"Sustainable fashion movement" has become a hot topic in the last few years. With dwindling resources and the global warming debate becoming center stage, many people are starting to look for brands that deliver high-quality goods that work with the Earth, rather than sap resources. In this article, we'll dive headfirst into why we need sustainable brands.
What is a sustainable brand?
If you've heard of the terms "fast fashion" and "slow fashion," then you're on your way to understanding sustainable fashion brands. "Fast fashion" refers to clothing intended for seasonal or short-term use, made of cheap fabric. "Slow Fashion" or sometimes called "ethical fashion" or "sustainable fashion" is conscious crafting of clothing and goods, taking into account everything from the design, materials, and production process. It considers the environment and the workers making it.
While it’s impossible to produce a truly sustainable product, it’s possible to be eco-friendly. In the past few years, brands talking about sustainability include everyone from big names like Levi’s to newcomers like Nuuly renting clothing rather than producing it.
Sustainability helps the Earth (I know, obvious)
The fashion industry is the biggest polluter of Mother Earth, besides oil. It takes 659 gallons of water to make one t-shirt. To put that into perspective, if we drink on average 7 cups of water per day, then each person consumes about 160 gallons per year. Your favorite comfy T saps four years of your water usage to craft its stretchy cotton fibers.
Brands doing sustainability well are ones with a smaller carbon footprint and chemical load. But how can we determine the footprint size or chemical residue? You can use an ethical brand checker to explore your favorite threads, but when choosing a sustainable brand, the following are fashion conscious considerations.
Water usage: It's surprising how much liquid gold it takes to make an outfit. Eco-friendly clothing brands that soak up less water are more sustainable. We're running out of drinking water, too, so brands that use saltwater or recycled water have a smaller carbon footprint.
Nasty chemicals: Wrinkle-resistant and water-repellency may make the fashion brand more attractive, but producing clothes that don't wrinkle and work like a duck's back, pollute our water sources. Harmful chemicals also affect the workers who make the goods. Sustainable fashion leaks fewer chemicals into our Earth.
Waste: How many times have you thrown the ripped sweater into the garbage? Last year’s jeans became this year’s trash. It’s not only throwing away fast fashion but also the waste generated when making the garment. Sustainable brands use less material, utilize recycled materials, and generally look for ways to produce less waste.
Agriculture: Cotton is, by far, the most common material in the fashion world. Producing cotton adds tons of pesticides to the soil. Soil pollution harms wildlife, farmers, communities, and Earth. Rachel Carson's classic best-seller Silent Spring, published in the 1960s, warned about the dangers of pesticides and insecticides. Years later, it continues, but when you choose bags and dresses, look for brands that use organic cotton or methods of friendly production, such as repurposing materials.
Consumers care about sustainability
According to TechCrunch, sustainable fashion is on the upswing. And leading the way are smaller entrepreneurs who believe in sustainability. The fashion industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and consumers do care about sustainability. In the last few years, there’s been a shift in consciousness and awareness about how you can put your fashion dollars towards slow fashion and still enjoy a great product.
Slow fashion can be trendy too
Honestly, it’s hard to choose sustainable fashion brands all the time. I’m guilty of fast fashion and understand wanting the latest fashion trend. But sustainable brands can be equally fashion-forward. Some brands offer gently used clothing from some of the biggest names in fashion and others market classic, well-made eco-friendly pieces that last years. Chanel Coco's famous line, "One is never over-dressed or underdressed with a Little Black Dress," doesn't mean that your Little Black Dress can't be sexy and made from recycled bottles. Or help keep the world safe for our children. In fact, kids can wear sustainable brands, too.
Smaller footprints make a difference
While you may not be able to escape fast fashion completely, consumer demand for sustainable products does help. Every time you purchase or support a slow fashion brand, your carbon footprint is smaller. When using your consumer dollars, you can look at the ingredients to check out what went into making the product.
The company "story" helps too. If they are fashion conscious, usually they shout this on their web page. When you make the decision to choose sustainable products that consider important facets— material to workers— you're supporting a better vision of tomorrow.
Other ways to reduce your clothing carbon footprint is to buy used clothes, refurbish old bags and garments into new ones, and wash clothing in cold water. You can also look for certified organic products made from natural materials like seagrass and hemp.
Fairly made and fairly paid
It's easy to become disconnected to the hands that weave our bags or stitch our shirts. When the label says made in China or Vietnam, those places may seem remote. But how much the garment worker gets paid or the state of the working conditions matters. Paying workers a living wage should be a priority for everyone. Inequality and unfairness run rampant in the fashion industry. In some cases, death. In 2013, a fire in a clothing factory in Bangladesh killed 112 workers. At Sea & Grass, we are committed to paying our seagrass weavers fairly.
Companies that live by sustainable fashion have generous hearts. Sea & Grass began on the idea of offering an eco-friendly product that benefited the children of the weavers. Each handbag or tote Sea and Grass bag sells, a small percentage of the profits goes towards its Areeya Scholarship Fund. The fund helps educate young girls in need.
It does make a difference when a company creates a product that takes less from the Earth. It does matter if the person making the bag has a living wage. And it does matter what chemicals leak into our mountains and streams from t-shirt production. While you may not be able to choose sustainable fashion all the time, you can start with one bag you believe in and love. We’re hoping that Sea & Grass makes your slow fashion cut.
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Amber Roshay is a freelance marketing writer who specializes in health and beauty. She's been featured on Business Insider, Motherly, The Write Life, and more. When she's not writing content, she's enjoying the beach with her family in San Diego