Globally the fashion industry is one of the largest in the world, as it is worth around $1.5 trillion annually and employs millions of people. Making a huge impact on the environment, it is important to have eco-friendly, sustainable and ethical considerations when approaching fashion as we as designers have a responsibility to our business, consumers, other designers, society, the environment and ourselves. “At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles and 25% of the world’s pesticide is used to grow non-organic cotton. This causes irreversible damage to people and the environment, and still two-thirds of a garment’s carbon footprint will occur after it has been bought” (Kenneth L 2015).
If more designers and companies followed a sustainable approach it could make a huge difference. The industry could change the world, saving the environment with quality fashion made from eco friendly and ethical processes.
Sustainable fashion is defined by SustainableDesigners.org (2015) as fashion that is designed to conserve environmental resources and create opportunities for future generations. To design sustainably, the complete process of design and life cycle of a garment needs to be considered, this includes everything from conservation, producing via fair trade, innovations in technology and the end use of the design.
There is incredible potential for innovation and growth in the area of sustainable fashion, especially with new fibre technologies that can help aid in the creation of new eco friendly materials. This new technology includes a new process called DryDye created using pressurised CO2 instead of water that has been used in Adidas by Stella McCartney. This procedure greatly reduces water consumption that dyeing in fashion is typically known for exploiting. Chemicals found in many dyes not only have harmful effects on our ecosystems, but also on the health of those having repeated contact with them. Other choices such as the use of natural and organic materials, such as vegetable dyes, can also greatly reduce the impact of chemical waste. This needs to be considered when designing sustainably, along with other concepts such as those listed below:
- Re-using and up-cycling materials such as blankets, tents, parachutes, clothing, plastic and any other fabrications for new purposes, which reduces wastage.
- Reclaiming scrap fabrics and up-cycling knits and mixing with other natural fibres, similar to what brand Goodone (2015) has achieved believing “that an intelligent approach to design should not only satisfy a hunger for new and constantly evolving concepts in style, but should also address the environmental impact of the fashion industry”.
- Creating clothing that is multifunctional which can be worn in various conditions and expanding the life of the garment.
- Using alternate sources of energy.
- Using natural and organic fibres rather than fabrications that are petroleum based. These contain less chemicals, take less water consumption and reduce green house gases. These may include selecting organic cotton, cellulose fibres like hemp, flax, soy, bamboo and other natural materials such as silk, angora, alpaca, cashmere and mohair.
Designers should focus on sustainability as a trend using a company’s core brand and design values with a twist, incorporating environmentally friendly and sustainable practices in modern day design. Sustainable fashion sometimes can be perceived as a hippy style of clothing, but it does not need to be.
Consumer education is important to persuade the buying public to purchase sustainable fashion and the ideas or ethos underlying it. The average shopper generally doesn’t necessarily reflect on ethical and sustainable choices, taking into consideration the effect fashion can have on the environment and society. Convincing people to make the right choice in choosing fashion made in this sustainable and ethical manner could make a significant impact.
* To view more ecofashion images including sources for those used above, check out my Pinterest page.