What You Need to Know & Why It Matters
It’s finally possible, practical and commercially viable to do something about the damage the fashion industry does to our planet through huge amounts of waste and pollution.
Each of us can make small but significant individual contributions to reducing fashion industry waste, which many of us don’t even realise we help create.
But as consumers, we can also push the industry, asking for more sustainable fashion, which can now be profitable for big business to make and sell at scale, as well as ethically better.
Until the industry believes its customers really want sustainable fashion, and it can be cost-effective for them, today's damaging status quo will continue.
Our guide to Sustainable Fashion contains the most important things you should know to form your own view, including how each of us can make a real difference.
(Click on each section title to read what it covers)
1. WHAT'S THE PROBLEM
Fast Facts on Fashion Waste & Pollution
The Fashion Industry creates huge amounts of waste and pollution, and we don’t help with how we buy, use and dispose of clothes.
Read a few facts that show the scale of the problem. You may be shocked to learn how bad things are, and the role we all play.
2. IS A SOLUTION POSSIBLE?
3 Inspiring Examples of Sustainable Fashion in Action Today
Sustainable Fashion is a reality today for those who want to adopt it, and not just in theory - the biggest problems have already been solved both technically and commercially.
There are many examples, we highlight three of the most inspiring.
3. WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO CHANGE THINGS?
The Consumer Powered Sustainable Fashion Cycle
All industries change over time, usually through external pressure.
Our “Consumer-Powered Sustainable Fashion Cycle” shows what would trigger and create a more sustainable fashion industry.
4. HOW DO I MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
5 Simple Ways to Make a Difference Today & 5 More to Help Create a Better Tomorrow
Regardless of the pace of wider changes, we show you 5 easy things you can do to make your own personal contribution
But the most powerful force on business is the customer, and when enough customers show Sustainable Fashion matters to them, business will take notice. We give you 5 ways to spread the word.
5. WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
A Selection of Useful Sustainable Fashion Resources
There are many groups that are active and successful, and also many sources of information.
You don’t have to be an activist to care, and we pick some of most useful places for everyday people to find out more.
WHAT'S THE PROBLEM?
Fast Facts on Fashion
There are many symptoms, causes and factors behind why the fashion industry creates so much waste. There’s data to support pretty much any conclusion you want, depending on your point of view. And for each piece of data, there’s complexity and debate under the surface.
We’ve gone through many available sources of information on fashion industry waste and sustainability, including special interest groups, charities, the industry and academia. We’ve cut through the complexity, trying to avoid being simplistic or idealistic, and formed our own view of what it all means to consumers.
Our conclusion is that the problem of fashion industry waste boils down to three underlying things:
- The way clothes are made
- The way clothes are bought and disposed of
- The acceptance of both these – often through lack of informed awareness.
Each reinforces the others, together creating a vicious cycle we all help perpetuate, perhaps inadvertently.
To understand why things are ready to improve, and how we can each play a role in making that happen, here’s a quick run-through of the problem that needs to be solved. The scale of it may well surprise you.
If you’re interested in the data and details, we’ve listed some useful sources at the end.
Fashion is One of the World’s Most Polluting Industries
We were pretty shocked to learn that the Fashion Industry creates more pollution than any other sector except Oil & Gas.
But on reflection, it probably shouldn’t be that surprising to realise the scale of pollution Fashion adds to the air, water and ground around us. It’s a trillion-dollar industry that spans the globe in a unique manner, touching virtually everyone. Manufacturing uses chemicals for everything from colour durability, and of many fabrics are synthetically created.
For example, Earth Pledge says
At least 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into textiles, and 25% of the world's pesticides are used to grow non-organic cotton
Another source of waste and pollution is the excess fabric and other materials discarded by factories. Most of this goes into landfills, and much of that doesn’t break down naturally for centuries or longer.
Many Clothes We Buy Are Never Worn
Many of us would admit we buy more clothes than we need, and most wardrobes contain at least one virtually unused item that just isn’t going to get worn. While we may feel a little guilty about it, it’s all too easy to do with low prices, year-round sales, changing trends and fluctuating waistlines.
But this is one of those situations where lots of drops add up to an ocean, and the individual items make up much more than we might realise.
