Sustainable Fashion and Clothing
Sustainability is an important part of every manufacturing process. Fashion, however, is one of the industries that benefits the most from the conscientious use of environmental resources. As thousands of chemicals go into the production and transport of textiles and end products, every corner of clothing's lifespan should be examined for new and better ways to handle it. With the adoption of environmentally-friendly practices and habits, the Earth and its resources can continue to produce all that humans need to protect themselves from the elements while still retaining the personal expression that fashion affords. Read on to learn more about sustainable clothing, its impact on the environment, and how consumers and manufacturers can become more responsible with respect to the clothing industry.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
At its core, sustainable fashion can be described as clothing manufacturing and wearing practices that protect the environment. Though it may also be described as "ethical" or "eco" fashion, the hyper-awareness of where clothing comes from is at the forefront of all these terms. Both individuals and clothing manufacturers can practice sustainability measures when it comes to fashion. Once relegated as an act of charity, the social consciousness of the 1990s contributed to it becoming a visible movement.
Benefits of Sustainable Clothing
Producing sustainable clothing protects the environment from the stress and pollutants that arise from a consumerist society. Creating sustainable fashion can help decrease the environmental impact of manufacturing processes, such as the use and elimination of toxic chemicals into the atmosphere and water sources. Several thousand chemicals and pesticides are required to grow and process new materials for clothing manufacturing, making it a major source of environmental disruption. The production of sustainable clothing can also make consumers aware of the impact that their choices have on the environment, while also making fashion companies accountable for their manufacturing practices. In some instances, sustainable clothing can even protect the rights of factory workers around the world, who help produce clothing for fashion companies at low wages.
The renewability of a fabric and its estimated carbon footprint factor into its potential for sustainability. Organic cotton and hemp, for example, are considered sustainable fabrics because of their resistance to vermin, and their reduced need for pesticides. Bamboo is advantageous because of its quick rate of growth, and linen is prized for its ability to thrive without the use of artificial fertilizers. Generally, the fewer chemicals that are required to process, treat and dye fabrics, the better the fabrics are for the environment. Extremely conscientious companies interested in producing sustainable clothing will examine their supply chains for evidence of the undue taxing of resources. For companies like these, it's not enough to invest in reusable or recyclable textiles – they must also be assured that they've been sourced under humane working conditions and that their transport boasts a reduced carbon footprint.
A Mainstream Clothing Revolution
As knowledge about the environmental impact of modern industrialization expands and criticism for irresponsible manufacturing practices increases, more companies have become aware of their roles in the depletion of Earth's resources. Popular fashion brands have reworked their company policies to reflect sustainability commitments. The more socially-conscious of fashion houses have even integrated sustainability into their designing phases, along with their manufacturing processes. These trends have not only made sustainable fashion popular, they've made it accessible to consumers who aren't actively looking for sustainable clothing options. In this way, it could be said that sustainability has been organically introduced into clothing markets.
Additional Forms of Sustainable Clothing Practices
While much has been said about the production of sustainable clothing by pundits, other forms of environmentally-friendly fashion practices abound, and they've existed long before the sustainable fashion revolution ushered in by the 1990s. Wearing vintage clothing, for example, protects natural resources by not requiring the processes normally required for the production of new clothing. Repurposing, or "upcycling", also allows individuals to take the best parts of used clothing to create something new and fashionable. The growing popularity of trends like these encourages continuing environmentally-friendly fashion practices, even in the face of a growing consumer market.
- Sustainable Fashion Design: Oxymoron No More? PDF
- Clothes Makers Join to Set "Green Score"
- Vogue Magazine's Brief History of Eco Fashion
- Green Fashion: Beautiful on the Inside
- Sustainable Fashion: Crafting a Positive From a Negative
- Green Choices: More Sustainable Fabrics
- What Collaboration Looks Like in Sustainable Fashion
- Sustainable Apparel Coalition
- The Sustainability Consortium
- Centre for Sustainable Fashion
- The Top Five Sustainable Fashion Design Programs in the World