What is Sustainable Fashion?

I’ve been seeing this phrase buzzing everywhere on my social media. According to a quick Google search, sustainability means avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance.

Now sustainable fashion – what is it exactly? “Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. Sustainable fashion concerns more than addressing fashion textiles or products. It comprises addressing the whole system of fashion.” Via Wikipedia. But we know that there is more it to than that so let’s dive deeper…

The history of sustainable fashion seems to be rather vague, mostly it stems from a mix of the modern environmental movement and two companies who in the early 1980s looked into how the environment was being harmed due to production and consumption of material goods. Those two companies? Patagonia and ESPRIT, to this day they have continued to promote “green” fashion.

Fashion companies have a responsibility of changing their production, distribution and marketing practices/strategies towards sustainability (via greenstrategy). This goes so much further than preparing looks and trends for the upcoming seasons. H&M has partnered with I:CO to set up a collection and recycling system that supports textile recycling. Adidas has also partnered with the same company to recycle the rubber from their sneakers.

We can dive deeper into how designers are disposing of unsold goods, fabrics (textiles), overproduction of products, etc. etc. etc. The question still remains: What IS sustainable fashion? and is this something we should all participate in?

It comes down to this basic definition: making/disposing of clothing in a more environmentally friendly manner. I typically hate grey areas but in this case, sustainable fashion does have some alternatives for what you can do to participate in this trend. Purchasing vintage/thrift store/second-hand clothing, swapping/borrowing clothes from your friends, or renting clothes (ie: Rent the Runway).  If you’d like to take a deeper dive into fashion production and consumption sustainability then check out this article on greenstrategy – this is a great chart which shows the lifecycle of a product you purchase!

Fast fashion tends to have a bad reputation in the industry and I’m an avid shopper of these brands (Ballin on a budget here!). Two brands which I often mention on my blog, H&M, and Zara, are amongst the top fast fashion brands making headway in sustainability. This will be a gradual process for Zara, their first goal is to provide containers at its stores which will collect unwanted items that will be recycled or sent to charity.

So I don’t have to feel guilty that I haven’t purchased from sustainable fashion brands/fast fashion brands? NO!

And that’s the key factor: DON’T GET RID OF WHAT YOU ALREADY HAVE! It would be the opposite of everything that I wrote above, and to be honest, I didn’t do all of that digging for nothing. We can participate in this trend moving forward with our fashion purchases. I love fast fashion brands, but I’m also aware of investment pieces from designer brands as well (mostly in #5 below).  Here are 5 ways to participate in sustainable fashion according to the WEF:

  1. Ask #whomademyclothes – demanding transparency from your favorite brand
  2.  Take a Peek Inside Your Closet – know and treasure what you own
  3. Wash Smart – wash cool, use eco-detergent, air dry
  4. Upcycle, Repair, and Share – make each piece last!
  5. Shop Less and Buy Well – when you buy, buy second-hand, ethical, organic and only items you love and that will last

BUT there are some brands that you can shop at who are affordable and ethical fashion. Everlane and Threads 4 Thought are amongst the most affordable with more budget-friendly brands here. If you can’t find anything that’s your style, don’t forget to check out Poshmark and ThredUp.

 Without even realizing it I participated in “sustainable fashion” by purchasing from Poshmark. It was this really cool Karl Lagerfeld shirt and it makes me want to shop on the app even more!

Xx Sarah


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