The Rise of Sustainable Fashion

Fashion chief executives scream about sustainability, and how they plan to cut carbon emissions by 40% and reduce environmental impact by 50% in every interview. But none of those brands seem to understand that a much easier solution is just in front of them. Preventing overproduction in the first place would have an immediate effect on reaching those sustainability goals. The industry talks about conspicuous consumption — buying for the sake of buying — as the reason behind the growth in the luxury segment. But brands are producing more product than there is demand for. I call it conspicuous production, producing for the sake of producing and artificially inflating the numbers.” – Guram Gvasalia

It’s no secret that there’s enormous waste that stems from the fashion industry from garment production to the billions of discarded clothing items that end up in landfills every year. In fact, the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world!

During the Body+ DSM event, I touched on the current political climate necessitating each of us to become activists for our causes. With the dismantling and defunding of science- and preservation-driven programs, there is a growing concern of who and what is going to hold themselves accountable for contributing to climate change. And I find that, more and more, my project list is growing to include designers and brands that focus on eco-friendly clothing production practices, including brands like Proclaim, Tropic Bliss, Locally Grown Clothing Co., and Hudson George.

What are some of the key issues and practices around sustainable fashion brands?

  • Materials – Embracing recycled and upcycled (or “deadstock”) fabrics, as well as natural fibers, such as hemp, cashmere, organic cotton and linen.
  • Labor – Protecting the artisans and makers behind garments by providing decent working conditions, fair prices for labor or trade, and safeguarding workers’ rights throughout the supply chain.
  • Production  – Working to reduce over-production and making limited runs of designs, so that there isn’t excess inventory that ends up in landfills or parallel markets.
  • Packaging & Delivery – Leveraging recycled and/or biodegradable materials for packaging and shipping purposes. In addition, eco fashion considers the transportation mode for garments (e.g., carbon emissions from planes).

“Slow fashion is about designing, producing, consuming and living better. Slow fashion is not time-based but quality-based (which has some time components). Slow is not the opposite of fast – there is no dualism – but a different approach in which designers, buyers, retailers and consumers are more aware of the impacts of products on workers, communities and ecosystems.” – Kate Fletcher, “Slow fashion” for The Ecologist, June 1, 2007.

Of course this list is not comprehensive, as companies continue to explore innovative ways for improving their contributions to the slow fashion movement. Here are some great resources to look to if you are interested in learning more…

“The best product is one that makes citizens look at their community with fresh eyes.” –  John Thackara

Photos in collage provided by Danielle Amato of Hudson George, New York.

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