Ding. Mobile notification for a new email received. "Ten Trends You Should Wear This Spring". Ding-ding. A second email, this time about hot fashion discounts. Ding for the third time within 5 minutes, one with the title "Sneakers - which models we must have in our wardrobe". Obviously, I'm behind with shopping, and with opening my emails too.
The past 10 years the fast fashion has been moving with the speed of light. Brands, from low to high-end compete who will present first a new collection every season, every month, every day. The media doesn’t stop pouring products on us, while trends have become more than the pages of a Dostoevsky book. But fast fashion comes with a high price - water pollution, use of toxic chemicals, textile waste dumping. Clearly quality has given way to quantity. Where did the old times disappear, when we wore clothes with love until the final drop of life in them?
As a counterpoint to this permanent production, the term sustainable fashion, often referred to as eco-fashion, emerged. The word "sustainable” literally translates into "a process causing little or no damage to nature and therefore its ability to last long without causing severe damage." A little confusing, considering that the factors that define it are an endless list.
Here's why in the short series "SUSTAINABLE FASHION - WHAT SHOULD WE KNOW", we'll unravel all aspects. We will look at the journey of the garments from the field to the store windows. We will learn how to recognise a well-made garment in the sea of items. We will also pay attention to the future when we’ll be wearing leather from mushrooms and pineapple leaves and silk from orange peel. But today we start with these positive qualities that distinguish sustainable fashion from non-sustainable fashion.
1) FABRICS MADE OF RECYCLED MATERIALS
The most sustainable practice for our nature, no doubt. Here raw materials are ‘borrowed’ from nature because they are being reused. The first successful examples already exist: OSOMTEX produces threads and fabrics from textile waste, uncoloured, free of toxic chemicals, with no use of water. ECONYL recycles used fishing nets, turning nylon threads into sports and swimming fabrics. ORANGE FIBER transforms orange peel into silk.
2) ORGANIC CULTIVATION OF NATURAL RAW MATERIALS
Here we talk about cotton and flax(used for linen) and their cultivation in an organic way, with the absence of pesticides and artificial chemical fertilisers that poison the soil and underground water.
3) FABRICS WITHOUT HEAVY CHEMICALS AND DYES
The fibres have zero or minimal treatment with solutions that are environmentally friendly. The colourants used in dyes are natural, harmless to the water. So are the inks used in our T-shirt prints: water-based, environmental and biodegradable, without sacrificing colour quality and durability. The light formula makes them suitable even for babies and people with sensitive skin.
4) VEGAN TEXTILES
The ones without the use of any animal or animal-derived components. Fur should had stayed in the past century. In addition, the list includes leathers, from calf to exotic, angora, cashmere whose production threatens the existence of the snow leopard, feathers, silk where the buds are boiled alive and wool, a common cause of skin irritation and known for its delicate care. All fabrics without the aboves are counted as one step closer to sustainable fashion.
5) QUALITY MANUFACTURE
No matter how beautiful a garment is, if it is not made of high-quality fabrics and production processes have been spared, its beauty will be short-lived. Therefore, paying attention while shopping is important. Take a look inside – the seams, the content, the country of manufacture, the care instructions. Poorly made garment damages both our nature and our wallet. Literally wasting your money.
6) CLASS-LEADING PAYMENT
No, here we are not talking about fair payment, because it often means minimum wage. A widespread practice in recent years is production being exported to countries like China, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh. Along with the miserable salaries, what often reaches the newspapers headlines are the horrifying working conditions: 16 hours shifts, employees sleeping on the floors, under-aged workers without contracts. A still recent shocking example was the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory, where in 2013 more than 1100 workers were found dead.
7) LOCAL PRODUCTION
The closer a product is produced to its market, the lower the transport costs, meaning the greener it is. Additional benefits are: the possibility for the customers to know the people from the business directly, the more personal attitude the client could receive, the stimulation of using local working force, the lower price reflected by the reduced expenses, the use of typical for the region traditional artisanal techniques.
The factor of the greatest significance. No matter how many other requirements are met, if the design of the garment does not find its consumer, it remains a pure waste of resources. The responsibility falls on the designers who must resolve a current styling problem in society. Whether it is an office uniform, party clothes, evening wear or beach fashion, the priority is the customer to look and feel good. Additional value is the garment to endure to both time and short-lived trends by offering quality and timeless, beloved design.
9) ZERO WASTE
Known as a process with no leftovers. Unfortunately, as a designer of sustainable fashion, I must confess that such a process barely exist. If the cut is made without any fabric scraps, it is often at the expense of the design of the garment. An unattractive design reflects in a non-sellable garment. The task here is to reduce textile waste by optimising the cut on the fabric. Residues should then be recycled to create new fabrics and create a circular loop.
10) ENVIRONMENTAL PACKAGING
Almost every garment is transported in a separate nylon bag, contributing even more to the huge problem with plastic waste. The reason is purely financial - the lightweight bag reduces transport costs, it protects well against water and dirt. The enthusiastic news is that positive examples are existent. Some brands use biodegradable nylon that composts in the soil, others - recycled bags. Third as us do no use any of these at all - we've solved the problem with recycled cardboard packaging that can be composted or reused again.
11) ENVIRONMENTAL GARMENT CARE
Designer clothes do solve the problem of how to look good but create new ones while maintaining them. Leather soles on posh shoes that require extra rubber to prevent rapid wear. Care labels recommending dry cleaning only. It's easy: the designers had shifted the responsibility on the consumer. Why an expensive garment cannot look good and be easy to maintain at the same time? Fashion should be sustainable all the way: low-temperature washing, fabrics that do not crease and require no ironing, textiles resistant to stains. The golden tip here: do not use a tumble dryer. It aggressively thins fabric. This process quickly shortens the lifespan of every garment.
12) GREEN MARKETING
Sustainable practice does not simply finish with the product. Some companies have already realised this truth by including additional value to their portfolio: supporting various environmental initiatives, donating a percentage of their turnover for natural causes, using recycled paper in the office, planting new trees. Thus, besides setting an aesthetic example, they become an environmental role model that influences the rest.
In conclusion, it is valuable to mention that there is no garment to tick all these factors successfully. But the more it covers, the closer it is to the perfect sustainable fashion. And let's not forget that power is within us, the consumers because we make our conscious choice with each purchase. Remember this next time shopping.
БГ: Преводен вариант на статията на български език може да намерите на сайта на Nadia Petrova, където гостувам като автор.