Green is the new black – Sustainable fashion in the 21th Century
Sustainability is a topic that concerns everyone today. With all the natural phenomenons that have occurred during the past few years, it is impossible for individuals to overlook the damage humanity has done to mother nature. Repairing this damage could take decades, but everyone can start at any point. For fashionistas, this step could mean drifting away from mass production brands and turn towards labels who embrace eco-friendly ways. Fast fashion companies became very popular over the late 1990’s because of the fashionable yet affordable pieces they offered. To keep up with the demand, these labels work on short lifecycle collections, which pushes factories to produce at a fast pace. This generates an equally fast pollution process.
In previous years, being able to find an eco-friendly brand was a hard or impossible mission. Today, the millennial generation has triggered a green conscious among the general consumer. A generation that worries about health and nature does not want to support entities that do not employ eco-friendly ways. This has pushed the fashion industry to acknowledge a niche market that demands sustainable options. Nevertheless, it is still very hard to define an actual eco-friendly line. The International Standards Organization (ISO) is the entity responsible for defining what a green conscious brand is. It considers any label that contributes to improvements in key environmental measures and supports sustainable practices to be eco-fashion. Nevertheless, the development of specific standards is still under process. For this reason, to determine if a clothing line is embracing green ways, you can take a look at a variety of factors.
Sustainably Grown Fibers: Fibers are the DNA of fabrics. Most of these are grown in environments were the use of pesticides and irrigation severely damage the soil. Cotton, one of the world’s most used fabrics, is one of the main polluting textiles in the world. The production of cotton involves a great amount of water, specifically 20,000 liters per one t-shirt and one pair of jeans. This creates an excessive amount of wasted and contaminated water. On the other hand, companies need to protect the fibers from bugs by using an excessive amount of pesticides. As an alternative to this, corporations have opted to use sustainably grown fibers that use far less defoliants and cause little damage to the earth. Some of these options include organic grown cotton, bamboo and hemp. With the growing demand for organic fabrics, companies have also been able to obtain these textiles at a better price, being able to offer diverse pieces at a more accessible cost.
Recycled Fabrics: Textiles made out of recycled objects also meet the eco-fashion standards. The development of these fabrics usually involve more innovative methods. For example, the utilization of used plastic bottles to create a variety of textiles, from casual to formal. This procedure takes clear plastic bottles, melts them, and turns them into fibers that can be woven into a textile. Since soda containers have been a main factor for pollution for years, recycling these and turning them into usable items represents a great step forward. For fashion, this constitutes a great alternative to highly polluting synthetic fabrics such as polyester. The brand Patagonia was a pioneer in the use of this practice, making clothing out of recycled bottle fabric. The label started this implementation in the 1990’s with the use of fleece, and has kept it standing until today.
Plant-based Materials: Another way of producing eco-fashion is using plant-based materials. The same way sustainable man-made fabrics can be created, like the one mentioned before, other textiles can be produced from natural resources. These differ from organic fabrics because they are still manipulated by men, but are not created with synthetic materials like plastic. On the contrary, they are developed from agricultural elements, like actual food. For example, corn can be fermented and turned into a compound, that is spun into a fiber, and then woven into fabric, called Ingeo. Versace in known to be one of the few couture house to have used Ingeo fabric in its collections. Piñatex™ is another sustainable natural textile made from pineapple leaves. Salmon leather is also another popular product that is created by using salmon skin that is usually discarded.
Upcycled Clothing: The easiest, most attainable option. “Upcycling” is a new term that has become very popular among eco-friendly fashionistas and brands. The philosophy behind this approach is the use of pre-consumer or post-consumer garments or fabrics. Pre-consumer involves everything that has to do with a garment that, for some reason, did not reach market (was not sold or used). It also includes all the scraps of fabrics that are left out after cutting the clothes patterns. These scraps usually represent around 15% percent of the materials used by designers and would be otherwise thrown away. On the other hand, post-consumer textiles represent those garments that have already been worn. By using this options, brands can easily create a new piece or redesign an existing one with materials that would have been discarded.
Several brands have been able to understand and implement eco-fashion. While some base their entire philosophy in green standards, others opt to keep their regular collections and offer a secondary recycled line. Here are a few options that offer both alternatives:
LOOMSTATE: This clothing brand offers basic pieces, such as t-shirts, joggers and sweaters. Their practices go beyond offering organic fabrics. The label also goes far to ensure a transparent supply chain also exists and that its employees are treated in an ethical way. The brand can also fall into the “affordable” category, since its prices range from $30 for a t-shirt to $135 for a sweater and offers pieces for both men and women.
Titania Inglis: With silky geometric designs that encompass a dark spirit, this brand plays with feminine style and sustainable textiles. Each garment is made from high-quality, low-impact fabrics that include Japanese organic cotton, Italian vegetable-tanned leather, and dead stock wool. The brand also offers a limited selection of accessories as well as swim and bridal line.
H&M Conscious: The mass-market giant launched its sustainable section a few years ago. In 2013, the company launched a garment collecting initiative worldwide and have been promoting recycling clothing ever since. They allow consumers to drop off unwanted garments – regardless of brand and condition – in all H&M stores across the globe. This has helped propel its sustainable clothing section, which offers eco-fashion at an accessible price.
Kowtow: This New Zealand based brand offers modern pieces with masculine cuts that provides a unique style. The brand puts extra attention on fair trade, only working with certified organic cotton. The label is also concerned by exploitation of labour, which is why they manage their own factory in India and offer extra benefits to their employees such as rent and transportation to the factory.
Overall, meeting eco-friendly criteria is not easy. Brands need to be fully invested in the concept of environmental fashion in order to properly abide by all standards. Nevertheless, the buyer still has the demand power and if not enough people request these types of practices mass-production labels will still dominate the market. A few options were mentioned in this article, but there are many more available. If eco-fashion is of your interest, this might just be your first stepping stone.