In the UK alone, Treehugger.com says that
Consumers in the UK have an estimated £30 billion worth of unworn clothes lingering in their closets
While there’s no single figure we could find for the global picture, we’re pretty sure it’s not going to be much better across the wealthier countries that make up most of the industry’s consumers.
More of Our Clothes End Up in Landfill Than Every Before
So far we’ve looked at the pollution and waste caused to make the clothes we buy. But you may not realise how much of the problem is created after we’re done with our clothes.
Most of us consider landfills a blight on our landscape, and realise they add to the greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. And it’s generally known that a big problem with landfill is the time it takes for the contents to decompose – much of it running into centuries, especially synthetic materials.
In time-poor, affluent cultures, where cheap disposable products are now a way of life, fashion now adds to the problem. For example, our own analysis suggests
The clothes and textiles added to UK landfills every year would fill around 150,000 double-decker buses - nearly 2 million tonnes of it
It’s now common to perceive no value in clothes we no longer wear and so throw them away. Others find it easier to dump them into household rubbish than make time to consider what else to do with them.
Many Consumers Have Good Intentions About Sustainable Fashion
The good news is that many if not most of us say that we want our clothing to be sustainable, and would buy it if it we could. This is confirmed by surveys like that by the Ethical Fashion Forum, showing nearly 7 out of 10 adults hold this view.
The not so good news is what happens when we're asked to translate this into action, judging by our shopping habits and patterns. This is pretty obvious to anyone who tries to make or sell sustainable fashion for the High Street.
Fashion Businesses Also Says Sustainability Matters, but Few Show What That Means
According to Rankabrand, the Dutch sustainability organisation:
63% of fashion brands mention sustainability on their websites, but only 20% publish information about how sustainable they are.
So around 40% seem to realise sustainable fashion is important (because they go to the trouble of talking about it), but don’t disclose their contribution to the problem or what they’re doing about it.
And around another 40% (the ones who don’t make any claims about green credentials) appear to think its not important enough to even talk about.
We're not sure which we think is worse . . .
IS A SOLUTION POSSIBLE?
3 Inspiring Examples of Sustainable Fashion in Action
Despite the rather grim picture of fashion industry waste, there are many examples of things being done differently, and many ways those who are part of the problem today can become part of the solution.
Here are three of the most inspiring examples, illustrating better ways of doing things that are both influential and instructive to the whole industry. We could have picked many others, all equally positive.
We’ve only skimmed through what they do here, but you can read much more in our in-depth profiles of each of them, which will be published separately shortly.
In the early days of sustainable fashion, those in industry who wanted to make a difference would typically give a percentage of their income to charitable causes that worked towards a better environment. Today it’s a different story, with people at every stage in the chain looking at eco-conscious raw materials, environmentally responsible materials and production methods that do less or no damage.
There has been progress on developing more sustainable materials to make clothes. Much of this is about using renewable fibres, provided by responsible sourcing. This includes natural animal and plant fibres as well as manufactured ones made from natural materials. There has also been lots of work on recycled and upcycled fabric.
Meanwhile factories are learning how to process and produce fashion products doing less harm to the environment around them, from the type of dyes used to the way waste is managed.
Designers have also started to realise the role they can play in changing attitudes to sustainable fashion, both for consumers and the industry that produces their designs. And so there is a growing number of designers who are conscious of the sustainability of their designs at every point in the fashion industry chain that comes after their work.
DESIGNER CREATIVITY & SUSTAINABILITY: ABRAHAM & THAKORE
Bringing Discarded X-rays From The Skip to The Catwalk
Abraham & Thakore are one of India’s most successful fashion & textile designers, described by the Huffington Post as "conquering the world of fashion". Their collections are sold the world over, including London, Paris, Tokyo, Singapore, New York and Rome. Their trademark low key yet distinctive designs are known for incorporating modernity while respecting their rich Indian roots of textile, craft and design.
They have had an exclusive co-branded line with Harrods since 2012, and the Victoria & Albert Museum chose one of their most stunning pieces to greet visitors to the 2015 Fabrics of India exhibition.
From the outset they have been conscious of the importance of sustainability in fashion. As a result, their designs have always been made with one eye to minimising waste and re-using material.
They then decided to take things one step further, and challenged themselves to create a collection that incorporated other types of waste, not just textile. They wanted to demonstrate to their clientele that it was possible to wear upcycled designs and still look modern, relevant and elegant.
