For the longest time, sustainability was the elephant in the room nobody wanted to talk about. Fashion brands got away with exploitation of human and natural resources to the point we have become the second largest polluting industry in the world, second only to oil. This is an appalling figure because fashion is nowhere near the top 10 biggest industries in the world - so why do we pollute so much?
We think this comes from an increasing culture of consumerism, paired with fast-fashion and influencer marketing which all essentially means we just have too much stuff. The more demand there is, the more brands produce and the more brands produce, the more they will increase their marketing efforts to sell it all. It's a vicious cycle.
As new fashion businesses are launched every single day (the Internet and social media being a major contributor to this), we cannot simply keep ignoring the fact that we are destroying the planet in the pursuit of 'nice things' and profit. At THE FASHION BLUEPRINT, we believe that the biggest way in which we can impact the world is by starting with changes we can make ourselves. For this article, we tried to break down sustainability in a practical, actionable way for every brand, regardless of their size. Here are 5 different ways to be a more sustainable fashion brand:
1. What type of fibres do you use?
Synthetic fibres can be replaced with natural fibres which are more biodegradable.
Virgin fabric made from new yarn can be replaced with recycled fabric.
Avoid animal skins, there are plenty of replacements with similar effects (e.g. mock croc, cactus leather, etc).
2. What do you do with leftover fabric you haven’t used in production?
There are a number of organisations you can donate to (e.g. The Fabric Swatch). This can be repurposed to create other garments or accessories for your collection (e.g bandeaus, scarves, etc.)
Arrange a collection with a textile waste company (e.g. J R Fibres).
3. What packaging do you use?
Single use plastic or paper packaging can be replaced with reusable or biodegradable packaging.
Compostable mailing bags and recyclable boxes are widely available from a range of different suppliers.
4. How can you contribute to your local community?
You can dedicate a percentage of your profits to a charity. There are a number of not-for-profit organisations you can support – be it to do with education, health, the environment, human rights, etc. Choose a cause that is close to your heart and help make the world a better place!
5. Do you consider diversity and inclusivity?
There has been an ongoing industry-wide discussion on diversity and inclusivity beyond marketing campaigns.
Fashion brands are being urged to reassess whether the door for black and other people of colour is opened in their offices and boardrooms. 13% of the population in the UK are of black descent, does this represent your workforce? Most fashion companies would answer no. This has prompted companies such as Black In Fashion Council to be founded, to represent and secure the advancement of black individuals in the fashion and beauty industries.
There is also a push for body-positivity, as fashion imagery tends to depict an inaccurate picture of society. Around 45% of British women are a size 16 or bigger, despite the average UK sample size being a 12 for highstreet brands and 6/8 for luxury fashion brands. One question we think brands should ask themselves is: what message does your imagery send out to the viewer? Will this boost or will it damage their self-esteem?
Of course this is a huge topic and there's much more to it but we wanted to keep it really short and sweet so there are no excuses. We haven't included issues such as slave labour or the financial implications of all of these efforts as that alone is a topic in itself. The point is that even if you cannot adopt all 5 of these steps in one go, at least you can start somewhere and focus on something. If we all do our little bit, it collectively amounts to a lot.
The way to truly commit to sustainability is by setting actual goals that your business can work towards achieving. This will not only give you direction but also place accountability on everyone. Does your mission include specific sustainable goals?
The more we discuss this and take action, the closer we will be to closing the loop. Let us know your thoughts in the comments and what you think are the biggest barriers for you as a fashion business.
Written by Giovanna Vieira Co, 2020