What is Sustainable Fashion? And What Are The Benefits?
Sustainable fashion is growing ever more popular as environmental awareness hits an all-time high. Searches for “sustainable fashion” increased 66% in 2018 and clothing brands are increasingly focusing on sustainable ranges.
But what exactly does the sustainable fashion mean? The concept is not entirely black and white and the industry still lacks a universal, accepted definition.
At MAMOQ, we define it as:
"The design, production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of apparel with respect and consideration for the health and longevity of our natural environment, and the welfare of the animals and humans involved. It aims to limit the socio-environmental cost of fashion while maximising its lifetime value and positive impact."
- Madeline Petrow & Lenny Leemann from the Sustainable Fashion Blueprint Report, 2018.
The above definition is a holistic approach to what sustainable fashion means, which takes into consideration the entire lifecycle of the garment from how it’s made, to how it’s worn. With this definition, we do not just put the responsibility of being “sustainable” on companies and producers, but also on individuals.
Sustainable fashion throughout different stages of a garment’s life:
Sustainability starts with design. What are we creating? What materials will be used and how will we source them? Can they be from recycled sources? How much waste will this piece create? Can we change the pattern to reduce the number of textile off-cuts? Will it be difficult to recycle this garment because it uses blended fabrics? Will it be a meaningful addition to someone’s wardrobe? Or a fleeting trend? By thinking of these questions, designers are able to influence the initial “sustainability” of a garment.
Environmentally Efficient Production:
We most often speak about sustainable fashion when thinking about production. In this instance, we are looking for clear proof that steps have been taken to reduce the environmental cost of making our clothes. This includes everything from using organically certified materials to implementing water and energy-efficient production techniques, to thinking about the carbon cost of transportation.
Of course buying from responsible makers is a great start to embracing sustainable fashion. However, WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme) states that a whopping 30% of the total carbon footprint of our clothing comes from how we wash and care for our clothing. Washing less, washing on colder temperatures, and hang drying are all small steps that we can take to reduce the environmental impact of our wardrobe.
The rise of fast fashion has fostered the misleading concept that fashion is “disposable”. If a t-shirt costs as little as a cup of coffee why care if you only wear it once? This means we are buying fashion at record levels. The UK sends more than 300,000 tonnes of used clothing to landfill in a single year. That's the equivalent of roughly 24,000 London Double Decker Buses! To cut down the amount of waste created from fashion, when we buy something new we should first ask ourselves: Do I love this and will I wear it? Secondly, when we are ready to let go of a previously loved garment, we can look for more eco-conscious alternatives to throwing clothing away such as swapping your unwanted clothes with friends, donating to a charity shop, finding a textile recycling point or upcycling your garment yourself to create something new!
To learn more about what sustainable fashion is and current trends, read The Sustainable Fashion Blueprint Report published by MAMOQ in conjunction with Cambridge University.