Searching through skips of waste collected by scrap dealers (“Kabbadi Walas”), they chose discarded hospital x-rays and soft drink bottle tops as potential re-usable material. Working with their suppliers, they obtained sequins and other detail for their next collection. They also sourced old brocade borders, ribbons, hooks and studs, recycling these into new designs.
You can see the results in examples like this trouser suit. The jacket features trapunto stitch and embroidered buttons, while the trousers use three different fabrics blocked with hand stitched contrast thread.
The important point of this for them is that the use of recycled materials should be seen as an exercise in creativity, something echoed by the Cambodian manufacturer we profile below.
They are also very conscious of the influence they could have, and the responsibility that comes with this. They take this responsibility very seriously, and talk with great passion about sustainable fashion. We had an opportunity recently to hear directly from them more about their views, which you can read in our separate feature on this inspirational team
RESPONSIBLE MANUFACTURING: TONLÉ
A Factory in Cambodia showing Others How to Achieve Zero Waste
Apparel manufacturers trying to reduce waste usually either try to use more of their raw materials to produce clothes, or look for ways using their remnants to make other clothes. Tonlé Designs, a young manufacturing company in Cambodia, is one of the few that does both, and in just two years has managed to bring down their waste levels to zero.
Its founder Rachel Faller had earlier in her career researched sustainability through fair trade, and her first company went on to become one of Cambodia’s largest fashion businesses, known for the positive way it treated its employees. From this experience Rachel went on to set up Tonlé.
One of the ways Tonlé achieves its impressive results is by scouring markets and other sources of castoffs from other factories, bringing them back to re-use rather than letting them reach landfills. This puts a strong creative challenge on their designers, who are clearly up to the task, producing a wide variety of elegant pieces.
Steps like this brought their waste down to around 3%, unheard of in an industry where factories are often known to produce 10 or 15 times as much waste.
However, Rachel went one step further, and pioneered a way of creating paper from the remaining fabric waste, as well as their own waste paper.
This final tweak allowed them to reach their goal of zero waste, and despite its relative youth, Tonlé now works with other factories looking to introduce zero waste strategies.
The company's founder is an engaging mix of passionate advocate of creating a better world and down to earth businesswoman. We'll be publishing a separate article shortly profiling Rachel and the Tonlé story.
CELEBRITIES WHO UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF THEIR FAME:
How a Pharrell Williams' Jeans Help Rid the Ocean of Plastic
Most people know of Pharrell Williams because of his toe-tapping hit “Happy” or his role on TV hit “The Voice”. Others will know of his work in Fashion, such as his collaborations with brands like Uniqlo, G-Star and Adidas.
What’s less well known is his commitment to environmental causes, and his work with both large and small companies in the fashion industry that goes well beyond just endorsement.
His work with Bionic Yarn is a great example of how he uses celebrity to achieve results usually beyond the reach of entrepreneurs or researchers with innovative solutions for sustainable fashion. Bionic Yarn brings together two issues.
Firstly, sustainable fashion needs the industry to adopt more sustainable materials. Secondly, our oceans are getting clogged with pollution, and plastic is one of the most insidious forms.
8 million tonnes of the stuff is dumped every year, killing sea life and getting into our own food chain.
It can be hard to relate to such numbers, so a scientist in the field has translated that for us into 5 grocery bags of plastic on each foot of coastline around the whole world!
The answer that Bionic Yarn founders Tyson Toussant and Tim Coombs developed was a new form of recycled fabric. One of its most important features is durability, one of the biggest barriers to wider use of recycled fabrics. The link to ocean pollution is that recycled part of their fabric is from waste plastic recovered from the ocean.
Pharrell Williams’ involvement came when Toussant and Coombs approach him to use their fabric in his own fashion designs. Instead, he asked if he could become Creative Director of the company, and has established collaborations with G-Star, Adidas, Timberland and the Gap.
Pharrell Williams speaks articulately and passionately about sustainability in the video below. It's well worth a look.
WHAT WOULD IT TAKE TO CHANGE THINGS?The Consumer-Powered Sustainable Fashion Cycle
Industry-wide change is usually by evolution rather than revolution, and we don’t see new Fashion Industry attitudes and practices in waste and sustainability being any different. Rather, we anticipate many smaller steps towards more sustainable individual behaviour will build up to a permanent, collective change.
