Sustainability IS the buzzword these days. From Kim Kardashian partnering with Beyond Meat, a plant-based vegan meat, to financing commercials looking to invest in businesses incorporating sustainability into their business strategies, sustainable fashion at New York and Paris Fashion Week, to Goop collaborating with Ecoalf on a new collection. The Atlantic posted an article last week with the title “The Climate Economy is About to Explode”. It’s EVERYWHERE.
When it comes to fashion, a topic Ad Vitam hasn’t covered in the past but will from now on, there is a lot of noise and promise from brands to put “sustainability at the heart of their strategic plans”. How much of it is legit or is just greenwashing remains to be seen. If you are wondering what greenwashing means, it’s falsely promoting environmental efforts with vague and unsubstantial claims. It’s so widespread that an initiative aimed at substantiating green claims is due to be published by the European Union. This initiative will require companies to back up claims as “green” and “eco-friendly” with recognized third-party methodologies.
Earlier this year, the New York Fashion Act was introduced, requiring companies doing business in New York with revenues over $100 million to disclose environmental performance, climate targets, and supply chain transparency. It hasn’t passed yet.
Similar initiatives have already been established. The Fashion Pact was launched as a mission by French President Emmanuel Macron and given to Kering Chairman and CEO, François-Henri Pinault in 2019. It was presented to Heads of State at the G7 Summit in Biarritz. The coalition consists of companies in the fashion and textile industry (ready-to-wear, sports, lifestyle, and luxury), as well as their suppliers and distributors, and is dedicated to a core set of key environmental objectives in three areas: reducing global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans.
No doubt, fashion has a big environmental impact: depletion of non-renewable resources, greenhouse gas emissions, and massive water and energy consumption. It dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams with water from the dyeing process frequently dumped into ditches, streams, and rivers. At home, the washing of our clothes releases 500,000 tons of microfibres into the ocean each year, equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles. 85% of all textiles go to dumps each year.
Through-away culture is part of the system. Fast fashion aims to get everyone to buy as much as possible as quickly as possible. Fashion is seasonal and produced at a lightning speed. Environmental regulations are not easy to track because the fashion supply chain is intertwined with the agriculture industry (wool, silk, cotton, leather) and the fossil fuel industry (synthetic textiles: polyester, nylon, acrylic and polyvinyl chloride (PVC)). While plastic bags are taxed and plastic straws are banned in the war on single-use plastics, plastic fashion remains un-regulated.
Efforts and promises made by fashion brands are encouraging, and with stricter regulations in place will become more realistic. Successfully implementing sustainable practices comes down to engaging all stakeholders, from the consumer to the CEO, the manufacturer and the farmer, to take responsibility for their part in the supply chain and the creative process.
To live more sustainably is to understand the effects of the choices we make and make better choices in the future.
To take a look at the sustainable fashion introduced at Paris Fashion Week click here.
For Harper Bazar’s list of The Best and Still Chic Sustainable Brands click here.
Before you buy something ask yourself: Do I really need this? Do I look smashing in it? Does it fit me well? Am I really going to wear it?
Invest in pieces you can still wear in 10 years.
The seduction of fast fashion is high for a reason. You can get five cheap tops to wear for the season for the price of one expensive, but high quality top. What ends up happening, you wear the cheap ones a couple of times, if even, and then you throw them out. Investing into quality might seem more expensive at first but not in the long run.
You can get anything second-hand, even luxury designers. Companies like TheRealReal made it easily accessible. If there is a brand you love but it isn’t necessarily made sustainably, buy it second-hand. eBay is a good place for that.
It goes hand in hand with Think Twice. My rule of thumb is: I sleep on it and if I still really want it in a day or two, I’ll buy it. It saves money and time.
We vote with our money. Buy from brands that use ethical and sustainable practices, meaning treat people, animals and the environment well.
Support small stores, designers and regional craftsmen.
Another way to identify ethical eco-conscious brands is to look for the following textile certification labels.