Sustainability In Fashion 101: The Terms To Know
Sustainable Arab Fashion Labels: Shabab Intl, Precious Trust & Atelier Mundane
Sustainability seems to be the buzzword of the moment – especially when it comes to the fashion industry – but what does it really mean and how can we be more “woke” to the issues surrounding it?
Did you know that fashion is in fact, the 2nd largest polluter in the world and contributes to the detriment of the environment? The garment production industry produces 20% of global wastewater and 10% of the world’s carbon emissions, which equates to more than all international flights and maritime shipping. Moreover, textile dying contributes to fashion being the 2nd largest polluter of water in the world as it takes around 2,000 gallons of water to make a typical pair of jeans.
As consumers, we may not always be able to take on the enormous companies responsible for environmental damage when mass producing garments, but we can take a responsible and mindful approach to the way in which we consume. It's easy to get caught up in technical terms and dismiss whatever we don’t understand...
By no means do we have to forgo our fashion lust lists! However, it's worth taking a few moments to understand some of the terms in fashion in order to be more mindful and environmentally friendly in our sartorial choices:
Starting with the term many are confused about: Sustainable Fashion. Sustainability is a rather broad term within the fashion industry at present, and has been thrown about rather carelessly as of late... What the term often refers to is a particular approach when creating garments: from design, production and consumption, it ensure that little or no damage is caused to the environment throughout the whole process. Sustainability also refers to reusing and recycling products, and in this case garments, to extend their lifespan and where phrases like “Buy less, wear more,” come from.
Fast fashion is a result of the “trickle-down” effect, which states that fashion flows from the upper classes to the lower classes within society – each being influenced by a higher social class. Where this sounds rather archaic, it is demonstrated via fast fashion when new trends from high end designers are knocked off and sold within weeks of designer launches, on the high street and cheaper online retailers.
Though it is lucrative, affordable and tempting for all, the fast fashion industry is hugely detrimental to the environment and results in waste, overproduction, the overworking of factory workers, unfair pay, un-ethical trade and more.
In direct comparison, there is slow fashion, which is a great way to be mindful and responsible. Slow fashion is in the hands of the consumer, and begins with them making a choice to consume less, invest in high quality garments, shoes and accessories, and make them last. It is the foundation of classic dressing, curating a personal sense of style over buying into trends that don’t last.
A term often used in the beauty and cosmetics industry and usually means that the cruelty-free products were not tested on animals. Like “sustainability,” it is also a term that is used rather loosely. For example, did you know that a lot of products that state they are “cruelty-free”, could have been tested on animals whilst being formulated, but the end product may not have been? Or that the testing of the products were carried out in a country where laws on animal welfare aren’t as stringent? If you want to be more mindful about cruelty free products, the strictest company on the matter, The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics (CCIC)’s Leaping Bunny Program and logo has all the information you would need.
Being ethical is mostly relevant to the people making our garments and shoes. There are hundreds of clothing companies who say that their garments are produced ethically, simply because they are obeying local labor laws. What consumers can consider when purchasing from certain brands is their belief that the company they are purchasing from is treating their factory workers with respect and paying them fairly. Being ethical means that we must look deeper into humanizing fashion and remembering that there are people who have hand made the clothes we are wearing.
When we think of anything being “organic”, we automatically think it has positive connotations. In fashion, organic fabrics are often those that are manufactured without the use of harmful pesticides, fertilizers or chemicals. Where this is positive – it may not necessarily be ethical! It could be that the cotton could have been picked by an underpaid worker, or a child who is not permitted to work. It should also be noted that the term “organic,” in the matter of fashion, may be predisposed to dyes and other toxins which could have harmful effects on the health of the people dealing with the fabric at a later stage of production.
It's fair to say that nearly all of us have been victims of “greenwashing,” and this is a practice many major high street retailers use to mislead consumers about their “social and environmental beliefs.” High street retailers tend to use terms such as “sustainable” and “organic” to appeal to the market and in a way, make them feel less guilty about indulging in fast fashion!
With social media and the entire internet at our fingertips, we may be able to do our research when it comes to being greenwashed or misled into purchasing products that aren’t so environmentally friendly, making us better and mindful consumers!