Behind those steps we see consumers who will show they would and do buy clothes that cause less waste and pollution; we see their desire articulated and amplified by influential celebrities and designers; and we see that echoed by the media to the point where manufacturers and retailers take meaningful notice.
Once a few mainstream brands adopt sustainable practices seriously, even if only to get one up on their competition, it will be hard for sustainable fashion to not become a new norm. And if governments believe this is popular with voters, a little bit of legislative carrot or stick may well help push things along.
Here’s what we envisage these individual steps might look like, and who would play what roles.
Passively Powering the Fashion Industry
We might not feel it when in the shops or browsing online, but consumers power the fashion industry, because it’s our money that ultimately pays everyone involved.
It’s indisputable that if enough customers want something, at least some stores will start to sell it, and if it proves popular enough, it will work back through the system and become mainstream.
If we bought sustainable fashion the way we did flares in the 70s or shoulder pads in the 80s, there wouldn’t be a discussion left to have.
But we don’t exert that power by ourselves very often, and it’s near impossible for it to be led or created by consumers alone. Which brings us onto the next two parts of the chain.
Setting the Direction, Especially in the Short Term
Imagine a world in which sustainability really, really mattered to every influential fashion designer. In that world, most of us would be buying and wearing sustainable fashion, even if we didn’t really care about it. And the the industry would have figured out how to make and sell mass sustainable fashion profitably.
This might seem fanciful, but there are big and small examples of designer power not a million miles from this, especially away from fashion. For example, a few years ago digital designers introduced the concept of “flat” design, and within months this started to appear everywhere from websites to mobile phone screens to magazine illustrations. Putting to one side why they did this, the reality today is that anyone who uses a digital designer is likely to be at least asked to consider using a flat design. One of the biggest turning points in its adoption came when names like Apple and Adobe embraced the concept.
Coming back to Fashion, few designers are both successful and known for sustainability today. But as Abraham and Thakore and others have shown, there’s no reason why not. If you apply creative talent to sustainable design, the results can be stunning, and as wearable as anything else made today.
Would it be possible for designers to exert a strong influence on attitudes to sustainability? Any industry change needs costs to be absorbed and passed on, vested interests to be accommodated, and the human preference for status quo to be overcome.
If there’s one industry familiar with frequent and major change, it’s Fashion, which relies on each year being different to the last.
A unique feature of how the fashion industry drives relentless change is the role of our next group.
CELEBRITIES & MEDIA:
Amplifying the Message & Shaping Opinions
The Media today arguably shapes fashion trends rather than just reporting them, and plays a powerful role in creating the fashion aspirations and desires of consumers. In particular, the big fashion magazines are integral in paving the path the industry follows.
The fashion magazines and mainstream press report similar stories with each set of fashion shows, telling us what’s in, what’s out, what colours to wear and what shapes to avoid. If Sustainable Fashion were the equivalent of this season’s colour, it would be all around us and hard to avoid.
This part of the Media is also inextricably linked to the world of Celebrities. A strong positive of today’s celebrity culture is what happens when celebrities use their fame and influence for good causes. The almost universal rejection of fur in fashion is in part due to the efforts of PETA, which in turn owes much of its success to the high profile nature of its supporters, a veritable who’s who of entertainment and fashion.
But whereas PETA first made its name through media like TV, print and posters, awareness raising today is about the digital world, and social media in particular.
Facebook and Twitter have more reach than anything that has come before, where names like Kardashian, Beckham and Khan are more relevant to people than Obama, Cameron or Modi.
It would be entirely feasible for a coalition of celebrities to generate more public awareness of sustainable fashion than all the other efforts so far put together. Great work is being done already, but the potential hasn’t been tapped properly yet. We see hope in the way Pharrell Williams and others show how celebrity status can be used in a positive way, a way that’s not been done too often so far.
RETAILERS & MANUFACTURERS:
Where the Rubber Hits the Road
Next we come to the heavyweights of the fashion industry, the people that create and sell over a trillion dollars’ worth of clothes to us every year.
The most influential Retailers are the established high street brands, boutiques and online stores, who only stay in business by selling us what we want.
As some high profile casualties found last Christmas, if they guess wrongly what we want, or overestimate their influence on what we buy, they quickly suffer.
