Sustainable Fashion is Going Mainstream – But What Is It, Exactly?
There is no more powerful buzzword in fashion marketing right now than “sustainable,” Sadly, the words “sustainable” and “fashion” aren’t always uttered in the same breath, but that seems to be changing. This shift is nothing new – in the early ‘90s, Armani experimented with weaving hemp into their high-end suits. Fast forward to today, and more luxury brands are getting on board, like Manolo Blahnik making a green shoe made entirely from discarded tilapia skins, cork, and raffia.
A recent example of a brand leading the charge towards a sustainable fashion future is H&M. For the sixth year in a row, the fast fashion retailer has released a ‘Conscious Exclusive Collection’. The line is made from recycled plastic bottles and grocery bags. H&M is one of the largest companies to dedicate so much focus to sustainably creating their clothing. Another great example of a sustainability-focused company is Montreal-based Kamik, which makes boots from thermoplastic resins, a 100% recyclable material. The brand also recycles all of their scraps and rejected boots, turning what is left into boot outsoles.
“The only way we will change the industry on an international level is by being transparent, admitting to our challenges and allowing collaboration to improve our practice and mentality,” says Myriam LaRoche, founder of Vancouver Eco Fashion Week. Some of the major ways apparel brands are becoming part of the sustainable fashion world are by upcycling, the use of end-of-bolt fabrics or gently used fabrics to create new products. Brands are also implementing sustainable production practices like using solar panels, and focusing on the use of sustainable fabrics such as bamboo or hemp. Offering products that are 100% vegan is also popular, especially among popular ‘boho chic’ brands like Anthropologie and Free People, who carry an enticing selection of vegan alternatives to conventional leather pieces. Even more brands are shifting away from materials like cotton (a huge cause of high insecticide rates) and moving towards sustainable resources like soy, bamboo, and wood pulp.
The idea of a “fully sustainable fashion industry” is still a long way off, but things are definitely changing. The Vancouver Sun may have said it best: “Sustainability, in the true sense of the word, requires transparency from brands about several facets of their operations — from corporate infrastructure, to chemicals and pesticide awareness, to fair trade and zero waste initiatives.” From ethically-sourced and sustainable materials, to a focus on zero-waste practices and renewable energy, to recycling, upcycling, and reusing, there is no shortage of ways to jump on board this growing trend. Add to that, the fact that an increasing number of consumers are living an environmentally friendly and socially responsible lifestyle, leaning more towards vintage shops and buying from sustainable brands, this trend will only continue to grow.
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