Let’s talk about sustainable fashion, OK?

Sustainable fashion isn’t going away. With consumers becoming increasingly aware of the damage they create in buying fast fashion products, people now want sustainable fashion to be regularly available and normal – not a quirky, ‘dirty hippy’ fashion choice that is so long has been bane to at least until the 2010s.

According to McKinsey, 88 percent of their surveyed retail consumer respondents believe that more attention should be paid to reducing pollution in fashion and retail.

Fashion brands are increasingly looking to make their whole supply chain sustainable, so that those ethical and eco-friendly choices can be made by retailers throughout the production process. The idea is to help enable and activate shopper loyalty in an online age where younger and younger shoppers prefer to seek something unique and ethical.

The great greenwashed

In the past, many fashion retailers have been accused of greenwashing, wherein any eco-conscious impact that could have been made by a product is instead reduce to a marketing slogan. Worse, the actual onus on taking care of the environment is shifted onto the consumer, rather than within the machinations of production and labour.

Sustainable fashion needs to be meaningful to the process and supply chain of fashion. Fast fashion is, currently, the exact opposite of sustainable fashion.

A great example of extreme greenwashing might be the too-easy solution of recycled polyester – it is important to note that the chemicals and labour used in the supply chain should be assessed and gauged for its harm before calling something sustainable:

Ban plastic bags, don’t just charge for them?

Shallow gestures such as making customers pay for plastic bags, for example, used to work for previous generations, however Millennials (the maojrity of which are now parents and hitting the second and third major roles in their careers paths) and Generation Z are not buying these kinds of initiatives anymore.

With the explosion of eco and green influencers dominating and even changing buying decision at the direct-to-consumer level, the types of customers who went vegan in 2016 and cast aside the use of plastic in homewares – are also radical enough to want to see a ban of the plastic bag. As zero-waste becomes ever popular, many customers are also openly identifying themselves as being happy in paying a premium where ethical decision and research in a product’s creation has been done for them.

Using sustainable materials

Sustainable materials are those that can be sourced without wrecking the environment (for example, removing the use of harmful dyes and chemicals during processing and manufacture) and people during their production. Ideally, these materials also do not end up creating post-consumer waste which becomes a global pollutant (although this is where the customer choice really counts. In the year 2020, XXM tonnes of fashion waste – that’s right, clothing – ends up in in landfills, polluting the planet irreversibly. Sustainable materials at least have the right intentions and create the least pre-consumer damage.

Back to McKinsey: in their a survey of 2,000 fashion retail UK customers, they discovered that the majority now want sustainable materials to be naturally included in their shopping choices.

“Of surveyed consumers, 67 percent consider the use of sustainable materials to be an important purchasing factor, and 63 percent consider a brand’s promotion of sustainability in the same way.”

McKinsey & Co research, 2020

Using sustainable tools in the fashion supply chain

Even the tools with which your clothing and popular goods are made, count. Concrete, plastic and sheet metal are the natural choices for almost all items and buildings. While recycled and upcycled metals are thankfully commonplace with a mostly cyclical system in place to support retailers looking to ensure that their tools are sustainably sourced, the smaller, but yearly, hugely en masse procurement choices like needles, awls, and scissors – bought at scale by the millions across the world – can make a huge dent in the trash and waste economy, by helping makers and manufacturers switching to sustainable, longer lasting tools, chemicals and even buildings that are durable and Earth-friendly.

This is where sustainable haberdasheries come into play. A sustainable haberdashery based in England, The Haberdasher Bee, supplies crafters and boutique fashion housers with sustinable sewing, knitting, and crochet tools and materials.

What does sustainable fashion mean for customers?

Sustainable fashion is about guilt-free shopping and quality materials that have not harmed the environment in the process of becoming a product.

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