So in many ways, while they wield enormous power, they are also beholden to consumer pressure. Of course they have the huge advantage of lots of money to “help” us decide what to buy, and make most decisions based on what will be best for their profits and share prices. But once a few major retailers find that sustainable fashion sells and can be profitable, the problem will be close to solved – because this will inevitably turn into pressure on the manufacturers that they can’t ignore.
While there are many forces against changes in business, especially cost, when fashion retailers insist on something new, manufacturers deliver it. Or else they are replaced by others that do. A recent example in another context is the introduction of more stringent traceability in Europe meat produce, after consumers discovered they weren’t necessarily eating meat from the animals they thought they were!
Perhaps the most significant Fashion example was when new retailers like Mango and Zara created a chain of manufacturers that were able to turn around new lines in weeks, rather than the months that had previously been accepted. This gave them such an edge on their competition, that it quickly became something the whole industry learned to do.
Manufacturers like Tonlé are already able to make clothes at zero waste, and do so for retailers who continue to make good profits. So it can only be a matter of time before there are many more doing the same thing. How much time depends on how quickly the influence of consumers, celebrities and designers translates into retailers demanding that their suppliers produce sustainable fashion for the mainstream.
Moulding the Mindsets of Tomorrow's Industry
Finally, a quick look at the role of fashion and design schools. They have a unique opportunity to make sustainable fashion a natural way of thinking for tomorrow’s designers, manufacturers and retailers.
While a few brilliant individuals are self-taught or rely on natural talent, the majority of people in the industry – where the decisions, policies and priorities are set – are products of education institutions.
These institutions teach the fundamental skills of fashion, which are then refined through experience and hard graft in the industry. But they also have a role in the overall mindset students carry into the industry:
Fashion Schools influence many attitudes and assumptions their students take into industry, which go on to become an intrinsic part of society.
So if sustainability were a core part of the fashion and design syllabus, it would be at least discussed in mainstream design houses, manufacturers and retailers within a few years. Unfortunately, we don’t seem to be there yet, as sustainability is still treated as an add-on by most.
There are notable exceptions, such as the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which works closely with the University of the Arts, London including Central St Martins. But when we looked for others, we could only find reference to around 15 fashion courses around the world with a focus on sustainability. But we feel optimistic that as consumers, designers, celebrities and the media speak more strongly about this, the educators will respond positively.
Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London Based at the London College of Fashion, this is one of the small number of research centres of its kind in the world. It works with the 6 colleges that form the University of the Arts, London, including Central St Martins. Its projects are typically in collaboration with industry, and cover a wide range of topics pushing thinking in this area.
HOW DO I MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
10 Simple Ways To Create a Better Today & Tomorrow
Actions 1-5: Make a Difference Today Through Personal Contribution
At an individual level, we’re unlikely to be able to make a big impact on the fashion industry (unless we happen to run a high street retailer). However, we can affect the things within our control that contribute to fashion industry waste, and create our own drop in an ocean of changed attitudes.
This means being conscious of the sustainable aspects of the clothes we wear and buy, as well as the way we dispose of them. Some will take this to greater levels than others, but there’s a basic set of things within reach for any of us, regardless of how busy we are or our financial circumstances.
1. Try to not bin any clothes into black bags – they’ll end up in a landfill.
While you’re at it, it’s worth reminding others in your household that everything in black bags goes to landfill. It might not be new information, but it’s easy to forget in daily life.
2. Think about reusing your wardrobe when deciding what to wear & buy.
This isn't just about choosing what to wear, it's also something to consider when shopping for clothes. Try to guess roughly how many times you expect wear each item you’re considering, as part of deciding what to buy.
3. Add recycled & upcycled options to your window shopping.
This could include charity shops, nearly-new outlets, frock exchanges or designers who re-use and upcycle materials. We’re not suggesting you have to buy recycled or upcycled, but if you’re not looking at them, you never will. And if you do, you may be surprised by what’s available.
