Sustainable Fashion Industry: Startups, Big Brands and Fashion Designers
Department of Textiles (Fashion Technology)
DKTEs Textile and Engineering Institute, Ichalkaranji, India
Intern at Textile Learner
The textile industry was the first to use modern production methods and this industrial revolution brought a drastic change in which way the society functioned. And made the textile industry one of the most polluting industries.
The industry which is ruled by only one intention- CHANGE. This industry comprises garments, jewellery, footwear and cosmetics. This industry has emotional desire which relates to desire, status and identity and connects individuals culturally and emotionally and whereas industry’s practical desire is related to production process and natural resources.
The industry is growing steadily from the last 10 years with nearly 3 trillion U.S. dollars and also employs 60 million people. Though it represents the seventh world’s largest economy, it is the second largest polluting industry in the world.
Fashion industry has increased new collections every year and also has quick and often changing trends with quite lower costs but at the same time it has encouraged over consumption and has generated excessive waste with miserable working conditions. Since fashion is the largest contributor to environmental and human damage and hence translating sustainability into fashion is a necessity.
A. Sustainability in Fashion
Sustainability can be summarized as Meeting today’s needs in such a way that we ensure the needs of future generations are also met. And sustainability earlier was only limited to environmental issues like saving water but now it has become broader which also includes social sustainability.
Sustainability in Fashion has three pillars-
- Social- For miserable working conditions
- Environmental- To save environment
- Economical- Which is affordable to
And the good news is that various startups, big brands and fashion designers have started approaching towards sustainable fashion industry but the road towards sustainability is unclear and also has many challenges as well as opportunities to approach sustainability. And obviously there are various legal certifications and requirements followed by various companies which is called a reactive approach. But there are many brands showing a proactive approach.
Hence, to understand about what is actual scenario of sustainable fashion industry we need to study about-
- Sustainable Startups
- Fashion designers
- Big brands towards sustainability
- Alliances rather than solo-runs
B. Sustainable Startups
Sustainable startups are created with sustainability in mind. Business models of such start-ups have sustainability as their priority and some of such startups have been listed below.
a) Good on you: It is an online platform which rates various brands on the basis of sustainability and helps shoppers to shop better. They help the designers and brands who are doing good and give retailers the tools to connect with the consumers.
b) Armadioverde: It is a fashion startup which is one of the most recommended platforms for exchange of high street fashion. The members of Armadio Verde exchange items and style in the most affordable, convenient and sustainable way.
c) EcoFashionCorp: Eco fashion corp is a sustainable brand with ‘Source to story’ business model which produces clothes from organic/regenerative agriculture and climate as well as focuses on women’s empowerment.
d) TOMS Shoes: Whenever every pair of shoes is sold, a new pair of shoes is given to a child in a need, one for one. They have collaborated with various NGOs, communities which truly helped in protecting children from various diseases and infections.
e) Agraloop: Agraloop uses food waste to create clothing fibers which have high strength and can easily dry. And clothes which are converted are further dyed with organic dyes and hence a complete sustainable product is created.
f) PinaTex: Pinatex is an innovative textile alternative to leather made from pineapple leaf fiber. It is made from waste leaves of pineapple plant and additionally doesn’t require other environmental resources to produce. It is used for fashion accessories and upholstery fabrics. And has been used by over 100 brands like H&M, Hugo Boss, Hilton Hotel Bankside.
g) Dragon: EcoDragon creates sweaters, knitwear, tees, footwear using hemp which is a sustainable material and grown without toxic herbicides and pesticides.
h) Mycotex: It makes materials from roots of mushrooms and the fabric is decomposable. That is, once you are done with wearing the clothes just bury them, they will decompose naturally.
i) Pili-bio: Are you bored of wearing clothes with same colors? Without using harmful chemicals, microorganisms transfer dyes to new material and hence this startup produces sustainable dyes and pigments which reduces the environmental footprint of the color industry.
j) RePack: Most of the garbage comes from packing materials of clothes and especially when it comes to online shopping. Hence, to prevent this wastage Repack has come with the solution that high quality packing bags are made from sustainable material and also has a facility where customers can send it back to recycle them or reuse the same.
