What does ‘sustainable fashion’ really mean and how do we shop it?
A snapshot of sustainable fashion
Sustainable fashion is more than eco‑friendly clothing. It is a mindful look at the clothing you purchase, from environmental factors to health implications to ethical working conditions of those that make the clothing.
Slow vs. fast fashion
‘Slow’ fashion is fashion with intention for people and our planet. It is taking a deeper look at and caring for everyone and everything involved in the process of clothing production, rather than the mass production of clothing (‘fast’ fashion…which will be finding itself a thing of the past).
Sustainable Concept #1: Fabric Choices
The process from cloth to clothing varies based on both fabric choice and a brand’s processes. Synthetic fabrics (polyester, nylon, acrylic, etc.) are all forms of plastic, and thereby require toxic chemicals in order to design them into clothing (as do pieces that are ‘wrinkle‑free’ or ‘water‑resistant’). Not only does this introduce toxins into the environment, but it exposes our bodies to absorbing them through our skin. This can lead to many health complications, such as cancer, infertility in both women and men, and other hormone issues. Opt for all‑natural and organic fibers — such as organic cotton, linen, and silk — as these do not need harmful chemicals (emphasis on need: be aware that these can be processed with chemicals, albeit not crucial to their development. Look for items made of ‘Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) Certified Fabric’ as this is the leading standard in textile processing. The GOTS certification ensures that manufacturers follow strict standards regarding how textiles are produced and considers the impact of the processes on workers and the environment).
Sustainable Concept #2: Carbon Footprint
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere from certain companies, processes, etc. As greenhouse gases directly impact global warming, look for companies that are ‘carbon‑neutral’ (the amount of CO2 generated is cancelled out by the amount of CO2 removed from the atmosphere) or, even better, ‘carbon‑negative’ (the processes actually remove CO2 from the atmosphere). In addition, fashion business models that are ‘circular’ are mindful that the products they design can be used long‑term, are recyclable/reusable, and have the lowest carbon footprint.
Sustainable Concept #3: Ethical Working Conditions
Shopping sustainably also means supporting brands that support their workers. Transparency by brands is key. Look for brands with Fair Trade and GOTS certifications, as they are both great indicators of ethical working conditions.
Unsure where to start?
As we’ve seen, shopping for sustainable clothing includes many factors, which can be daunting. Look for brands that are transparent about their impact on the environment, consumers, and workers. Buying less, wearing the pieces you buy more often, and shopping sustainable brands in addition to your go‑to fast fashion brands are easier ways to blend sustainable fashion into your life.
Reformation’s Sustainability Glossary is a great resource for deciphering all of the popular sustainability jargon.
The Good On You app analyzes and rates brands based on how ethical and sustainable they are.
& don’t forget your closet
Remember, sustainability also includes recycling pieces you already own. Wear your clean choice fabrics, get rid of what you know is toxic, and be aware to choose more sustainable pieces the next time you shop.
Every bit counts!
Shopping sustainably can be overwhelming, but every sustainable choice helps to make both ourselves and our planet healthier and happier🌞