I had a conversation the other day with one of my business associates talking about how their brand identifies as sustainable and conscious in the fashion industry. We realized there are a lot of different definitions to how a brand can be looked at as sustainable or making “wiser”, ethical, and more environmentally friendly business practices. After I thought about it, there really are an array of companies that approach this differently and I think it’s important to talk about how to define sustainability and consciousness in fashion.
First off let’s define the actual word “sustainable” – conserving an ecological balance by avoiding depletion of natural resources. Ok so what we get from this is that brands that utilize repurposing fabrics that already exist, those who utilize less water or natural resources in the actual manufacturing process, etc are the ones who are considered sustainable. They are making less of an impact on creating and producing NEW resources as they focus on utilizing the resources that already exist.
Now let’s look at the word “conscious” – (of an action or feeling) deliberate and intentional. There are a lot of definitions for conscious but this seemed the most accurate for what I’m talking about. When you have “conscious” brands they are usually focusing on ethical standards in the workplace and environmental standards in production. For example, H&M has a conscious collection that they state utilizes recycled materials for production. They are making a “conscious” effort to ____________ (fill in the blank).
The main reason I wanted to dig a little deeper into this was I recently visited an amazing site called ANTIDOTE that has a curated selection of brands that focuses on various ethical qualities. They all differ per brand and they categorize them as follows: Made in the USA, Fair Trade, Sustainable, Artisanal, Eco Friendly, Social, Vegan, Recycled. It really hit me at that point that there are a lot of ways that brands can make impacts on not only the earth but on human beings as well. I guess why I wanted to write this post was to even help myself define what different brands bring to the table so when I’m sharing them with my wonderful online community they are making the right educated choices in selecting brands they want to support.
A lot of people asked me to round up my favorite sustainable fashion brands and while I have a good list growing, I was even confusing myself on what was sustainable, what was ethically sound, what was conscious etc. I’d begun putting lists together that had brands who produce in the US but didn’t focus on reducing their carbon footprint in methods of production, brands that gave back to third world countries and communities or worked closely with local artisans to create products, and brands that utilize excess fabrics for producing their pieces, it was all over the place. I think what I’m trying to get at is that it’s very important to look into what you want to support and doing your research if brands aren’t so forward with this information. A lot of brands do participate in these practices but don’t utilize it as marketing efforts (so it can get lost). In today’s day and age I think it’s extremely valuable to differentiate yourself from the pack by at least educating your audience on the ways you produce your pieces. A lot of times it will make or break a buying decision in the eyes of a consumer if they hear your blouse was made sustainable (ie. using 90% less water than the average garment produced) vs another blouse that uses the normal amount of resources and energy to be produced.
Anywho I hope this article helped at least someone, if not it’s just extra ramblings on my end and another reminder to self about defining sustainability and consciousness in fashion.