WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE FASHION?
Understanding sustainable fashion can be tricky. Even
industry insiders ask: what are we sustaining and how can we
sustain fashion when it is made to change? And then there is a
vast majority of people that have never heard of sustainable
fashion. So if you are reading this and are confused, that’s ok.
In fact, we made this site so that sustainable fashion can be
accessible to everyone.
Sustainable fashion is an umbrella term that looks at the
total life cycle of a product from creation to what happens to
the product after it is no longer needed. So that there is little
to no impact on the environment and the employees in the
process have the proper working conditions and fair wages.
The first concept to discuss is the supply chain. The supply
chain is the system in which clothes (or any other type of
product) are made starting with how the textile is grown or
produced and ending with how the end product is sold.
(Learn more about your textiles by getting our Textile Cheat
Sheet.) However, in sustainable fashion what happens to the
product after it has been used is also important.
Now let’s be clear, we are not sustaining fashion. Trends are
always going to come and go and that can be part of why
fashion is fun. In sustainable fashion, there is a commitment to
protect and preserve the environment as well as the people
living in it.
There are different ways to support the environment through
fashion. This is a new market with many companies creating new innovations. Even brands that are called sustainable are still at work to finding solutions. While no brand can be completely sustainable at this point in time, there are several who are fully committed to getting as close as possible. The brands that come close commit to a high level of transparency in their supply chain and company procedures. The end result of all these innovations is to reduce the carbon footprint as much as possible.
At this point, you might be asking yourself what is a carbon footprint? Carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere. Many brands are creating processes to offset carbon emissions into the atmosphere which destabilizes our climate. One brand, Amour Vert, plants a tree for every tee you purchase by partnering with American Forest. Over 100K trees have been planted thanks to this endeavor. Another leading sustainable brand, Reformation, also takes part in various carbon-offsetting solutions by building eco-friendly stores and factories as well as planting more trees which provides more oxygen in our environment. Find more brands we recommend here.
Another factor to consider in carbon offsetting, is the product’s packaging. Think about the last time you made an online order. Was it wrapped in a ton of plastic? Did that plastic end up in the trash? That has a negative impact and leaves a carbon footprint. Now picture that about 1,600,000 times a day which is the estimated number of Amazon packages that go out each day. One solution is to shop brands that are mindful with their packaging. The Package Free Shop in Brooklyn, New York is a solution if you are in the neighborhood. Shopping local also reduces the amount of carbon that could be used flying product around the world.
Shopping local can mean checking out the thrift store in your nearby towns or buying from local artist and designers. Both are a solution to reduce your personal carbon-footprint. Shopping at a thrift store is an easy solution to saving an item from reaching an overseas landfill. Another common practice for getting rid of unused clothes is to donated them different organizations such as, the Salvation Army. According to the book The Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy: An Economist Examines the Markets, Power, and Politics of World Trade by Pietra Rivoli. There is a surplus of clothes donated and than sold in underdeveloped countries. These countries now have to compete with the second hand market and may struggle to get there local business’s off the ground. An alternative is to have your clothes recycled learn more here.
In the year 2014, the United States Environmental Protection Agency determined there are 13.1 million tons of textiles in landfills. This is the end result of a linear economy. In a linear economy a product is made to be used and eventually disposed. Sustainable brands are working on a more circular economy where the product goes back to its initial form or gets reused. It ends up being re-purposed, recovered/fixed or regenerated. We also need to consider how the product is made in order to use it for its maximum value. But, the question remains: where to shop?
Learn more: Join the Conversation
Below are our top brands help get you started on your sustainable fashion journey today.
Sustainability in active-wear makes perfect sense. Being mindful
is not just about making it to a yoga class, it is willingness to look
beyond our current beliefs. Patagonia is a sustainable active-wear
brand that is committed to causing no harm in their production
process while looking for solutions to our current environmental
crisis. For more sustainable active-wear brands click here.
Levis is the OG of sustainable denim. They have programs like
Water<less, which is a denim production technique that
produces far less water than the traditional methods. Levis is
also part of the Better Cotton Initiative which makes cotton
production better for the people producing it and the
environment. For more sustainable denim brands click here.
Reformation is our favorite sustainable dress destination. Reformation puts sustainability at the core of everything they do. Their factories us eco-friendly technologies and practices. Reformation dresses are made from either biodegradable material, material made in a zero waste closed loop cycle, or from recycled material. For more sustainable dress brands click here.
Fashion with Compassion is the Nae slogan. Vegan shoes made sustainably and are still fashion forward. Nae is a Portuguese Vegan footwear brand that is committed to no animal exploitation and respect for the environment. The vegan shoes are made from natural or recycled materials such as cork, pineapple, recycled airbags and recycled plastic bottles. For more sustainable shoe brands click here.
Alternative Apparel’s commitment to sustainability is defined by creating products responsibly. This means using sustainable materials and processes, non-toxic and low impact dyes, and recycled materials. Alternative Apparel also believes in the right to fair and safe workplace conditions and works with organizations to ensure social compliance. For more sustainable top brands click here.
Sustainable Bathing Suits
Know for the bright colors and flirty patterns, Mara Hoffman, is our #1 sustainable swimwear brand. This brand is highly engaged in the sustainability conversation and partners with many eco-friendly organizations that help push them toward their sustainability goals. Mara Hoffman measures their environmental and social impacts and always strives for improvement. They are also committed to using organic and recycled materials. For more sustainable bathing suit brands click here.
We know finding brands to trust is not always easy. That is why we found the brands for you. Check out our Where to Shop pages featuring over 100 brands. And keep up with our Instagram account for sustainable happenings in New York City.