Sustainability has become a media buzzword over the past few years, and with good reason. People are realizing that it’s important to manage the world’s resources more effectively. High fashion is not often associated with prudence or sustainability. Instead, designers have long cultivated a decadent image. In the 1980s and 1990s, designers like Isaac Mizrahi famously pushed the envelope and lined garments with expensive products like mink fur. Today, fashion is taking a different tack and embracing sustainability.
Issues like climate change have forced fashionistas to confront their spending habits. The trend in fast fashion has meant the production of lots of goods that are worn for only a season or so before being discarded. While the constant production is good for business, the emissions from the mills that make the fabrics and factories where the clothes are pieced together are bad news for the environment. A good way to combat this is to buy investment pieces that will last for several seasons. Replacing buttons or adding trim at home can be a great way to update clothes instead of discarding them. Thrift-store finds can also be upcycled.
Another issue when it comes to sustainability is the use of natural resources in clothing and fabric production. Cotton requires lots of water to be grown, often in parts of the developing world where that resource is precious. These products then often have to be shipped long distances to countries like the US and UK where the end-user purchases them. Making an effort to source locally-produced fabrics and clothing can make a dent in this problem. Purchasing jeans made from recycled denim is also a step in the right direction.
Finally, the issue of human rights in the production of clothing is a serious one. Because the US addressed this issue in the early 1900s, it can be easy to forget that not everyone in the developing world has the same protections. Workers in mills and factories overseas often endure unsafe conditions and discrimination on the job. Women, in particular, are impacted by this. Luckily, the fashion community has become more introspective and interested in these issues. By partnering with organizations like the New Standard Institute, fashion writers, magazines and designers are taking a stand for sustainability.
Sustainable fashion is a movement. The goal is to place environmental, social and ethical improvements within the fashion industry and to create new value and deeper wealth for society as a whole. This can be achieved by reducing the amount of waste, prolonging the life cycle of materials and reducing harm to the environment as a result of production and consumption.
Sustainable clothing refers to the fabrics that are created or re-purposed from eco-friendly resources. Being environmentally conscious about our clothing means buying clothes second-hand or from thrift stores, donating, reusing or reselling used clothing, and reducing the amount of clothing one has in general.
The general three principals here are reduce, reuse, recycle.
The Five Main Issues Being Addressed
Although all clothing has at least some negative impact on the environment, the overall idea of sustainable fashion is to make a difference and improve efforts addressing environmental and social concerns. Here are the five main issues that are currently being addressed to provide more sustainable fashion:
Although the Earth is covered in water, most of it isn’t usable due to saltwater or it being polluted. There are such high demands for freshwater for drinking and for agricultural purposes and as a result, brands are looking to see how they can cut back how much water is being used to make their clothing.
The hazardous chemicals from dyes and finishes oppose a danger for the workers producing the clothing as well as the community water sources. Coming up with innovative alternatives to dyes and finishes from the productive processes are key.
With brands constantly releasing new designs and consumers constantly purchasing, the biggest goal in sustainable fashion is to buy less and wear their current clothing longer.
This is where the whole concept of reduce, reuse, recycle comes in. There should be an effective way to make products useful again whether that’s repairing garments or creating new pieces out of the old.
Utilizing organic cotton, linen and other fibers helps reduce the water consumption needed to make clothing other than the conventional growing methods.