Green is the new black.
Sustainability is a term inherently at odds with the concept of fashion – an industry that revolves around churning out trends and bringing customers a constant flow of ‘new’. It’s a word we throw around a lot especially in recent months as the shocking statistics around fast-fashion consumption continue to reveal themselves.
As it stands, fashion is the world’s most polluting industry after oil. Furthermore, it’s one of the world’s most environmentally crippling industries with the textile industry alone contributing to more greenhouse gas emissions (1.2 billion tonnes) than aviation and international shipping companies.
But what is sustainability?
Different to ethical fashion – though the two are unquestionably linked – sustainable fashion looks at preventing environmental damage as an effect of production and disposal methods used within the fashion cycle. Ethical fashion serves as an umbrella term, addressing the three categories of social, environmental and commercial within the fashion industry. While ethical fashion looks at countering damaging patterns of fashion consumption, it also addresses issues of fair wages, workers’ rights and supporting sustainable livelihoods.
Although there are brands throwing the term around for the purpose of ticking a few corporate social responsibility boxes, there are a respectable few exploring and deploying techniques within their business to create products in a more sustainable manner. They understand the need to address the reality that long term, this is what we need to do to continue to live comfortably and to protect our planet.
These are the brands championing the sustainable fashion cause that you need to know about.
Stella McCartney has been pioneering the movement of sustainable fashion since it’s launch in 2001. McCartney’s unwavering commitment to the cause has proved that it’s possible to create sustainable, trend-led collections without damaging the environment.
As the brand’s website reads, “We challenge and push boundaries to make luxurious products in a way that is fit for the world we live in today and in the future. No compromises.” And they’ve remained true to their word.
Even their flagship store, as revealed in WIRED this month, is a monument to sustainability. Mannequins are largely made from bio-degradeable sugar cane, ecotricity supplies the store with green energy and the air is among the cleanest in London through their use of an innovative filtration system designed by the clean-air startup AirLabs.
The brand doesn’t use PVC – a highly toxic plastic used in shoes, outerwear and even sequins. In the past McCartney has severed contracts with viscose suppliers who were using endangered forests and instead started working with Canopy to ensure its viscose is verified from sites on the supply chain.
They’re committed to their no compromises policy when it comes to sustainable fashion and it’s about time more brands followed suit.
Reformation is the revolutionary, sustainable fashion brand for millennials that first appeared in 2009. They track their environmental impact by adding up the pounds of carbon dioxide, gallons of water used and pounds of waste generated. On each page of their website, they clearly address the environmental impact of each garment, sharing the total cost of fashion and allowing you to make empowered choices about your purchases.
At Reformation, they believe that companies should be accountable for more than just their profit so alongside their revenue numbers Reformation publish their sustainability reports on a quarterly basis.
Veja are seen as one of the most committed labels to the sustainable fashion cause right now. Their products are created using organic cotton and sustainable Amazonian rubber. They’ve refused to work with any leather manufacturers from the Amazon where cattle farming has been a major contributor to deforestation. They’ve developed a range of leather-free vegan models of their popular trainers and in a bid to avoid overproduction and waste, Veja is committed to an airtight stock management procedure.
Although known for their distinctive ‘V’ branding and understated designs, the brand’s environmental impact will be their true lasting legacy.
Filippa K is a brand already major on the Scandinavian fashion scene, appreciated for their clean and understated mens and womenswear clothing designs. As well as the brand aesthetic, Filippa K deserve recognition for their various groundbreaking initiatives in furthering sustainable fashion.
First up is their Front Runners recognition through which a range of pieces are heavily scrutinised throughout the entire process from material sourcing, production, destruction and disposal to create truly sustainable pieces. They also have their Lease Initiative which allows customers at their flagship stores to effectively rent garments for four days at 20% of the retail price with all cleaning costs included. The initiative satisfies our need to own the newest items while confronting problems of purchasing items for one or two wears. Win, win.