Here Are Some Of The Brands Pioneering Sustainable Fashion On A Commercial Level
It’s clear we’ve adopted a heightened awareness toward the fashion industry’s environmental impacts. This has been supported by the mounting evidence of damage caused by global consumption, driven by the increasing accessibililty and affordability of clothes. If the industry continues on its current path, it is projected that by 2050 it could account for 1/4 of the world’s carbon emissions. Other problems include the impact of the fashion industry on our natural world, like depleting natural resources such as fresh water, polluting waste outputs such as pesticides and microplastic pollution from the shedding of polyester fibres.
Today, we can see a clear wave of intention forming towards concrete, quantifiable actions, to move way from current practices and to welcome greater sustainability into the fashion industry. Some of the brands making waves with their reimagined approach include Older Brother, Story MFG and Reformation.
This playful, eco-sustainable, naturally dyed and gender-neutral contemporary brand look to create fashion so in harmony with nature it can be composted in your garden. This kinder approach to making clothing uses sustainable wood bark, mushrooms and turmeric on their organically-derived materials. Each batch of their products is uniquely shaped by the PH balance, temperature and environment in which they are created, they are the antithesis of fast fashion.
Dyeing with plant based dyes takes weeks of testing to ensure that the colours are both stunning and capable of being executed on a larger scale, an often unpredictable method that can be hugely impacted by minute changes between batches. However, creators Bobby Bonaparte and Max Kingery celebrate the slight imperfections which make every piece unique.
Older Brother was inspired by the phycological and physical effects of source conscious nutrition. The creators champion the ideals of the slow food movement and applied the same idea to clothing, since the things we put on our bodies are as integral to the things we put in them. Their decisions are made with the environment at the forefront. In terms of sustainability, these guys are doing what they can while always looking to improve. Just as we all should be.
Story MFG, incepted and curated by couple Saeed and Katy, they design and manufacture their products with a low-impact approach and a nature led aesthetic where transparency is key, with 90% of their products being made in the Indian Forest.
In a recent interview, Saeed discussed how currently the fashion industry has an ‘adversarial relationship with nature’ but considered the beauty of working with nature instead of against it.
He explained how currently, the fashion industry’s approach to the life span of their products is linear, with a definite beginning and end. However, by introducing the concept of life cycles into the industry, it means products are capable of being recycled and reused, feeding the end waste back into the system to be used again. This was also a huge focus of the 2020 Circular Fashion System Commitment Campaign, signed by brands such as Nike, ASOS, Kering and Inditex with the goal of implementing design strategies for cyclability and increasing the volume of used garments that can be collected and resold.
“If you design something that can’t be recycled, that’s fucked, and if you design something that will be around forever, that’s fucked too. But then there’s a parallel that’s been going around forever about the beauty of worn in stuff, and things becoming more valuable over time as they pick up character”
Fast fashion is notoriously blamed for the throw away culture the fashion industry as people campaign to bring it to an end, Saeed takes a different view and believes that the ingrained culture of fast fashion simply cannot be reversed and undone, instead the answer is not to have less fast fashion, but to make the impact of fast fashion positive rather than negative.
These guys put sustainability at the core of everything they do and ensure everyone in the supply chain embodies the same values. Their inherent determination to be successfully sustainable goes beyond their materials and manufacturing; from their hangers, their focus on e-commerce, their waste management and down to the offices they work in, investing in green building infrastructure to minimise waste, water and energy footprints. They even celebrate staff birthdays by donating to TreePeople, an organisation that supports urban forests in LA by planting a tree in their name. They’ve been 100% carbon-neutral since 2015, and have since set their sights on becoming climate neutral too, a verification that confirms a company has net-zero carbon emissions. In exchange for the resources they use, they invest in programs that replace them, such as the Brazilian Rosewood Amazon Conservation Project and the Bonneville Environmental Foundation Water Restoration Programme, an important reminder that we can all be more proactive in the steps we take to become more sustainable.
Perhaps the greatest commendation that should be awarded to Reformation is the extent which they embody sustainability purely because they truly believe in it, as opposed to a
green washing marketing tactic that is seen so often within the fashion industry. All of their verification, certifications and sustainable practices can be found on their website and while they are renowned for their sustainability, it was only upon taking the time to read into this that we realised how far this team have gone. True industry leaders and a high bar we should all be aspiring to.
Today, designers, scientists, businesses, government and campaigners are coming together to develop a range of high and low technical solutions, tested and experimental which together have the potential to create a cleaner, greener, less wasteful industry. The recent ‘Rewiring Fashion’ proposal sets out steps to rethink how the fashion industry should work.
Put together by industry leaders such as Isabel Marant, Missoni, Oscar de la Renta and Proenza Schoulder and facilitated by Business of Fashion, it reflects their collective thinking about the actions that must be taken to preserve the beauty, creativity and craft of the fashion industry.
The statement proposes changes to runway shows, the fashion calendar and the fashion’s obsession with discounting. The initiative leads with a plan to reset the fashion calendar so that collections are displayed in a more seasonally appropriate way, with spring/summer and fall/winter being shown in their respective and relative months, rather than the current delivery dates which are out of sync with the real-world seasons.
They also suggest a break from fashion’s addiction to discounting, by pushing back markdowns, cancelling midseason sales and abstaining from events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The problem is that retailers turn to early and frequent discounts to drive sales, training the customer to expect substantial markdowns and pull back from full price shopping. This erodes profitability for everyone along the value chain. This increased accessibility, affordability and turn-around of clothing has simultaneously cultivated not only a culture of excessive consumption but also of quicker disposal of clothing too. The proposal challenges widely accepted and undisputed industry norms, and pushes brands to think of sustainability on a scale greater than organic fabrics.
There are so many exciting new entries to the industry who have sustainability at their very core, signifying that there are people out there hungry for change. Some argue that it’s perhaps change that is unlikely to come without the backing of fashion’s biggest luxury players, but today’s consumers have more power than ever – not only to back causes they believe in by shopping with companies that embody those values, but also the ability to influence each other. Consumers have been given a voice and they expect it to be heard. It’s disrupting the traditional path to purchasing that has been previously understood and maybe change won’t have to come top down this time, it’s already working its way up.