Repair garments that have been previously worn: recycle, recondition and resell them.
- Generate positive impacts in the business model of small fashion companies in the textile sector.
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