Sustainable fashion is a very broad term. It is widely used to describe and include all processes of production, use, and sale of products manufactured by the textile industry.
Therefore, sustainable fashion may include all kinds of activities: from how fibers are produced and treated to create circular knitted fabrics, to the way they are then transformed, distributed, and sold to the final consumer.
In fact, even state or country laws with any impact on the textile industry can be read and enforced in light of sustainable fashion.
All this has a reason for being so: the textile industry is responsible for the annual emission of 4% to 10% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Considering the emergence of climate change and the urgent search for new solutions, sustainable fashion turned out to be a universal term for the promotion of sustainability within the textile industry.
The environmental impact of fashion has effects across the board, namely in water and air pollution.
So if you want to know everything about sustainable fashion, including how you can contribute, read on.
Sustainable fashion is a practice that brings together all those involved within the textile industry: creators (of both fauna and flora), producers, sellers, buyers, and consumers.
To be effective, sustainable fashion must consider the life cycle of any textile item, from its origin (animal or plant) to the moment it is discarded and inevitably becomes unusable.
As such, sustainable fashion is more than a highly inclusive term. It is a true movement that works to achieve carbon neutrality in the textile market, taking into account the ecological integrity of nature, together with the notions of social justice.
Sustainable fashion is concerned with total transparency throughout the production chain.
This includes the origin of organic fibers, animal welfare, and the working conditions of all involved. All without ever putting aside its potential environmental impact.
That is why sustainable fashion can also be known as “slow fashion” as opposed to the so-called “fast fashion” very common today: poor-quality textiles, designed for short-term use and produced in the cheapest or most profitable way possible.
Of course, the importance of sustainable fashion is almost self-explanatory. It's easy to understand: if the entire process of producing and selling textiles is sustainable, we all benefit.
Nonetheless, this description of sustainable fashion is somewhat generic. That's why we've divided the importance of sustainable fashion into three major benefits.
One of the main characteristics of sustainable fashion is the long term. All textiles produced in a sustainable way are not only of better quality but also more resistant.
These are pieces made to last longer. But, more than that, they also tend to be created from fibers of organic origin and, therefore, biodegradable.
That is, even after being used for many good years, even after they can be recycled and even if they end up in a landfill, anywhere in the world, they will always be reabsorbed by the earth.
Less water, less energy, and fewer greenhouse gases
Sustainable fashion uses materials of organic or recycled origin. This has several benefits, but there are two that stand out: its production requires less water and emits fewer greenhouse gases.
The fibers used to create new circular knitted fabrics do not require the use of any type of pesticides or fertilizers. At the same time, they require less water to be produced, as well as fewer chemical treatments.
The textile industry is one of the most water-intensive industries in the world.
For this reason, sustainable fashion also seeks to use fibers such as linen or organic cotton which require less water during their production phase. Taken together, all this implies even greater energy efficiency throughout the entire creation process.
Better working conditions
Much of the textile production done today is only possible because there are poor working conditions in the vast majority of countries where some of the most recognized brands on the market operate.
In practicing sustainable fashion, priority should also be given to employees. This is done through fair wages (given developed countries’ standards) as well as improving the safety and health conditions of all employees.
As we have seen, sustainable fashion must consider the entire production chain of the textile industry. For brands, one of the best ways to contribute to sustainable fashion, in addition to the ones mentioned above, is the following: get to know the origin of your materials.
It's really quite simple. Brands are primarily responsible for making the connection between the final consumer and the creators or producers of textile fibers.
For example, a sustainable garment can only be considered as such when the fibers that compose it are also the result of an effort for sustainability and responsible production.
Therefore, it is important to identify the materials with which you work.
Organic cotton requires much less water than conventional cotton, for example.
If you are looking for materials to develop your sustainable clothing brand, look for companies that are duly certified for this purpose and ready to support you in your sustainable fashion effort.
The GOTS certificate – yet another example dedicated to cotton – guarantees the sustainable production of not only cotton but organic wool as well.
But what if you are a final consumer? Whether you're looking for sustainable clothing for women or sustainable clothing for men, here's how you can contribute to sustainable fashion.
There are some business models focused on sustainable fashion that are quite innovative. One of the examples includes the possibility that some sustainable brands offer their audience: renting clothes for specific occasions – from company conventions to weddings.
However, the consumer only needs to remember three essential words to practice sustainable fashion: reject, reduce and reuse. In this order.
By rejection, we mean selection. To practice sustainable fashion, try to choose, support, or even invest in sustainable clothing brands.
Investigate as best you can and select the clothing brands that best match your personal taste and the positive impact they can have on the environment. Usually, these brands are certified by OEKO-TEX.
By rejecting “fast fashion” and selecting environmentally responsible clothing brands, you are already reducing. The idea really is: buy less, but buy better.
Buy the clothes you really need and if you don't know the answer, as we often do, ask yourself: are you going to wear them at least thirty times? If the answer is yes, then go ahead. Make the purchase. But if the answer is “no”, “maybe” or “I don't know”, then just wait for the next one.
When you make a better selection of the clothes you buy, you end up choosing quality. And quality usually means they will last you longer.
By taking care of your clothes, you also contribute to sustainable fashion. Nonetheless, reuse can go a little further. For example, you can buy new clothes at second-hand stores – this option also tends to be more economically viable.
In this way, you not only help extend the useful life of these clothes, but you also give them a new purpose, preventing them from ending up in a landfill.
At the same time, remember to do the same with your own clothes: when you don't want them, make sure they find new owners and continue to be used.