Sustainability in the Fashion Industry

Source: BylineTimes
Cover photo by: SourceJournal

Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world and will only continue to increase. When consumers online shop and add items to their cart, the only thought in their mind is the excitement for when the package will come in and tracking the order as soon as possible. When pressing confirm order, what some don’t understand is that workers will undergo awful conditions to make sure every customer receives their items. By 2050, sales in clothing could triple globally. There is little knowledge that people know about how sustainable the production of our everyday clothes, accessories, and shoes are made.

“Four percent of worldwide waste came from the fashion industry in 2015.”

According to VogueBusiness

Four percent seems very little but it is going to quickly increase in the upcoming years. Too many companies either overproduce and sell too much of the same product when trends come and go every season, which eventually reside in landfills. They don’t understand the impact that they are creating on supply chains. Some brands have started to make clothes more biodegradable but for those who don’t, these clothes that don’t break down as easily sit in piles of millions of other clothes.

In April 2020, it will make the seven year anniversary since April 2013, in which there was a garment factory accident. Over a thousand workers died in Bangladesh inside this eight-story building. Close to three thousand people were injured, over six hundred children were brought in an orphanage, and this horrific disaster sparked a worldwide hashtag and movement called #whomademyclothes. Some companies ignore their customers which is the foundation of their revenue as soon as they started to question where their clothes were coming from. People have asked these brands to become transparent about how workers are treated in certain conditions and how they affect the environment. 

Nike, Adidas, Zara and H&M are some top brands that have started to take a stand recently in recycling by creating programs in which you can bring in clothes to donate and some even can be redeemed towards store credit such as in coupons or gift cards. These small ways appeal to an audience because it encourages the idea of helping the company get new clothing, and helping the consumer save money. 

Source: Pinterest

The relationship consumers have with their clothes needs to change in an ethical way. H&M is one of little fast fashion brands to start to create a transparency in their retailing. They are now sharing publicly the country in which production is taking place, the number of workers that are in the factory, the names of these factories and addresses, as well as where the garments from their company are made. When customers now shop whether it’s in store or online, there is a feature in which you can take the tags from the products you are purchasing and use the H&M app to scan it to find all the hidden information. 

Several companies have taken a role in the issue of sustainability in the fashion industry. Rent the Runway is helping tackle this issue. This ‘Designer Rental Subscription’ sounds strange at first, but it is a rental store and site in which you can actually rent designer dresses, shoes, shirts, accessories and anything you can think of for 4-7 days. You are able to shop a closet where everything you want is there, no space is taken up in your home, less clothes take up space in landfills, and there is a perfect budget and flexibility for you and your wallet. Your style changes overtime as well as seasonal trends so why continue to purchase low quality and cheap clothes when this option allows unlimited rental pieces, free shipping, and an endless access to designer and non-designer?

Source: TreeHugger

Patagonia, claimed as the “Gucci of outdoor wear” preaches an anti-fashion environmental message. To move towards a more sustainable approach, Patagonia switched their cotton to more organic in 1996. A couple years before that in 1993, they then stated that they would be producing post-consumer recycled polyester fleece in which every 25 recycled bottles would be created to make one fleece. Patagonia has taken over 90 million bottles from these landfills. From their one billion dollars in revenue each year, they use a percentage of these sales to donate towards the “earth tax.” This is a form of environmental activism to support community-based organizations. All of their products are made entirely of materials that have been recycled. They focus on creating great quality to prevent customers from having to always replace their pieces of clothing every year. Although they have been taking this huge step towards saving the planet, they truly have had hope in inspiring other companies in fast fashion to do the same. 

Source: Pinterest

Everlane is another company that not only uses transparency towards their consumers, but also has a use of sustainable practice without constantly fitting in with the consistent trends. When clicking Everlane’s website and searching for any product, whether it’s denim, sneakers, dresses, tops, etc., you are told where the factory is and the details behind it. The transportation and cost of materials in these factories are also given as well. They launched this originally in 2011 and ever since have focused on only producing sustainability. Everlane also has its goal for the company overall which is to eliminate their use of plastic from the supply chain, even in their packaging by 2021. Even the sneakers that they sell are made of “fully carbon neutral.” Kimberly Smith, head of their apparel says in order to be a sustainable company “you must be a transparent company.”

Source: Racked

There are companies that; don’t exploit children laborers in factories, increase their quality in clothing by not destroying the environment and have created products to last season after season. There is a higher price tag though when you buy from them but saving money towards this is not only worth it in the long run for you, but is a small step towards the environment. How can we be a part of sustainable fashion and help the environment?

Here are some sustainable fashion brands that you should know about and how to convert what you buy everyday:

  1. Know the Origin: “Exceptional Ethical Standards With Radical Transparency.” Originating from the U.K., a product they sell that you can swap out in your bathroom is converting your standard toothbrushes to bamboo ones which are biodegradable. 
  2. Veja: “Sneakers that treat humans with respect, are produced in dignified conditions, in direct consultation with producer associations and manufacturers.” Organic materials and strict fair trade laws are infused in their brand and provide shoes in men’s and women’s styles. 
  3. Wolf Circus: “Using either recycled sterling silver or recycled bronze that is coated in a high grade 14k gold plating.” Made in Vancouver, Canada all of their jewelry is handmade and recycled and has a simplistic look that will never go out of style. 
  4. KowTow: “Conscious decision to only use renewable and sustainable fibers and ethical manufacturing to deliver collections that are utilitarian and minimalistic.” All fabric and products are eco-friendly and have specific laws to protect their workers, 
  5. Pact: “Organic Cotton, Fair Trade Factory Certified, zero harmful chemicals, and processes that use significantly less water than conventional cotton.” All clothing is packed with organic cotton, no pesticides, and provides clothing for men, women and children. 
  6. Boody Wear: “Boody thoughtfully fits your everyday life with the softest, most comfortable clothing essentials.” By incorporating natural and organic bamboo into their clothing and undergarments, not only will you feel good but do good for the planet. 

Author: Pamela Valdez

Content Writer Intern for She's SINGLE Magazine, Social Media Marketing Intern, and PR Editorial Intern for Access by NKC. Pursuing fashion industry and will be an upcoming undergraduate at FIT.

2 thoughts

  1. Love this post! Patagonia is one of my favorite and most eco friendly brands!!! You should definitely check out Reformation as well! They email their consumers with their “sustainability” reports and are extremely transparent leaders in the fashion world. Really enjoyed this article.

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