C. Fashion Designers
One of the major roles for bringing sustainability is played by a fashion designer which design clothes which reduces toxic waste, supports animal and human rights, leads to less strain on the planet’s resources and eco-friendly fashion which doesn’t harm us. So here are some designers which are trying to bring a change-
a) Sandra Sandor: Its origin is in BudaPest, Hungary which uses vegan leather and upcycled materials and creates bags, dresses and shirts for both men and women and she is committed to reduce its carbon footprint.
b) Eileen Fisher: The eco-friendly designer passionate about sustainability and works in a circular model by recycling old textiles and garments which results in luxurious and sustainable clothing.
c) Vivienne Westwod: “Buy less, Choose Well and Make it last” are the words of one of the well known fashion designers Vivienne Westwood which is concerned about environmental issues of the fashion industry. She is committed to eco-friendly fashion from 2011 which is 100% organic with the goal of attracting people’s attention and curing environmental issues.
D. Big Brands Approaching Sustainability
When it comes to big brands it is very difficult to change a whole structure with a focus on sustainability but still every business has a room for improvement and below is some which have shown focus on sustainability-
a) Puma: Puma has tried to integrate sustainability into every aspect of their process from manufacturing to finishing products and have developed 10 for 25 which mean 10 targets for 2025 based on sustainable development goals developed by the UN.
b) Patagonia: It is one of the global brands which are recognized for sustainable initiatives. Nearly 70% of Patagonia products are made from recycled materials, including plastic bottles and the goal is to use 100% Renewable materials by 2025. And additionally it also donates for the preservation and restoration of the natural environment.
c) Levi’s: It is one of the most popular denim brands and also recognized for taking steps for sustainability. This brand has relied on water-less technology to reduce single denim jeans by 96% water which will not affect the environment.
d) Stella McCartney: One of the first innovative brands to produce earth-friendly technology designers. It uses the clothes which are leather and fur free and made with cutting edge creativity, locally sourced organic fabrics.
e) H&M: One of the most visible fashion retailers in the world has also taken its steps towards sustainability. They have three significant goals
- By 2020 they will be one of the biggest users of organic cotton and they stood as biggest buyer of better cotton
- By 2030 all the products will come from more sustainable or recycled sources
- By 2040, they will be climate positive across its entire value chain. A circular business model powered by renewable energy. And already they are at 96%.
E. Alliances Rather Than Solo Runs
All the big problems can’t be solved by only one company. Hence to move towards sustainability some brands have moved towards some set of initiatives which don’t change the traditional business model of the company and outside of main business operations.
a) Collaboration of competitors: One or two fashion brands which collaborate and push sustainable goals and one of such examples is Sustainable Apparel Coalition which was between Walmart and Patagonia and further various brands like Nike were also included. They developed the Higg Index, a way of certification of sustainability.
b) Cross- sector partnerships: Collaborations of the fashion industry with other industries, NGOs, Public sectors, etc.
One of the examples is the fashion industry tying up with technical industries to innovate technology for sustainable development. Another such example is collaborating with NGOs Better Cotton Initiative – Sustainable Solution for Farmers which also included organizations like Adidas, Gap, H&M and Oxfam.
Sustainability is a long run and there are many challenges in it with loads of opportunities too. But sustainability should not only be adopted by Start-ups, big brands, designers also customers play a vital role to develop sustainable fashion industry. A simple citizen and consumer should also be part by supporting sustainable fashion designers to take ethical fashion from margins to mainstream. Hence to make a 100% sustainable fashion industry not only startups and big brands but customers do play a vital role and we truly need to work out on damage caused by us as we are the first ones to face climate change and last generation to do something about us.
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Founder & Editor of Textile Learner. He is a Textile Consultant, Blogger & Entrepreneur. He is working as a textile consultant in several local and international companies. He is also a contributor of Wikipedia.