Blue Planet? Stacey Dooley’s documentary on fashion pollution? They’re both having an enormous impact on the way we shop and ‘conscious consumerism’.
In this article, Elizabeth Stiles, Fashion Consultant, gives us the low down on how you can make
First things first, I want to let you know that you don’t have to be 100% ethical and sustainable and eco-friendly and vegan – the list goes on, it’s just not realistic.
What is important is that everyone does a little bit. The initial exercise that you need to do is to understand your brand values and what you stand for.
Is your priority the planet? The people? The fabrics?
Pick one and do that really well before moving on to the next thing to tackle.
I’ve given some examples of ways that you can incorporate ethical and sustainable practises into your work as this is only going to become more and more important as time goes on.
You can never guarantee that 100% of your stock is going to be perfect, it might be that the colour isn’t quite right, a button is missing or the hem seam is loose. If this is the case you don’t want to put it on your website at risk of damaging your reputation.
However some brands that I work with put these garments (sometimes called seconds) onto third party marketplaces to sell at a discounted rate. You can be very open and transparent with what’s wrong with it / why it’s discounted and it can be great for people like students to still buy into your brand. If it’s just going to sit around and gather dust then it contributes to a zero waste mentality
By natural materials, I mean anything that has come from a plant or animal – eg. cotton, wool, silk, linen etc. Some examples of synthetic fibres are polyester, nylon and acrylic.
There are also fibres which are neither natural nor synthetic. For example, viscose is from a natural substance called cellulose but goes through a synthetic regeneration process.
Using these fibres within your brand is a great place to start as it means everything is biodegradable. I recently learnt that you could put a 100% cotton top into your compost bag and they would take it away (obviously cutting out any zips or buttons first). It’s just a shame that a lot of fabrics are now blended with synthetic fibres such as polyester and elastane meaning they aren’t biodegradable. They tend to be much more comfortable to wear too as they’re breathable and keep you cool in the warmer months.
Not all natural materials are good for the planet, and this is where the most confusion lies.
When it comes to cotton, organic cotton is significantly more eco-friendly than conventionally-grown cotton. Conventional cotton uses more pesticides than any other crop, accounting for 10% of world-wide pesticide use. Further, almost 90% of non-organic cotton is genetically modified (source), which contributes to the high levels of pesticides and poses further environmental damage. Other plant fibers such as linen and hemp use very little pesticides and are not genetically modified.
Even though polyester isn’t biodegradable, it is becoming more common to find recycled polyester in the mainstream market which does mean it’s sustainable (due to the fact the lifeline of the fibre has been extended!) I recently went to a fabric fair and they were showing recycled cotton too!
Once your products are taken care of and you want to take your sustainability levels up a notch, it’s time to start thinking about the surrounding areas and touch points of your brand. There are really exciting things happening in packaging whereby you’re considering recycled / biodegradable materials and zero waste.
Packaging is the first thing a customer sees when they order a product from you so if you’re marketing yourself as an ethical brand, it makes sense to ensure the first impression counts.
There are some really cool ideas out there at the moment using new materials such as corn and potato starch!
I understand eco – friendly packaging is more expensive but if you can explain to your customer why that is then I’m sure they will understand. If you’re not in a position to pay more for your packaging, see some ideas below:
You can even go one step further and consider eco – couriers who use electric cars! The changes you can make are endless and not only benefit your business and your customer but the planet too.
If you’re finding you need help growing your fashion brand, or perhaps you’re just starting out, find out more about how Elizabeth can help you here.
Elizabeth is a fashion brand consultant. It’s safe to say she knows the buying and supply process inside out; she now wants to share everything with you so that you’re set to create new collections or develop your product range armed with the knowledge to succeed.
Elizabeth works with covetable clothing brand owners, taking designs effortlessly from paper to production & guiding you step-by-step so that you can turn your creative clothing ideas into reality.