What is Eco-Fashion and How to Design It
Guest Blog By Tukatech
Climate change is as real as the comeback of baggy jeans, baby tees, and vintage clothing, but unlike most fashion trends, climate change is here to stay longer than any fashion trend if we don’t do anything about it.
Amidst the fashion and clothing industry’s art, glamour, and beauty, this industry has contributed to the climate crisis that we are experiencing. From the avant-garde haute couture pieces to the basic white t-shirt and jeans, the clothes we wear and purchase increase our carbon footprint and create an environmental impact more significant than your couture’s exorbitant price tags.
For fashion houses and designers, the challenge now is to create sustainable fashion that works and helps alleviate the ill effects of climate change not just on our environment, but also in terms of fashion production.
Environment Concerns in the Fashion Industry
To fully understand eco-fashion or sustainable fashion, let’s first look into the social and environmental implications of irresponsible fashion production, from the materials used in producing clothes to the labor that produces them.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme, annually, the fashion industry consumes 93 cubic meters of water, estimated to provide water for up to 5 million people. If that doesn’t alarm you, the fashion industry is also responsible for 10% of the annual carbon emissions–from the manufacturing process up to the shipping and packaging of the clothes.
Not to mention that textile waste accounts for 1/3 of all household waste, and where most of them end up in landfills.
As for labor, more often than not, it is found that most fashion items are produced in developing countries where unregulated labor practices are employed to meet the demand of big fashion brands, thus, resulting in dismal working conditions.
With these staggering statistics, it is clear that the fashion industry has transformed from being a mere form of self-expression to an alarming contributor to climate change.
What is Ethical and Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion is fashion that is done and made to be ecologically sustainable to reduce waste, lessen the carbon footprint of the fashion industry, and overall improve the lives of their consumers and employees by being on the side of the environment.
There are other means related to fashion wherein we can still contribute to the fight against climate change. Some ways to do so is to patronize the use of organic materials such as plant-based dyes or turn to vegan leather or organic approaches in fashion production, and to use natural fibers such as cotton and wool instead of synthetic fabrics or acid-treated materials.
Sustainable fashion is not necessarily to totally eliminate the use of all synthetic materials in fashion production but rather to reduce the amount used and increase the usage of natural fibers.
Overproduction and Overconsumption
The main enemy here is overproduction and overconsumption. Sustainable fashion combats these by promoting the use of ethically-made fashion and slow fashion wherein we can reduce our baselines for production and prevent over-consumption by buying only what we need and by reusing old clothes instead of getting rid of them to make way for new items. So yes, your thrifted jeans are a great contribution to the sustainable fashion movement.
The key here is the balance between our needs as designers, consumers, and society. We have to find a balance that works for us and be creative to make our own sustainable fashion statements.
The Conscious Collection
Nowadays, we see clothing lines or fashion brands that participate in circular fashion. Circular fashion, or what some brands refer to as “conscious collection”, is a fashion line wherein all the raw materials used in making the collections come from a closed cycle of organic and recycled materials, which means that if it is not biodegradable, to begin with, then the materials are recycled or upcycled into something that can still function as a fashion accessory without causing adverse environmental impact.
We also have slow fashion, which is in stark contrast to the fast-fashion RTW industry. In slow fashion, clothes are made and designed for longevity using sustainable materials and recycled textiles. This way, we can prolong the lifespan of fashion items and still look sustainably stylish.
How To Design Eco-Friendly Fashion
Eco-fashion, however, is in a way more meticulous, especially with the production process. Here, eco fashion ensures that the clothing items produced have little to no environmental repercussions, such as minimizing microfibers, which are major ocean pollutants, using natural dyes over toxic chemicals, and imploring sustainable sourcing of fabrics and organic materials. Sustainable practices also assure the safety of those working in the production line, ensuring that workers are not being exposed to toxic chemicals.
Ideally, clothing design should be sustainable from scratch. The designer must consider the ecological impact of their designs from start to finish, from the idea to the market stage, even how it will be distributed.
This is why in most sustainable fashion brands, you would notice that their clothing pieces are basic and timeless, assuring that the item can be used multiple times over and over again. But then again, this also doesn’t mean that these sustainable fashion brands are boxed into designing basics. There are still eco-friendly brands like US designer Stella McCartney who produces sexy and stylish clothing pieces.
Designers need not be limited by the idea of what sustainable fashion should look like since beauty is already in the eye of the beholder. We have to be conscious and responsible about our designs so that we can look good and feel good while doing so.
So how can these fashion brands keep their heads above water if they shouldn’t utilize a mass-production business model?
While many sustainable fashion labels design for the luxury market, there are also brands that produce affordable eco-friendly designs. The trick is in getting people to understand and appreciate what they’re buying. Eco-fashion designers must communicate how their products are made for consumers to get on board with their message and patronize their products.
Brands must be able to prove their value proposition through the quality of the products they make. By educating consumers, brands can convey that eco-fashion is not just about wearing clothes. It’s about doing our part in protecting our earth and society as a whole.
Agile Manufacturing Model
Another thing that fashion brands should consider if they’re keen on becoming sustainable and ethical is switching to an agile manufacturing model. In this respect, teams can quickly iterate and improve the design of a product as more information about their customers becomes available.
A strong relationship with your end-users will help identify what eco-friendly products they want more of, which also helps prioritize production goals for marketers and designers.
Companies that practice agile manufacturing have a competitive edge in the marketplace by producing goods more quickly and efficiently. By taking advantage of what is known as “agile supply chains,” sustainable fashion brands can speed up the design process, market research, production timelines, and supply chain management.
In tandem with switching from a one-size-fits-all model to an agile manufacturing platform, this eliminates significant time wasted on unsold inventory that traditional fashion companies still have to deal with.
Learn more about how Tukatech can support your business’s agile manufacturing by using the latest in fashion technology.
Fashion Revolution Week
Another important event for sustainable fashion is Fashion Revolution Week. Founded by Carry Somers in 2014, Fashion Revolution Week is a global movement that aims at raising awareness for sustainable fashion and conscientious consumerism.
“Greenwashing” is Not Sustainable Fashion
While the idea of sustainable fashion is already gaining ground among consumers, it is important to separate reputable brands from companies that are just trying to profit off of the fashion revolution movement. Sustainable fashion is not about making money. It’s about doing good for you, your community, and the planet.
That said, being aware of fashion firms that claim to be sustainable brands simply by developing environmentally-friendly lines but are produced in the same large quantities as conventional fashion brands should not be recognized as a sustainable and ethical fashion brand at all.
Support Sustainable and Ethical Fashion
In a nutshell, sustainable fashion encourages better business practices and more eco-friendly production techniques that highlight the importance of fair trade. If we are to support sustainable and ethical fashion, we must be conscious of what we buy and where it is coming from because, ultimately, social, ethical, and sustainable fashion is about people, the planet, and making a positive change in the world.