When it comes to the fashion industry, I’m always one who likes to find a bargain but over the years I’ve become a little more conscious about buying cheap clothing otherwise known as fast fashion. Our world is not as green as what it used to be and the fashion industry is the world’s second biggest polluter. I suppose that’s not so hard to believe when there are so many new brands and companies cropping up manufacturing and selling clothing worldwide.
Sustainability in fashion is being seen more now than back when I was a kid, which can only be a good thing. Big companies like H&M and Marks & Spencers are offering their customers financial incentives to bring back old clothing that they can then recycle and use to make new again. Unfortunately though in our current society, we are constantly looking for cheaper alternatives which results in so much wastage and pollution. I recently crossed paths with Hawthorn, a clothing manufacturer, and I thought it might be a great opportunity to pick their brains as to whether sustainable fashion is something everyone will get on board with eventually or if our desires for cheap deals will always hold it back.
For those who don’t know about sustainable fashion, what is it?
Sustainable fashion is the term which has been given to represent eco-friendly practices within the industry. The goal of sustainable fashion is to create an industry which does not negatively impact the environment in the way it currently does. With the fashion industry being the second most polluting in the world, there is a clear issue which as manufacturers we must respond to. The fashion industry has for the past 25-30 years been a great polluter, thanks to “fast fashion”, a term which was coined in the 90’s to represent the way in which manufacturers and brands were seeing a need for quick turnaround times to keep up with trends. As a result, fabrics like cotton were farmed to the absolute maximum of their capability, aided by treatments such as pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Polyester also gained popularity as a fabric choice; a material which requires the use of fossil fuels to produce it. Sustainability in the fashion industry is what we need to achieve to reduce the huge impact it is currently having on the environment, and the most prominent place to start is in fabric production. By working to reduce polyester usage and by increasing the usage of organic cotton, a positive change will be had.
What are the benefits of sustainable fashion?
The greatest benefit to using eco fashion practices are those to the environment; for example, growing organic cotton reduces pollution to the ecosystem in the farms and surrounding areas where cotton is grown due to the decrease in pesticide and toxic chemical usage. However, there are also some benefits which are less thought of, and which relate to the clothing themselves. Clothing which is produced from fabrics which have not been treated with chemicals during the fabric process are actually of a higher quality than fast fashion equivalents. They’re more durable too, meaning the clothes last longer and therefore the requirement for production is less, reducing the impact on farming and reducing the need for maximum yield via the use of pesticides and chemicals.
Would you say more brands/clients are now emerging with more ecological ways of manufacturing clothing?
Absolutely! Things are definitely going in the right direction with regards to sustainability, however, there is a still a long way to go. Many consumers naturally take sustainability into account less than they do the style, fit, or brand associated with a garment, but more small brands are beginning to realise that sustainable fabrics are accessible and that the price difference isn’t a great deal more than traditionally created fabrics. Drawing from our experience as clothing manufacturers, a couple of years ago we dealt with only a small amount of brands who aimed to be as sustainable as possible, however now we have seen a great influx which has led us to develop stock ranges of eco-friendly fabrics which small brands can utilise in their ranges.
Is sustainable fashion expensive? Is it possible for big retailers to be able to financially adapt to this way of supplying?
Part of the challenge of promoting sustainability is that currently, the cost of production is slightly higher than it is for traditional fabrics, however that cost is not so vast that it isn’t affordable. This is much the same as in the food industry, where organic produce is usually a little more expensive than non-organic options.
Through increased awareness via bloggers like yourself, we need to make the general consumer aware of the importance of environmentally-friendly production. This is already happening and some big retailers are already working sustainability into their business models, but for it to grow the general consumer needs to be actively looking for eco-friendly clothing. As there is more demand, the big retailers and brands will be forced to react, and as more sustainable fabrics are produced the cost will fall.
Thanks Hawthorn for sharing your wisdom! What do you think of sustainable fashion? Let me know in the comments below.
*Disclaimer – This a collaborative post with Hawthorn.