Making the effort to be environmentally conscious and maintaining a sustainable lifestyle affects most aspects of our everyday lives. Choosing clothes that fulfil the brief to keep us warm and dry while still looking good can be a difficult exercise, but ensuring they are sourced and manufactured ethically provides more issues to contend with.
It is in nature of the fashion industry to continually innovate, always setting trends and restyling classic looks, and in the process pushing the boundaries of what we may consider sustainable. Shopping for ecologically conscious clothing and fashion items means encouraging and adopting emerging trends that acknowledge the need for sustainability and choosing products that you think are fair, ethical and environmentally sound.
With the continuing awareness of the need to tackle climate change many manufacturers now insist that any of the materials used in their clothing lines are sourced ethically and sustainably. There is now a demand, from customers and from within the industry, for fabrics produced from natural materials, like organic cotton or recycled wool, in turn influencing how current designs are conceived.
The current debate about single use plastic is encouraging designers to make use of recycled plastic, often to great effect. Many plastic products can be broken down into granular form and reused as a raw material. This can be spun into synthetic textile yarn to make new garments. Wool and silk are natural, biodegradable yarns but do involve animal products. Natural plant-based yarn can be produced from bamboo and soysilk while ethically grown eucalyptus fibres are used to make Tencell, a smooth textured alternative to rayon.
Recycling and upcycling old clothes can produce some truly innovative fashion design. As anybody’s granny will testify wool is a very sustainable material that can be reused time and time again, a technique now being taken up by the textile industry. Classic tweeds were designed to last in harsh conditions and are perfect for repurposing for eyecatching catwalk creations.
The living and working conditions of workers employed in the fashion in the industry, needs to be taken into account if the product can be considered sustainable. The impact on the local environment due to the manufacturing process should be assessed to ensure that the raw materials are processed without damaging or polluting the local environment and wildlife.
Companies like Elephant Branded pay a fair, competitive wage to local villagers who make a set of well designed, practical bags from rice sacks, a locally sourced, recycled material. Not only do employees get a fair, reasonable wage but they also have the opportunity to learn valuable skills that permit them to have a sustainable, effective way to get out of poverty while maintaining a small community in relative isolation.
It is still possible to produce upmarket items from secondhand materials using a degree of ingenuity and a principled attitude towards the fashion industry. Ecofox stock a range of products from Elvis and Krasse which use repurposed firehoses, parachute silks and leather offcuts to make beautiful designer bags, belts and accessories. This durable, raw material is reworked to mimic plastic or leather and is textured and finished to produce a line of items that match any range of leather goods for style and quality. Additionally, Elvis and Kresse donate up to 50% of all profits to charities and organizations such as the Fire Fighters Charity.
Sustainable fashion is becoming more popular and committed designers and manufactures are working hard for it to become the norm, making clothes and accessories that are produced ethically and have a timeless quality which will prevent changing trends making them obsolete. Thinking beyond the glossy images of this season’s designer trends and looking at the processes, the materials and the thinking behind their manufacture can help us make decisions about what we wear that will not adversely affect our environment.