It’s hard to read anything about fashion without noticing the trends of the industry. As the second largest industry in the world, fashion plays a major role in influencing the lives of everyone. A little over 2 years ago, I decided to blog about sustainable fashion. At the time, it was a relatively new concept to me. Flash forward to 2017, and sustainable fashion is a hot topic. Sustainable and ethical business practices in fashion design will transform the future because fashion has the power to influence generations.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
The production process in fashion doesn’t end with the merchandise. It extends to the quality of life of it’s employees, the quality of the environment, and ultimately, the way the buyer feels when wearing the product. Sustainable fashion is a design philosophy with a goal of creating fashion systems that are socially responsible and that reduce negative environmental impact. Companies are finally beginning to realize that consumers want a higher quality product. It’s not enough to design a pretty polyester dress. People want to build genuine connections with brands. The days of retail therapy might finally be over.
It’s being replaced with trends like minimalism, capsule wardrobes, and wardrobe edits. These ‘mindful’ consumerist habits are proof that consumers are not shopping as much as they used to. In fact, it’s trendy to have less, use less, and buy less. So what does this mean for fashion companies who profit off of spend thrift teens who go through clothes like toilet paper? We are beginning to see major fast fashion brands such as H&M and Zara joining the sustainability movement. H&M has made many headlines for their labor practices. In 2010, a fire broke out in a poorly regulated factory in Bangladesh, killing at least 21 people.(the Independent). More recently, it was discovered that one of their factories in Myanmar employed workers as young as 14 years old! (The Guardian) And who could forget the Rana Plaza factory collapse of 2013 that killed over 1,100 people?(Huffington Post) Media pressure and incidents such as these have forced H&M rethink their ethics model. In an effort to re-establish themselves as leaders in the fashion world, they created the conscious collection – clothing made with more sustainable materials. They offer in-store recycling bins for donating old clothes, and they have set the goal to use 100% sustainable sources of cotton by the year 2020.
While major fashion labels are working on jumping on the sustainable train, brands like Everlane are making head way. Everlane bolsters an unmatched outlook on transparency. Transparency is when a company chooses to disclose information that might benefit and influence the consumer’s decision to purchase. I recently had the opportunity to meet with two marketing reps from the popular minimalist fashion brand. We discussed how Everlane raises the bar when it comes to producing clothing with the customer’s best interest in mind. They are transparent in their business and production practices, and they provide detailed information on the factories where their garments are made, materials used in production, and the costs. Their target market is conscious consumers who care about how their clothes are made.
Social impact is the focus of accessories brand Purse & Clutch. Founder Jen Lewis believes in being transparent about the artisans who craft her pieces. She’s taken time to visit the factory where the leather for her products are dyed and stitched. She’s formed bonds with these artisans, and she understands how her business directly impacts their lives. This is at the heart of her decision when choosing a factory to produce her products.
While all of these are examples of fashion’s evolution, there are many ways in which the fashion industry can improve. I would love to see more brands using recycled materials as a way to preserve our natural resources. Sneaker brand VEJA is a leader in the sustainable movement because they use sustainable materials that preserve the environment, are transparent in their practices, and they produce small batches of products in order to prevent overstock. This is what all fashion brands should aim for.
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In the coming years, expect to see more goods made with non-conventional fabrics. Pinatex, is a natural textile made from pineapples! It’s completely sustainable, designed to mimic leather, and is extremely durable. Flip flop company Bella Ha designs footwear using sustainable salmon leather. Yep, leather made from fish skins! Designers are becoming more creative when it comes to the materials they use. Long gone are the days of hemp and organic cotton being the staple for sustainable fashion production. New innovations in the textile industry open the door for new possibilities for fashion.
The future of fashion is in the hands of the consumer. Companies are listening. And slowly but surely changes are being made. New innovations in the textile industry keep emerging. Closed loop systems are being formed and awareness is being raised. Fashion is at the brink of a true revolution. In the coming years, it will be common place to wear shoes made from sustainably sourced fish leather or to carry a purse made from pineapple leather. Clothing brands will recycle old fabrics and re-sell them as new designs. Vintage and thrift shopping will be as popular as ever. And we’ll begin to see the positive social impact these changes have made on the lives of the artisans who craft our clothes. It is certainly an exciting time for fashion design.
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