We’ve all heard the term “Sustainable Fashion” being thrown around; on social media, in the news and in brand advertising – but what does that even mean?
If we head to the dictionary sustainability is defined as “The quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance”(1) and Wikipedia tells us that “Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice.”(2)
But with fashion being a consumed good, having an after life, and the care and maintenance of it requiring water, electricity and cleaning products as well as producing microfibres, can fashion ever truly be sustainable? This is a question that many are working hard to answer with a confident yes.
There are so many issues and complexities within the industry that need work – from raw materials to garment cutting and production through to packaging, distribution and seasonal drops of new styles; its hard to address all of them together and create something we can define as being genuinely sustainable and environmentally friendly.
For us to get a better understanding of what we can currently define as sustainable we can look to Green Strategy’s definition of “More Sustainable Fashion”: “More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components.”(3)
This means we need to be looking at the whole life cycle of fashion. Some of this responsibility falls on the brand and manufacturer and some on the consumer.
So what does it mean for you as a consumer? How can you tell if something really is sustainable? We recommend looking at the transparency of the supply chain of the brands you are shopping with. Where do they manufacture? What sort of fabrics do they use? How far does the garment travel before it reaches you? Do they pay their staff a live-able wage? Do they do mass production or do they work in small batch production? When you bring your garment home how will it be cared for? hand wash, machine wash, dry clean only? Will it be a piece you can wear for many seasons to come, or will you be donating it next season? These are just some questions we can ask in our search for more sustainable fashion.
As brands we have a massive responsibility to you, our clients. We need to produce our garments in a way that honours people and the planet. We need to be conscious of how our design and fabric choices impact the environment from the beginning of the process until after its lifespan has been worn out. As well as how our business practices including shipping, packaging and marketing are leaving a footprint on the planet.
Now we don’t want to take all the fun out of fashion! After all it is an important part of our self expression, bringing us joy, excitement and often something to look forward to. Personal style is so important, and we definitely aren’t telling people to ditch their love of fine fabrics and glamorous style! You don’t need to be wearing an unwashed hessian sack to be making environmentally friendly fashion choices (in fact we don’t recommend this – hessian is mighty uncomfortable! Don’t ask us how we know!).
There are plenty of amazing designers out there doing great things in the world of sustainable fashion. From upcycling clothing into new life, recycling old fabrics into new ones and reducing waste in the design phase by using creative cutting techniques there is so much positive movement in the way we are approaching the fashion industry with the environment in the forefronts of our mind. The key is to be supporting those designers when and where we can so that the movement can become more far reaching and impact future trend forecasts. What we buy tells manufacturers what we want to see more of. So the question really is what sort of future are your choices leading to?
We here at Raspberries & Soda are playing our part by sourcing pre-loved, reclaimed, vintage and short end fabrics to create designs that are pattern-made and cut with low or no fabric wastage. We take great pride in creating quality garments that will last through the seasons. We also offer mending and alteration services and take bookings for custom designed garments. If you are interested in any of our services, please pop us a message in the contact form on our FAQ page and we will be in touch with you soon.