Here’s the thing my darlings: I can rave about everyone needing to switch off from fast fashion and instead invest in sustainable brands. But if none of you know how to decipher the amount of greenwashing and actual bullshit that a lot of big brands are engaging in, it’s all for nothing. So, I decided to write a little guide on how to recognize sustainable fashion brands.
The latest example of hard core greenwashing was Billie Eilish collaborating with H&M to bring out a “sustainable” collection. You can’t get much closer to actual Nazi propaganda than that bullshit.
I listed some of my favourite sustainable brands on this post last week, so do check it out if your aim is to leave fast fashion behind like me.
But, without further ado, let’s dive right in to what, why and how to recognize sustainable fashion brands!
How To Recognize Sustainable Fashion Brands From The Rubble?
What makes a fashion brand sustainable?
Let’s first cover the basics, because I’m sure there are some of you who do not know what sustainable fashion means in reality and why it matters so much. Because it does!
To recognize a sustainable fashion brand, the first things to look at are their fabrics. If a brand is using non-ecological fabrics (such as polyester, which is the main swimsuit fabric), it can’t be sustainable even if all the other sustainability boxes get ticked.
Eco-friendly fabrics are the starting point of everything! Let’s look at the aforementioned polyester and what manufacturing such a fabric requires (polyester doesn’t exist, it must be synthetically manufactured):
- polyester is made by using a chemical reaction between coal, petroleum (70 billion barrels of oil per year), water (17 liters/1kg) and air
- the chemicals used to produce polyester are harmful for humans and the environment
- polyester takes 200 years to decompose, and even then the toxic chemicals are left ruining the environment.
This sort of use of non-renewable resources, that are also harmful for people and the environment, is as unsustainable as can be. Whereas sustainable brands use fabrics that don’t require chemical treatment or synthetic manufacturing, and that have a minimal environmental impact.
The environmental impact is considered in all operations in sustainable brands. PIHKA collection is a brilliant example of this: their fabric manufacturers create the energy used by the factory themselves, and all PIHKA bags are handcrafted. Waste is kept to minimum by using the leftover pieces of fabric to make jewellery and other small products.
The environmental impact can also be considered by a brand by providing workers with refillable lunch dishes instead of disposable dishes, and by also providing them with public transport tickets or bicycles.
One more important factor, that helps you to recognize sustainable fashion brands, are the brand’s employee rights. Are there any? In fast fashion factories there literally are none, but even in some Western countries things are quite grim:
Something like denying an employee health care or annual holidays violates human rights. And that makes a brand unsustainable. Here are some employee rights that too many tend to take for granted, and which make a brand unsustainable when ignored:
- Workers receive fair wages, and men and women are paid equally.
- Workers are provided with safe and healthy working conditions.
- Workers have free speech and can voice their opinions.
- Workers are protected from prejudice, discrimination, and abuse, including sexism, racism, sexual harassment, and more.
- Workers have access to healthcare and time off.
- Workers have access to financial assistance to help them gain independence and escape poverty.
Why is this important?
Switching to sustainable fashion is of paramount importance when it comes to our own, as well as others’, health and well-being. When the environment suffers, we suffer.
Fast fashion brands use crops for growing cotton rather than food, which has already resulted in famine in many developing countries relying on these factories. Water supply is affected, even destroyed, because creating just one fast fashion T-shirt takes 2 700 liters of water… In the meanwhile countries suffer from drought.
People are literally dying of hunger just so that we rich Westerners can get another 5€ T-shirt, which we toss after couple wears. We do not value the work and resources that were used to produce it. And that’s WRONG!
Eventually the environmental impact of the pollution that fast fashion creates will reach us rich bitches as well: our food supply is affected, the air we breathe is affected, and the seas we swim in and get our food from become toxic. Everything around us is affected when our environment is affected. We need to remember this!
And talking about toxins, the amount of toxic chemicals that are used to produce the fabrics required by fast fashion brands is palpable. And we wear those toxic chemicals all day every day! No wonder the amount of skin-related problems is increasing…
So, sustainable fashion isn’t just about being ecological, it’s about staying healthy.
With all of this knowledge in your possession now, I’d like you to have a minute to think do you really want to dress yourself, or the people you love, in garments that have possibly resulted in someone’s untimely death, caused serious injury, or resulted in exhausting a village’s water supply for good?
For those who answered ‘yes’ (because there are such people), I’d like to ask whether you’re willing to risk your own health wearing dangerous chemicals all day every day, and by supporting these destructive companies ensure that your children will struggle in the future?
Because that is the reality of our future if we keep on going like this!
How to recognize a sustainable brand?
1. Check the materials the brand uses
As we discussed before, you recognize sustainable fashion brands easily just by checking what fabrics they use. Actual sustainable brands use natural materials, they do not use toxic dies, and no fabric is synthetically manufactured.
These are the fabric types to look for in a sustainable garment:
- Tencel (a cotton-like fabric made out of cellulose),
- lyocell (another cellulose-based fabric)
- hemp or
Surprised that cotton isn’t on the list? Here’s why: even though organic cotton is considered a sustainable fabric, producing cotton, organic or not, takes a lot of land and water. Land that should instead be used for growing crops, not cotton. Fact is, that sustainably producing cotton clothes on the scale that fast fashion brands do, is impossible.
2. Find out where the brand manufactures their clothes
Sustainable brands are transparent. If you’re unsure whether a brand is sustainable or not, check whether their website has information on where their clothes come from. If not, it’s just another greenwasher.
Both of the brands I’ve mentioned in this post, PIHKA collection and People Tree, have all information available to you on where their fabrics come from and how their products are created. You can even see who makes their clothes.
This is information that fast fashion companies pay to keep out of your knowledge, because if you saw what they’re hiding, you’d never want to hear the brand’s name again.
You can almost always trust that sustainable products manufactured in Europe are actually sustainable. Anything that is locally produced is easy to make sure of, so prefer clothes that were manufactured close by.
3. Message the brand and ask them yourself
Easy, right? Well, it is IF the brand actually is legit. Try emailing fast fashion brands, just try. Most often you can’t even find a contact form, let alone an email address on their website. Pretty telling that they don’t want any contact with their customers.
Whereas it’s easy to recognize sustainable fashion brands from the fact that they are eager to know their customers. For example, Voglia wants you to get involved with designing their next collections by providing you with contact forms for feedback AND for contacting the actual CEO.
I’ve emailed multiple sustainable brands, and I can tell you that they do get back to you. I’ve even interviewed a sustainable cosmetics brand because I wanted to learn more about ecological cosmetics.
4. Look for the company’s “Impact Report”
What’s your favourite brand to buy clothes from? Google for their Impact Report. If no results of that brand’s Impact Report come up, it’s time to ditch that brand. As an example I googled ‘River Island Impact Report‘ and, unsurprisingly, nothing came up.
Impact Report is “a communication strategy used to convey the change created by an organization or activity, and how that change was created.” So, the report’s purpose is to explain, for example, how a certain fashion collection was achieved, how it affected people creating it, and be transparent about any negative impacts generated, or areas of improvement.
A great example of how the Impact Report works is People Tree‘s Social Review, which they conduct every 2 years. In it they explain everything from how they collected data, why it was collected and what they discovered from it.
If you’re looking to shop more sustainable from now on, tune in on the Outlandish Shop every now and then, because I will be updating new sustainable brands there as I find them.
Is sustainability in fashion important to you? Why / Why not? There are no wrong answers, so let’s discuss my lovelies!♥
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