We look into what sustainable clothing really means, why it’s important and how you can make a big impact with your individual purchasing power.
We wanted to take a look into what sustainable clothing is, the impact it’s having on our environment, ways clothing can be UNsustainable, and how to support sustainable fashion easily, by making informed decisions.
Firstly, let’s look at the exact definition of sustainable fashion:
Sustainable fashion is a movement that aims to minimise the impact on the environment, is associated with fair working conditions, and aims to make effective decisions throughout each step of the production line process. Focusing on how clothing is produced, who it’s produced by and the lifespan of a product, so that a limited negative impact is made on natural resources and people.
So what are the steps along the production line?
And how can we tell if a brand or company chooses to focus on sustainable practices?
There are a number of elements that brands need to nail, for them to be truly sustainable.
Below we lay out some key factors to look for when investing in this eco-friendly clothing, and some extra info and tips that will hopefully make your shopping experience more conscious and meaningful.
5 KEY ELEMENTS TO SUSTAINABLE FASHION
Sustainable Fashion can be broken down into 5 main elements:
Sustainable Materials (Fabrics)
Some materials are awful for the environment. Take polyester for example, when washing synthetic fibres like polyester in a machine, millions of tiny microfibres are released via water treatment plants into the sea, rivers and lakes. These fibres contain toxic chemicals, which negatively affect aquatic ecosystems.
Brands that choose materials that are manufactured using resource-efficient processes, that don’t require toxic chemicals nor copious amounts of drinking water, are organically grown, and don’t harm the environment are the way to go!
What to look for:
- Transparency is key
- Research exciting and innovative new technologies and companies creating sustainable materials, that are changing the trajectory of fashion
- Think before buying synthetic fabrics, buy organic materials like organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, vegan leather and linen.
Fun Fact: Here at wYse we use an extremely innovative process with Lyocell and Modal fibers that help to maintain the environmental balance by being integrated into nature's cycle. The fibers originate from the renewable raw material wood, created by photosynthesis. The certified biobased fibers are manufactured using an environmentally responsible production process. The fibers are certified as compostable and biodegradable, and thus can fully revert back to nature.
Ethical Business Practices
It’s not just a company's external practices that are important, it’s their internal ones too. It’s paramount to have a comprehensive purpose and plan that focuses on minimising negative impacts; maximising positive impacts; covers all aspects of the business and extends into the supply chain.
More and more businesses are working to incorporate sustainable principles into their models.
Including giving back, focusing on worker’s rights, limiting waste, environmentally friendly decisions, prioritising consumers health, being aligned with a social cause or investing into initiatives are a few examples of what successful sustainable fashion businesses or brands focus on.
What to look for:
- Find out if they have a ‘giving back’ project in place.
- Discover if they are aligned with a social cause.
- Whether any energy-saving initiatives are being used.
- Researching to see if there is a healthy culture amongst employees is a big one!
- Which standards are applied
Supply Chain Transparency
Years ago, where a company’s products came from were pretty unclear, and nobody seemed to care. Now, transparency is quite quickly becoming everything when it comes to fashion. And if you can’t find the facts on a company's website or by way of a quick reachout email, it generally means they aren’t paying attention to the details.
Supply chain transparency requires companies to know what is happening upstream in their processes and be able to communicate that across the board.
What to look for:
How the textiles are made
(e.g. avoiding the use of pesticides and insecticides by using organic methods)
- How products are packaged and whether recycled/recyclable material is used
- Environmentally responsible closed loop production processes
- Data and transparency along each step of supply chain
Garment End-of-Life Outcomes
A lot of clothing ends up in the dump.
The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second. This was according to a new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation on the fashion industry and its current "take-make-dispose" system.
What to look for:
- Find any initiatives to reuse, recycle and donate.
- Make the decision to buy quality for life, not quantity.
- Love your clothes!
Last but certainly not least in the key elements that make fashion sustainable, is that of making a minimal impact. Minimising waste, minimal use of chemicals and dyes possible, and reducing your carbon footprint.
Those that focus on creating minimal impact with their business choices, will be the future.
Get on board!