4. If you're about to throw away a piece of clothing, think about recycling it.
The most common ways to recycle clothes include:
- Selling them
- Giving them to family or friends who could use them
- Donating them for charity or fund-raising projects
- Dropping them into retailers that collect old clothes, such as Marks and Spencer's "Shwopping" scheme in the UK and The North Face's "Clothes the Loop" scheme in the US
- Putting them into local recycling bins (find your nearest from online recycling locators or your local authority)
5. If there are children in your household or you enjoy home projects, try these upcycling ideas for making things for yourself or your home
Actions 6-10: Speed Up a Better Tomorrow Through Personal Influence
It’s not uncommon to care about issues quietly, not wanting to come across as an activist, shying away from any risk of sounding strident or nagging.
But in doing so we close off opportunities to open other people’s eyes to what matters to us. We don’t have to expect them to agree, but they will only be able to respect or consider our views if they hear them. And the more people talking about Sustainable Fashion, the sooner it will become an industry reality.
So here are 5 more things to consider, this time to encourage others to think about what they could do. Spread these out so you can keep them up over time, creating your own steady drip of awareness raising.
6. Actively follow 1 Sustainable Fashion Group on Social Media
On your preferred social media, find a sustainable fashion group that you like the look of, and like/follow/add it.
Once you’ve done that, if you see interesting posts from them, share them with your friends/followers/circle etc
This will add a thread of Sustainable Fashion to the flow of digital content that washes over us daily, and also becomes something that others see you have an interest in through your profile and anything you share.
7. Make a little time regularly to read about Sustainable Fashion
Join the mailing list of one Sustainable Fashion group that appeals to you.
Set aside 10 minutes once a week to read articles emailed to you that you might normally skip over.
Forward anything you find interesting to a handful of friends or colleagues.
At minimum this will raise your own awareness or knowledge, and if you share in moderation, others are more likely to be do the same
8. Ask 3 retailers how you can buy Sustainable Fashion from them
Choose three of your favourite clothing retailers, and ask them by Facebook or Twitter to tell you how you can make sure you’re choosing sustainable products in their stores.
It’s the asking of the question that matters here, rather than how good the answer is.
If senior executives publish a contact email address, then it’s safe to assume they would also be interested in hearing views, so send them an email asking the same thing.
9. Ask 3 celebrities if they support Sustainable Fashion
Choose three of your favourite celebrities, and post a Twitter or Facebook message on their public page asking them if they support sustainable fashion
Also ask them to tell their fans, friends and the brands they wear that they think it's important.
Again, it's the asking that matters, especially if this strikes a chord with others.
As with all online activity, make sure you've got all your privacy settings set appropriately, but if you have any concerns about this type of thing, it's usually easy to find the email address for their office or agent instead.
10. Repeat periodically, and turn this into something you do regularly
When you’ve done as many of these as you feel comfortable, set yourself a repeating reminder to do them again as often as you’ll be able to keep it up.
Monthly often works well.
WHERE CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
Our Selection of Sustainable Fashion Resources
There are many groups that are active and successful, and also many sources of information. You don’t have to be an activist to care, and we pick some of most useful places for everyday people to find out more.
Fashion Brands & Retailers Which Emphasise Sustainable Fashion
Only 4 companies from the Fashion sector made it into the Corporate Knights 2016 list of the World's 100 Most Sustainable Companies. We've listed them below along with a few observations about their Sustainable Fashion efforts, along with 2 smaller brands showing different philosophies on minimising damage to the planet.
- BASERANGE A line of sustainable under and easy wear, based in Denmark and France.
- AURIA London-based swimear brand that uses recycled fabrics made from discarded fishing nets. But not at the cost of style: worn by celebrities, profiled by Vogue and on show at London Fashion Week.
- H&M The Swedish-origin global retailer works hard to make sustainability stylish, with language like "Looking good should do good too" and "making fashion sustainable and sustainability fashionable". Their sustainability work is labelled H&M Conscious, and is one of 4 topics on the About H&M section of their website.
- MARKS & SPENCER M&S has put their sustainability efforts into a programme called "Plan A", which covers their work to source responsibly, reduce waste and help communities.
- KERING Better known for the brands it manages than the parent company name itself, Kering is behind labels from Gucci, Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen. They have developed what they call their Environmental P&L which quantifies every part of their supply chain in terms of environmental impact.
- ADIDAS The German-based global giant emphasises that "the task ahead of us is a marathon, not a sprint", and doesn't hide the fact that they believe being a responsible business is about balancing shareholder interests with other factors, including the environment. Nevertheless, there seems to be plenty of activity to support the words, but given the sector they're in, they are likely targets for criticism for a long time to come.
