From Fashion to Sustainable Style

The concept of sustainable fashion has become a reality that is making an impact on major manufacturers and independent creators. For years consumers have been purchasing garments cultivated with synthetic, man-made fabrics such as polyester or rayon. Some of these pieces contain toxic chemicals in their fabrics. Unethically, manufacturers use cheap labor in sweatshops. However, in recent years, the idea of sustainable fashion is trending and becoming the mainstream to many brands.  Corporations are committing to eco-friendlier practices and giving back to people and animals.

Consumers often see “fast-fashion” in retail stores. Fast-fashion articles of clothing and accessories are created and sold as quickly and cheaply as possible by major retailers such as such as Zara, GAP, H&M, and Forever 21. We tend to buy fast-fashion clothing eleven to fifteen times per year due to it being cheap and convenient at any time (Tan, 2016). However, our demand for fast and cheap clothes is harmful to the environment and human rights.

In 2012, Greenpeace exposed that many fast-fashion companies had traces of the toxic chemical, nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) in their fabric. As these clothes were being made, the chemicals would often leak into nearby waters that would harm fish and other wildlife (Greenpeace, 2012). It is even estimated that clothing factories could increase their emissions by 60%, releasing almost 3 billion tons of CO2 in the next few years (Quora, 2017).

Greenpeace: ‘Detox’ Mannequins in Zhejiang Province

Sweatshops are very harmful for women and our clothes are being produced in sweatshops. Most sweatshop workers are girls as young as 14 years old, working long hours for as little as 3 dollars a day (Quora, 2017). These jobs prevent them from going to school or helping their families. However, as we demand change to these toxic practices, companies began to commit towards eliminating them and eventually the trend of sustainable fashion began to follow.

In 2013, H&M created a recycling program for used clothing as an alternative to simply throwing it away. This campaign has helped recycle over 32,000 metric tons of clothing annually (H&M). Last year, H&M partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to help raise money in order to protect endangered species (H&M, 2016). and later on, companies soon began to use common waste to make their clothing. In 2015, American Eagle outfitters launched a new line of jeans made with used coffee grounds in the fabric called Denim X Cafe (Markovinovic, 2015). Meanwhile, in Taiwan, the brand S café, has used a similar method to create yarn with coffee grounds. Thus, creating sustainable fabrics (Wei, 2016).

DBL factory visit. Savar. Bangladesh (Sustainable Production @ H&M)

Aside from Eco-friendly fabrics, other trends amongst companies are including producing and selling fashion that helps people. Independent brands such as Noonday, have created a fair-trade jewelry line that donates money to assist their creators (who live in developing countries) financially (Scott 2013). Meanwhile, other brands such as 4Love, are using their earnings to provide women in developing nations with stable employment and living wages to help empower their lives (Scott, 2013). To help LGBTQ+ civil rights, the recently formed retailer Everlane, has launched a collection called “100% Human,” that donates money to the Human Rights Campaign, The American Civil Liberties Union, and Equality Now (Everlane,2017). Even Vogue has mentioned the trend of sustainable fashion by presenting handmade products created in a traditional manner by mostly independent designers in countries like Kenya, Ecuador, and the Philippines (Trochu, 2016). Therefore, sustainable and charitable clothing is continuing to grow amongst both independent creators and major brands.  It will continue to influence the market in the future and could potentially replace fast-fashion as we know it.

WWF Wind Power

Recap, Remixed: Experience Sustainability @ TechStyle NYC 9.12.17
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