4 Things That Any Fashion Brand Can Do To Be More Sustainable.

Hi There, this is Traci Kaye, I'm the Director of Sourcing and Product Development here at Human B. Recently I attended a seminar about sustainability and it was so inspiring that I had to share and and try to inspire you too.

Sustainability - The ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely. 

In the fashion industry we are constantly producing more and more goods. We use tons of natural resources, produce garments all over the world and all the while we are trying to keep up with ever changing trends and timely demands of the fashion industry. What is that impact? Most of the pollution in the garment industry comes from textiles. Water usage, finishing agents, and dyes. 20% of the worlds water pollution is due to the garment industry. How does it affect the community that work and live around these factories? As designers and consumers we have the responsibility to ask ourselves these questions and the ability to make change. 

How do you as a designer build a company with all of these things in mind and as a small brand be a part of this change?

How can we still create, still design and still produce while making a smaller footprint and a more positive impact while doing it. While larger companies have an easier time demanding that their fabrics be sustainable they often have a harder time keeping an eye on how their production is being done. As a small brand you are more restricted on where you can produce and in turn are better able to manage where and how you choose to produce.

Here are 4 things That any fashion brand/designer can do to be more sustainable and help decrease our footprint:

1. Transparency 

Know your supply chain. Where are your textiles and trims coming from, what are they made out of & who is making your product? When asking ourselves these questions we need to keep in mind that impact is not only about the environment but is also the community that surrounds these factories.  So how can a small company like yours find this information. We are starting to see more and more widely used standardizations and tools that are helping to regulate our industry. Organizations like the Sustainable Apparel Coalition - The Higg Index, and textile exchange organization are doing just that. 

2. Textiles

Try and buy from sustainable textile mills. This is unfortunately not a huge market yet and for a small scale brand not always the easiest thing to accomplish. But you can educate yourself on the different global impact textiles have and when you are not able to find the accredited fabrics you need you can select fibers that have a more minimal cost to the environment and the community. For instance organic cotton vs non organic cotton. The latter causing harmful pollution for the farmers and the community. Or using tencel instead of viscose. There are organizations working to certify fibers and textiles so that as consumers we have the transparency needed to make a better choice.

 3. Re-shoring 

 In 1980’s 70% of our clothing was made in the US, and now it is ONLY 2%! Shocking statistics, right?  Manufacture in your own country when you can. This not only helps with our economy, but it also minimizes the environmental stress that comes with shipping. For example a common production chain looks like that: fiber is shipped from India to Japan to be made into fabric, the fabric than ships from Japan to China for sewing, and the garments are than shipped to the US - A long shipping process. With re-shoring comes less shipping, less polluting of our oceans, and helps build a stronger work force.

4. Product end use

Fast fashion is not going anywhere. And our land fills are filling up with last seasons clothes. As designers we can choose to make better product with responsible materials that when they are discarded they leave less pollution. Think of how the materials you select will effect the environment when the buyer is done with them. Where will they go? Can they be recycled? 

Get Inspired!

Sustainability and the race to the top will not happen unless we collaborate. We need to work together. There are new organizations, coalitions, agencies, fiber innovators, and designers pushing the envelope every day in this field and making it easier for all of us to be a part of this change. Below are four of these resources to get you you started. 

  • The sustainable Apparel Coalition - Works to reduce environmental and social impacts of the apparel and footwear products around the world. The Higg Index is an apparel and footwear industry self-assessment standard for assessing environmental and social sustainability throughout the supply chain
  • The Textile Exchange - An organization that’s purpose is to certify Textiles.
  • Cradle to Cradle products innovation Institute - An organization that educates and empowers manufacturers of consumer products to improve what their products are made of and how they are made. 
  • Evrnu - A new fiber that comes from recycling of cotton garments. The take garment waste to its supply chain in a way that is good for business, for the environment, and for consumers.