Sustainability is a popular word lately. The more we realize that the resources from our planet is limited, the more we need to rethink about everything, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the things we use, the way we use them. It's all connected together. There are many factors to consider when it comes to sustainable fashion.
Here I will discuss a few stages and give some examples.
Design is the first step. It starts with the concept before a clothing item is born. As designer they have to think about whether the design is wearable. When clothes end up not sold it's a big waste. Perhaps they shouldn't even be created from the beginning. Materials are another important factor. Does the production of raw material require a lot of energy? Is it environment-friendly? Which materials would be preferable, man made or derived from animals?
Annika Matilda Wendelboe from Sweden is one of the first designers to use organic and Cradle to Cradle certified materials which could be safely composted when the garments reach the end of their life. Many of her clothes are creative and multifunctional. This Lille Prinsen (Little Prince) jacket is made from hemp, a very environment-friendly material, could be machine-washed and could be worn with the scarf on or without.
Production involves textile weaving, dying, pattern cutting and sewing etc. There are always new technology to aid the process, such as using software to facilitate the pattern cutting, so there would be less waste throwing away. Using non-toxic dying method greatly benefits people involved in the manufacturing and also the environment.
Creative pattern cutting from The North Face Zero Waste Project products as little waste as possible .
Nowadays a lot of clothes are produced in Asia, which means they usually have to travel a long way until they reach the customers. Transportation is one important thing to consider. Packaging could contribute to another unnecessary waste. Storage such as warehouse also requires energy, especially in places where weather can be detrimental to the clothes. Whether the materials are fair-trade or the clothes are ethically made can play a big role for the local communities.
Isabell de Hillerin is working with local manufacturers in Romania and Moldova to support the production of handmade materials, which are then beautifully and skillfully incorporated into her excellent well-cut pieces.
This stage is mostly related to us consumers. We should use our clothes as often as possible, this means that we have to be conscious of what suits us best and what to buy, so we don't end up hanging those in the closet only. The cleaning method of the clothes is also important. If the clothes has to be dry-cleaned, it not only adds to the bills but also pollutes the environment when non-green products are using. I personally prefer those items that could be cleaned and cared at home. Clothing company can teach customers how to take care of their clothes so the clothes last longer. Company can also consider providing repairing service, which could prolong the life time of clothing.
Nudie Jeans is one company that provides repairing service for your favorite Nudie jeans.
END OF LIFE
When a piece of clothes served its term and is no longer flattering, we need to think about how we could use the last bits. Upcycling is great as there are numerous innovative ways to sew different pieces from old clothes to make them a piece of “new” clothes. With new technology now it's also possible to recycle many fabric fibers from the old clothes.
HM Conscious Exclusive Collection 2016: Materials include organic silk, hemp, recycled linen and Tencel® blends as well as new innovative materials, such as beads and rhinestones made from recycled glass, and Denimite − fabric made from recycled worn-out denim, of which H&M is the first fashion company to utilize.
As consumers we probably don't have direct controls in many of the stages, but we can always choose the clothes using sustainable materials such as organic cotton or recycled materials, locally or ethically produced, that have time-less design and are durable so we could use it longer. I also hope those eco-friendly clothes will be affordable so many people will wear them. Green fashion needs to be in everybody's life, not another new line of “luxury” which are only accessible to a few.