The definition of sustainability is:
“Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources to maintain an ecological balance”.
What is sustainable fashion?
Put simply, sustainable fashion puts the health and well-being of our planet at the forefront of the manufacturing process. In the fashion industry, for a long time, it was assumed that we would have to compromise on style to be environmentally friendly. However, in recent years, the industry has overcome many hurdles to create unique styles whilst simultaneously delivering a much kinder touch to the world we live in.
How does sustainable fashion help the environment?
With the birth of fast fashion, we have only seen the ecological struggles surrounding the industry grow alongside its popularity. From fabric sources, the dying process, and delivery, our wardrobes may be to die for but is it worth harming the Earth for that staple dress? Some may argue, that it’s not.
Healthy Human Life defines fast fashion as three things: “it’s cheap, it’s trendy and it’s disposable.” With a carbon footprint that amounts to over 10% of our global greenhouse gas emissions, the industry responsible for 2.1 billion tonnes of Co2 emissions each year. Movements to make the industry more sustainable and eco-friendly are flooding the market and raising awareness about the urgent need for sustainability.
As some massive brands make huge moves to become more sustainable, we expect to see remarkable growth in the coming years. Experts suggest that the sustainable fashion market should grow from the $6.14 billion we saw in 2020 to $8.25 billion by 2023. What changes should we expect to see with this rise in sustainable fashion?
Across the world, fashion typically results in one truck of textile waste added to landfills or burned every second; this is due to garments being made with poor quality materials. Whereas, sustainable fashion focuses on using long-lasting materials, automatically shrinking the amount of waste produced each year.
A shift to sustainable fashion will also result in a reduction in greenhouse gasses, not just through the creation, manufacturing, transportation and disposal but also through the biodegradable materials sustainable fashion brands choose to use. With little to no chemical treatment, less energy and water, and no use of pesticides or fertilizers, the footprint these clothes produce drastically reduces.
Water is another big amenity that sustainable fashion helps to save. The amount of water used within the fashion industry is truly astounding. It takes 2,700 litres of water to make a single cotton shirt, and 7,000 litres to make one pair of jeans but, contrastingly, a lot of sustainable fashion brands work to a ‘water on a budget’ model by utilising materials such as hemp, linen and organic cotton. These require little to no water during the production process.
Saving our planet isn’t just about keeping human life going, but also about saving the animals that we cohabit with; sustainable fashion helps with this. In the fashion world, we continuously see furs, leathers, wool and feathers, all of which negatively affect the animal population. Sustainable fashion brands are cruelty-free and vegan a lot of the time, removing the need for animal exploitation and helping to preserve the biological diversity and balance of the Earth.
The difference between Eco-fashion and sustainable fashion:
Eco-fashion, also known as ‘green fashion’ places all of its goals on the minimal negative impact of its clothing. Even better, many brands aim to leave a positive impact on the environment. The term was coined by Marci Zarnoff and, in an attempt to change the fashion industry for the better, Marci developed a list of morals eco-fashion should go by:
Sustainable fashion is a movement that combines ethical fashion and eco-conscious to bring fashionable options to the public without compromising the health of the planet. Elizabeth Joy says that “true sustainability encompasses consideration for [people, the planet, and the rest of the living world [url]animals, plants, etc.)”.
Can fast fashion ever be sustainable?
As more and more brands have opened up about the amount of waste they produce and the public has learned more about how detrimental the fashion industry is to the environment, we have seen the circular economy model become popular. Carlota Esguevillas from Simply Sustainable has noted a popular change many fashion brands have adopted is the second-hand market for their products. This model revolves around them buying their products back, cleaning and repairing them, and then reselling them to the consumer at a discounted price. The growth of the resale market has been bigger than we could have imagined, and now it’s estimated that the resale market will hit $41 billion by 2022 and you may be surprised to learn about some of the brands that have joined the ranks.
The North Face Renewed, ASOS x Thrift+, and Harvey Nichols x Reflaunt to name a few. Whether they focus on refurbished items, or simply pre-loved, striving for sustainability has also created a saving paradise for the average consumer.
To put it simply, fast fashion, unfortunately, has a long way to go before it can be considered sustainable, however, it is clear to see that a large number of fashion brands have taken it upon themselves to provide sustainable fashion choices without compromising on the stylish looks they can deliver.