Established Sustainable Fashion Communities & Information Sources
Google returns around a quarter of a million results for information resources on "Sustainable Fashion". We've picked five good places to start, each with a different approach to informing and engaging general readers. They range from articles through sustainable shopping to hands-on involvement in campaigns and petitions.
- THE ETHICAL CONSUMER A 20 year old co-operative that focuses on making global businesses more sustainable through consumer pressure. They provide a variety of tools and resources to help consumers make informed choices in their daily lives, particularly around shopping.
- GREENPEACE The most well-known activist group for sustainability, with a huge, well-organised global presence and local groups. Sustainable fashion is part of their global Detox campaign, which has been going since 2011. You can read more at their Detox My Fashion website page.
- THE GREEN GUIDE An online directory for "green living", and is the longest established guide of its kind in the UK, dating back to 1994.
- TREEHUGGER.COM A media outlet that aims to make sustainability mainstream for the public. It's part of a global media house called Narrative Media Group, which started in 2009 with the Mother Nature Network website, focused only on sustainability.
- ECO FASHION WORLD is all about shopping for sustainable fashion. It covers a wide range of brands and online stores, and includes smaller brands and names you may not come across elsewhere. There isn't too much information readily available about the organisation behind the website apart from profiles of the writers.
- THE GUARDIAN One of the world's most well-known daily newspapers, UK-based with a large global presence thanks to its digital activity. Sustainable fashion and sustainability generally are covered frequently and often in some depth.
Celebrities Who Seem to Care About Sustainable Fashion
It's too easy and common for those in the public eye to say what their advisers tell them will help with votes, sales, oscar nominations, sponsorship or whatever else matters most. However, within this there are those who give the impression sustainability is more than a cynical exercise.
We don't know any of the people listed below, so have no way of knowing if their words and actions on Sustainable Fashion are just more effective than others. But, purely subjectively, these are the ones who caught our eyes.
- Pharrell Williams
- Stella McCartney
- Gwyneth Paltrow
- Lily Cole
- Vivienne Westwood
- Emma Watson
- Michelle Obama
- Neil Young
- Livia Firth
Education Institutions Where Sustainability is an Integral Part of Fashion
Most of the Fashion Colleges, Schools and Universities we know of tend to either not mention Sustainable Fashion in their main course descriptions, or treat it as an "optional extra". There are a few exceptions which either talk about sustainability as a core part of their teaching, or have a separate group which covers it in great detail.
Courses change frequently, so here are 5 we hope are likely to continue their focus on Sustainable Fashion because of the long-standing and/or comprehensive record in the area. There are others, but unfortunately not that many.
- ESMOD Berlin International University of Art for Fashion emphasises the need for fashion designers to be aware of social and cultural impact of their work, and looks to train designers who are also critical thinkers. They run an a Masters Programme in Sustainability in Fashion.
- Centre for Sustainable Fashion, London Based at the London College of Fashion, this is one of the small number of research centres of its kind in the world. It works with the 6 colleges that form the University of the Arts, London, including Central St Martins. Its projects are typically in collaboration with industry, and cover a wide range of topics pushing thinking in this area.
- California College of Arts, San Francisco This is one of the few fashion schools we've seen where Sustainability in design is a mandatory as part of their fashion courses, listed as one of the major requirements for study.
- Fashion Institute of Technology, New York This school includes several courses to help their students learn how to be entrepreneurs who create sustainable businesses. They have an active Sustainability Council which arranges a number of activities across the institution. This includes the Hand of Fashion, a lecture series encouraging sustainable thinking in industry and education.
- School of Fashion at Parsons, New York Alma mater of well known American names including Donna Karan and Tom Ford, they incorporate sustainability into their fashion courses, part of their philosophy of integrating the fundamentals of design, craft and marketing with civic and environmental engagement.
That's all for now. We hope we've given you some food for thought, and more importantly that you'll consider taking up at least a few of our 10 suggestions.
We'd love to hear how you get on, and what you think about Sustainable Fashion - particularly if there are people, brands or stores you'd like us to write about.
Finally, if there's one Zayah World article we'd like you to share with others, it's this one - for obvious reasons.
Look out for more articles on Sustainable Fashion - sign up below if you'd like us to let you know as soon as they're out.