Recently, sustainable fashion has gained significant traction in the fashion industry. But is it just another marketing tactic, or is there something more substantial in it?

WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE FASHION?

Through sustainable fashion, brands aim to create garments in a way that is considerate of humanity and the environment. This thereby helps in reducing the environmental impact. Ultimately, the goal is to achieve a system that will work without a negative footprint.

THE NEED FOR SUSTAINABLE FASHION

Did you know that the fashion industry is one of the world’s largest polluters? In fact, after oil, the fashion industry takes second place in global industrial water pollution, responsible for 20%. To add to that, the textile mills use around 20,000 chemicals, many of them that are carcinogenic, to make clothes. Most of these clothes made from plastic create a catastrophe for our oceans. For the people involved in making these garments, sustainable fashion implies better working conditions, fair pay, and fewer illegal sweatshops. In the end, aiming for sustainability is the only way to break this cycle of death, destruction, and pollution.

FASHION BRANDS MAKING THE CHANGE: PLANT-BASED FASHION

A shift in the fashion industry is taking place, with fashion brands experimenting with next-generation materials like- vegan leather. From Gucci to Salvatore Ferragamo, fashion brands are experimenting with livestock-free alternatives instead of conventional animal-based materials.

Although no longer available, the beginning of the plant-based fashion came in 2017 when Salvatore Ferragamo launched a collection with Orange Fiber. Orange Fiber is a silk-like material made from citrus fruit waste. 

The Material Innovation Initiative (MII) anticipates a similar shift among animal-based materials, such as silk, wool, and fur. This change can reduce the fashion industry’s wastage and carbon footprint. To make it more ethical, brands can make an effort to reduce their reliance on animals to make their materials.

From the study conducted by MII, it was also found that around 150 brands, most of them from the fashion industry, are working together with startups that are using next-generation sustainable materials.

CHANGE IS INEVITABLE BUT LOOK OUT FOR GREENWASHING

Trendy words such as sustainable, eco-friendly, and green have become too prevalent on the labels of everything we consume daily. Nevertheless, we must question whether businesses truly promote conscious branding or simply perform sustainability as a trend.

Greenwashing in the fashion industry is a growing problem. It has made it difficult for individuals to know whether they are consuming responsibly or hooked on misleading practices.

Greenwashing, coined by environmentalist Jay Westervelt in 1986, refers to misleading advertisements by companies suggesting that they are doing more for the environment than they are. Such practices often deceive customers with claims not backed by evidence and bear social, ethical, and environmental repercussions.

Several independent brands are reinventing themselves in a conscious effort to protect the environment. However, some big brands use the profits generated through unfair means of garment production to fund enormous marketing budgets to promote their green collections. By adding sustainability to their overall business model, which relies on unsustainable supply chains, they are not solving the real problems of textile waste and global warming.

An example to quote would be, in April 2019, Swedish fashion giant Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) introduced its ‘Conscious Collection’ featuring leather-like Pinatex products made from orange peelings and pineapple leaves. However, Pinatex’s legitimacy as a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative raises several questions. The reason for this is that Pinatex contains plastic and petroleum-based agents that offset any probable positive, eco-friendly impact of utilizing fruit fibers and makes it non-biodegradable.

Navigating and identifying insidious greenwashing can be overwhelmingly challenging. Hence, a fundamental rule of thumb would be to see whether a brand promotes sustainability as an add-on rather than a core to its business model.

FASHION BRANDS LEADING THE WAY FOR A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE

Irrespective of the pervasive greenwashing, many fashion brands have genuinely attempted to spread their message of sustainability within the broader community. An example to consider is Everlane, a direct-to-consumer brand that pioneered the concept of radical transparency. Using this method, the company can calculate its labor cost, materials cost, and profit margins for different items. Similarly, despite drawbacks, Nike has improved its supply chains over the years, using innovation as the key to sustainability. Indian brands like Doodlage, which uses eco-friendly materials such as organic cotton, corn flakes, banana leaves, and textile scraps discarded by large manufacturers, and other national and international brands have also followed suit. 

By adopting Nike’s successful approach, involving increased R&D expenditure instead of marketing, more companies could reduce costs and improve long-term margins, while simultaneously promoting a circular economy. If you are a sustainable brand looking for ways to create awareness on sustainability, Luxeveda is the right place! Connect with us via email at [email protected] or look up www.luxeveda.com.

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