HOW TO FIND SUSTAINABLE FASHION BRANDS
Why sustainable fashion?
The clothing industry is the third most polluting industry in the world, and the second largest consumer of water. Furthermore, it uses 20 billion pounds of chemicals each year (reformation). Many of these chemicals are harmful and toxic to the environment, our health and the humans making the clothes.
18 tubs of water is needed to produce a single cotton t-shirt in addition to harmful chemicals (reformation)
What is fast fashion?
Fast Fashion is a phenomenon that pushes new trends out on the market in a quick and cost-effective way. It’s about accelerating the whole process from start to finish, in order to offer new trends to customers on a weekly basis. This encourages customers to visit the stores again and again, and they learn that they must act immediately, or else they’ll miss their chance to buy what they see in the store windows at that moment (investopeida).
This creates some major challenges. It encourages consumers to a “buy-and-throw” mentality that’s really bad for the environment. In order to expedite the design process, the work of others in the fashion industry sometimes gets copied to keep up the pace. Costs are cut at all stages, and it’s the textiles workers that must suffer under poor working conditions with wages they can not live on (investopedia).
If you want a reality check, I recommend the documentary “The True Cost” available on Netflix. It made a huge difference for me!
What about the fast fashion brands own conscious collections?
To me personally, this is a grey area. It’s great that many fast fashion brands are putting sustainability on the agenda, and that they’re increasing the use of more sustainable materials. Because lets face it, they aren’t going to stop producing clothes any time soon, so from this point of view supporting their sustainable collections shows them that we want “more” of this. And by “more” I mean that we need fewer, but greener collections all together.
What we’re missing today from most of these collections are the ethical perspective, because we still don’t know who made the clothes. And where are the certifications on the chemical usage? Just to take one example, organic cotton doesn’t automatically mean chemical free.
Resources for researching the brands
Rank a brand
This is a website that ranks brands on how environmentally friendly and ethical they are. I think this is a good start for research, but I would take the scores with a pinch of salt. Some fast fashion companies have an okay score, and some brands that I consider more eco-friendly and ethical have a lower score. Why’s that you might ask? I’m not sure, but it might have something to do with the size of the companies and the resources they have.
Anyway, you should ask yourself wether or not you want to support the fast fashion stores just because they have an okay score on this page? Or do you want to support the smaller companies that doesn’t comprise on their ethics?
ECO label index
On this page you can get to know some of the most commonly used certifications that you can look for the next time you want to shop more sustainable. Some of the most common certifications I typically look for are: GOTS, Oeko-Tex, Fairtrade, EU eco label and svanemerket (last one in Norway).
Use the brand’s own website
Use the brand’s own website to find information about their sustainable practices. How credible do they seem? Do they describe concrete actions they take on a daily basis? Is there information about where the garments are manufactured? Who made their clothes?
Do they have any certifications? If you don’t find what you’re looking for or aren’t satisfied with what they’re writing, send them an email and ask!
Check out this video!
This is a well made and informative video made by fashion designer and YouTuber Justine Leconte. In this video she talks about how you can shop for sustainable fashion, as well as sharing some valuable resources. She also have some other great videos about fast fashion and how to care for clothes that I highly recommend.
Check the materials
Some materials are more eco-friendly than others. Examples are hamp, organic cotton and tencel/lyocell. I have written a blog post which goes more into detail about each of these materials, and if you are interested in learning more you can check out that blog post here.