What to look for:
- Brands that offset any environmental damage incurred
- How wastewater and pollutants are managed and treated
What does UNSUSTAINABLE fashion look like?
The Facts, Figures and FAILS
So now you know what sustainable fashion is and how it’s defined technically, you may be thinking…. Why is this important? When is fashion not sustainable, and how does that really affect me?
Unfortunately the practices and processes currently being carried out in the fashion industry are highly unsustainable long term. As one of the largest industries in the world, it’s placing immense strain on resources and has an enormous environmental footprint.
As you can see, the startling figures truly speak for themselves:
- The fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s total carbon footprint.
- (And emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined)
- (Business Insider)
- The average person buys 60% more items of clothing every year and keeps them for about half as long as 15 years ago, producing immense volumes of textile waste.
- (Greenpeace 2016)
35% of material input at fashion supply chains ends up as waste, while only 1% of materials used to produce clothing is actually recycled
(Sustainability in Fashion Brands Study 2020)
- Clothing production doubled from 2000 to 2014, with sales rising from US$ 1 trillion in 2002 to 1.8 trillion by 2015, and a forecast of 2.1 trillion by 2025 (Greenpeace 2016)
It’s safe to say you understand the concept of meeting our needs without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their own needs too.
Supporting companies that create sustainable clothing, is an important declaration for us all to make, to show where our loyalties lay.
Purchasing is power. And every time we put our hands into our pocket, we are presented with a chance to channel our energy into making good decisions.
By supporting ethical brands and buying their sustainable products, we are essentially saying that we want more of that…..
Fast fashion thrives only because we keep supporting it.
The most important wardrobe decision you can make this
year would be to buy sustainably!
If you feel a little behind the game and want to inform yourself on all things sustainable fashion, or perhaps you’re in the know and just want to brush up on what’s happening, wherever you fall you can find a number of interesting books, podcasts and documentaries we’ve compiled below, that will aid you on your way to making more informed decisions.
wYse of course! Our clothing is made from a natural, sustainable, eco friendly Modal, sourced from sustainable forestry plantations. Our clothing is manufactured here in Australia under with manufactures who've been working with us for years. Lastly, our clothing is made to last! We place a huge factor on quality as we don't want our clothing to end up in landfill and we want to give value to our loyal wYse woman. They are made to last and you simply expand on your wardrobe as each new collection comes out. Each new collection is designed to tie in with the last. After many years of wear it's made from biodegradable material and goes back to nature where it came from.
BOOKS AND BLOGS
Are you more of a reader?
Here’s a list of books and blogs you can dive into now.
Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan
Let My People Go Surfing by Yvon Chouinard
Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change by Kate Fletcher
Money Fashion Power Fashion Revolution’s Zine #001
Loved Clothes Last Fashion Revolution’s Zine #002
More of the visual sort?
Check out these documentaries that speak on the subject of sustainable fashion, that we highly recommend!
The True Cost - A fashion-focused documentary that questions the true cost of your clothing
A Beginner’s guide to Sustainable Fashion
How to engage with Ethical Fashion - A ted talk by Clara Vuletich
How the Fashion Industry Needs to Change
A look into Fairtrade Cotton
Minimalist and simple living
Receive your information through podcasts?
Here are a few interesting episodes that will get your brain cogs turning.
Garment Workers and Climate Change: The Socioeconomic Link - From the Workerdiaries.org
By far, the most important advice for investing in a more sustainably conscious wardrobe is simply this, ASK QUESTIONS.
Asking the difficult questions and you’ll begin to see the change.
Ask questions to the brands you love, the companies you give money to, the politicians you vote for.
Asking questions will mean you’ll gain more knowledge and create more awareness. The more you know, the more you can decide and act from an educated standpoint. And the more positive choices and impact you create.
The information and truths you uncover can be overwhelming, and often the further you wade into the debate, the quicker it can feel like a never-ending rollercoaster ride of bad news and awful predictions.
But it’s all about taking that first step, and we can even take that first step together, because together as a team we are better!
We wish you all the best on your sustainability journey and a big thank you from us, for treading lighter and helping protect this beautiful planet of ours.