Fashion world is changing: traditional boundaries of brands are being blurred and the consumer behavior is shifting. Today, more than ever, we see various possibilities - "vegan leather jackets" or "faux-furs", to name a few - as substitutes for traditional clothing. Roles of designers become bigger, with technology being its epicenter. Sustainable, eco-friendly or green fashion – it is a latest movement in fashion growing rapidly and influencing the fashion world.
According to GreenStrategy: “More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components”
Basically it suggests creating clothing - considering its social and environmental impact, in other words, to make it "eco-friendly". It is a step towards protecting the environment which is the most critical movement in the history.
Why is it so important?
As fashion industry is one of the biggest in the world and one of the biggest polluters, thus it must take its role in protecting our environment. In her book "To Die For" Lucy Siegle writes: “A staggering one-and-a-half-billion pairs of jeans and cotton trousers are sewn in Bangladesh every year.” And that’s only jeans and only in Bangladesh. Every pair of jeans or a t-shirt that you buy is a threat to our planet. Why? You may be surprised to know, but it takes about 10,000 liters of water to produce 1 kg of cotton - enough to make a pair of your favorite jeans. You may think that one pair is not a threat and you will be right, but how about we combine all those jeans together and see what the results will be? In order to support current fashion world needs, 6-9 trillion liters of water, 1,074kW of electricity and 60 billion kg of fabric are used. Now that's huge considering that 1,1 billion people around the world don't have access to drinking water.
Today's shopping culture encourages to buy more, but cheaper and when you don't get the satisfaction you sought, you return for more. Therefore, it is our responsibility to shop more responsibly and be directed by style. Millions of water, chemicals and oil are used to create a fancy pair of designer jeans. The supply chain starts when "designer attends the fabric show" and ends when "the order is ready for shipment", writes Lucy Siegle. And that's all for the satisfaction of the customers.
Supply chain refers to the every stage starting from source and ending with the delivery to customers. Sustainable fashion means to impact each cycle of supply chain, it means being kind to our planet, look at the labels when we buy clothes and also treat the people behind the manufacturing process humanely. It is interesting that Levi's also suggests not to wash your jeans that frequently (or not to wash them at all, but freeze instead to kill the germs).
According to Levi’s, climate change and water consumption can be reduced by 50% only by reducing the number of jeans washes.
So what does a sustainable piece of clothing consist of?
There are many factors when considering the sustainability of a fabric: the source and its renewability, the process of turning raw materials into textile, how much energy is used during the process and the working conditions of employees in the production. Sustainable fabrics are produced from the most unbelievable things one could ever think of. What amazing things can people think of to save the planet?! Patagonie and ESPRIT were the first brands to use "organic" fabrics in their production in 1991. Their collection used organic cotton, recycled and naturally processed wool, no-toxic and low-impact dyes and naturally colored cotton. Following their success - in early 2000's many other designers committed to being eco-friendly. Eco-friendly fabric can be distinguished based on following criteria:
- Less usage of toxic chemicals;
- Less usage of water;
- Reduction in greenhouse gases.
Let's see some examples of organic fabrics:
- Organic Cotton Fabric - made from not-genetically-modified plants, grown without any pesticides or chemicals;
- Organic Wool Fabric – extracted from the sheep witout hurting the animal;
- Soy fabric – also called soy-silk because of its softness, made using soy-fibers left from food production of soybean. Leading substitute for cashmere.
- Hemp - plant-based warm and durable fabric made from hemp plant;
- Nettle - plant-based. Its roots are used as cloth-dyes-green or yellow;
- Pina - fabric made from the leaves of pineapple;
- Eco-Fi: recycled plastic bottles – used mainly for outerwear sweaters and tees.
Other than saving the planet, of course, the main benefit of using eco-friendly clothes is the quality manufacturing which lengthens the life of the garment. Eco-friendly clothing is free of skin-irritants and toxins and is made up of high quality materials usually with timeless designs that can be worn year round and never go out of style. However, due to the efforts taken to minimize harm in the growth, manufacturing, and shipping of the products, sustainable fashion is typically more expensive than clothing produced by conventional methods.
Fashion's New Wave
Founder of Factory 45, Shannon Lohr, said: "Companies that get people excited are the ones who tell a different story". Indeed, now designers are more than ever eager not only to connect with their customers, but to create a deeper bond at an emotional level. They want to make their manufacturing process transparent - let the customer know where their clothes come from.
Clothes manufacturers and fashion designers are the only responsible parties for sustainability. Stella McCartney is among the world's first luxury designers who committed herself to producing clothes that do not use leather, skins, feathers or fur. Stella and her team constantly search for renovated materials to incorporate in her designs, such as regenerated cashmere or forest-friendly fabrics, etc.
Many celebrities use their status to support the change. Emma Watson is among the celebrities who actively promote ethical fashion.
In the photo above, the dress fabric is Newlife recycled polyester, created from used plastic bottles.
However, sustainable fashion is not always expensive and in the forms of evening gowns from haute couture.
Red Carpet Green Dress is a global initiative showcasing sustainable fashion on the red carpet at the Oscars.
In order to create a revolution, a mass movement is needed. By not shopping the fast fashion brands and making more smart decisions, we are one step closer to helping our planet. Lucy