How The Global Market And Sustainability Influence The Fashion Industry
Green, Fair Trade, Sustainable. We all know the buzzwords. They mark the rise of conscious consumption. From clothing life cycles to reusable bags to safe working conditions and livable wages, sustainable fashion is more than just a trend, it’s a movement. Over the past decade, an influx of stylish sustainable wears have hit the market thanks to socially responsible consumers. But sustainable practices aren't one size fits all. Each individual brand from fast fashion to indie designers set their own standards. So let’s break down some sustainability lingo to clear the fog.
First, check out the brand’s about page to see if “sustainability” is mentioned. From there, if they don’t outright spell out their sustainable practices and principles, look for where and how the clothing is made. Read descriptions for individual pieces to understand a brand's production standards. If they don’t produce domestically, make sure they mention “fair trade,” “fair compensation,” or a “safe work environment” to be certain the clothes weren’t made in a sweatshop.
Lastly, check out the products fiber composition. Eco-friendly fabrics are made from fibers without pesticides or chemicals and are naturally resistant to mold, mildew, and disease. Synthetic materials such as polyester, acrylic, nylon, and spandex are manufactured using non-renewable fossil fuels and 20 billion pounds of chemicals a year, some are even toxic. Synthetics can also take decades to centuries to biodegrade in a landfill—which unfortunately is where most unwanted garments whined up instead of being recycled or reused—releasing chemicals like formaldehyde and BPA into the environment harming our planet and its limited natural resources years beyond its original creation or the two occasions it was worn. Look for natural fabrics such as linen, hemp, Tencel, organic cotton, alpaca, or organic wool to maintain a conscious consumer carbon footprint and donate or recycle any unwanted items after cleaning out your closet. Remember, there is power in the brands you choose to support. Think of the good you can do with your dollar.
To understand the different levels of sustainability standards, here are a few brands specific practices. If you prefer artisanal fair trade traditional textiles find brands partnering with global artisans to produce authentic, modern designs while supporting the livelihood of rural villages unable to infiltrate the global market. Voz, Osei-Duro, and Ace & Jig all exceed international production standards environmentally and socially while creating unique collections through quality craftsmanship. If transparency is what you seek, check out Everlane. They breakdown the cost of production for each product and provide an inside look into their factories across the globe. If you like sleek, modern designs with a little edge and the feel of cotton, Kowtow is your gal. Using only 100% organic cotton for every collection, they cut down on environmental impact from the start.
If you prefer refreshed classic styles made with vintage deadstock fabrics produced in limited edition collections, check out Christy Dawn and Reformation. And if you want to be a super sustainable shopper, look up B corporations—certified companies follow rigorous environmental, accountability, and transparency standards. Reformation is B corp certified and provides a wealth of knowledge about the environmental impact of the garment industry on their site along with a detailed breakdown of inspiring sustainable practices incorporated within the business. And if you love designer wears, stick to Stella McCartney. She’s by far the most sustainable fashion house in the high end game. Remember, sustainability is based on the quality of a consumer's wardrobe, not the quantity of clothes. Keep this in mind when comparing price tags of fast fashion to sustainable wears. You’re paying for progress—for people and the planet.
(Images via Voz, Reformation, Ace & Jig, and Christy Dawn)