The fashion world is doing its part to create a more sustainable future
In the fashion world, tastes are constantly shifting. What it means to be stylish depends on who you ask, but, while what is chic may be subjective, we all have an understanding of what is currently “in.”
In truth, there are a number of factors that help us determine what to wear, and which of our outfits should be banished to the closet, attic, or basement.
Perhaps the biggest fashion trend of today is the value we as a society put on supporting and engaging in sustainable practices.
Green is no longer reserved for the winter months, and sustainable fashion — also known as eco-fashion — could be here to stay.
Changing the System
Supporting sustainable fashion is more than just limiting your individual carbon footprint, it’s about changing the entire fashion system.
Successful sustainable fashion practices help usher change into the industry by creating a greater sense of ecological integrity and promoting social justice.
Who, why, what, and where matters when it comes to producing a sustainable fashion item. Garments must have a long lifespan, be locally produced, and be made with fabrics that won’t harm the environment during their life cycles.
“I really want people to see clothing as an investment, something that you can wear for a long time instead of disposable,” fashion designer Nadia Tandra told Washington, D.C.’s, NBC 4News.
Tandra, who creates dresses for her Maryland-based clothing brand Lunellery, says she only uses deadstock fabrics and creates a limited number of items in order to remain sustainable.
In the fall, Tandra released her second collection of sustainable and ethical clothing items, which were produced with the help of a small team of Indonesian garment workers.
“I think a big part of sustainability is not creating waste,” Tandra told NBC 4News. “Invest in pieces that you are sure you’re going to wear down for a long time, like pieces that are timeless.”
When it comes to creating waste, nothing in the industry does more harm to the environment than what is known as fast fashion — cheap clothing produced at fast speeds in order to keep up with consumer demand.
In addition to being of poor quality, fast fashion items can contain chemicals that are harmful to humans and leave a trail of textile waste that damages the environment.
Combating fast fashion with sustainable fashion is, therefore, a positive way for the industry to keep up with the beliefs, feelings, and practices of consumers while staying true to a core mission of protecting the environment.
And, these days, consumers want more than just words when it comes to supporting and actively engaging in sustainable practices.
Cecilie Thorsmark, CEO of Copenhagen Fashion Week, says brands that want to take part in the event will have to “live up” to a set of sustainable standards to participate, beginning in 2023.
“Conscious citizens are hyper-aware of the social and environmental pitfalls of organizations and brands,” Thorsmark said in a statement.
Knowing they will be held accountable to a higher standard when it comes to sustainability may certainly have helped push more brands to get on board.
Brands on Board
One company taking sustainability seriously is popular footwear company Timberland, which recently announced an initiative to source all of its natural materials exclusively from regenerative supply chains.
Timberland has already taken steps towards becoming more sustainable by producing boots made with regenerative leather and creating supply chains for regenerative cotton, wool, rubber, and sugarcane.
“By following nature’s lead, and focusing on circular design and regenerative agriculture, we aim to tip the scales to have a net positive impact — to go beyond sustainability and help nature thrive,” said Colleen Vian, Timberland’s director of sustainability.
Zara is another example of a fashion brand making a push towards becoming more eco-friendly, as it aims to use only sustainable textiles and materials by the year 2025.
Pablo Isla, chief executive of Inditex, the company which owns Zara, said back in 2019 that it wants to be a leader in the fashion industry when it comes to paving a path towards sustainability.
“We need to be a force for change, not only in the company but in the whole sector,” Isla told The Guardian.
Brands like Zara, considered to be on the more luxurious side, may not have been the first to come to mind when thinking of who was likely to jump on the sustainable fashion movement.
The idea that luxury items cannot also be sustainable is a common misconception. The reality is that items built with luxury in mind share a lot of similar values with those that seek to be sustainable.
One of the main tenets of both luxury and sustainable fashion items is that they are durable, value quality over quantity, respect fine craftsmanship, and use high quality resources.
Further, the world of high fashion is in a prime position to help push consumers to engage in an eco-friendlier lifestyle since it can control trends and introduce new behaviors and beliefs in a way that is positive, rather than punitive.
Many of the biggest, most luxurious fashion brands have committed to sustainable practices, including Gucci, which has a 10-year sustainability plan that included going fur free as of 2017, and LVMH — owner of Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Fendi, among others — which has had an environmental program since the 1990s.
Doing Our Part
Consumers, meanwhile, can help support the sustainable fashion movement by being more intentional with what we wear — and avoiding trends.
Janice Wallace, a sustainability expert in fashion and design, told NBC 4News that consumers should be more mindful of what they already own before rushing off to buy more clothes.
“You’ll be surprised how many people don’t know exactly what’s in their closet,” Wallace said. “You really need to take stock of the things that you have.”
Sticking to items that are created using sustainable and environmentally friendly methods can also go a long way, and, perhaps most importantly, seeing clothing as permanent, rather than disposable, can make a big difference in limiting eventual waste.
“Sometimes the having less can be just as good,” Wallace told NBC 4News.
Sounds pretty fashionable, too.