The importance of sustainability and the challenges sustainable fashion brands deal with
There are numerous ways to define sustainability. Whether you look at it from the environmental, economic, or social view, the truth is that it is all about maintaining balance and fairness between the three.
As a fashion brand, creating sustainable clothing is definitely the biggest challenge we face. We aim to represent an ethical approach, putting environmental and human welfare first.
But why do we care about sustainable and ethical behaviour? And why should other fashion brands care too? Keep reading to learn more about our thoughts on the matter.
The damaging impact of wastefulness
We cannot talk about sustainability without mentioning wastefulness, as the whole problem starts with reckless waste production. However, the concept of waste is more nuanced than you would think at first.
Almost all businesses, especially fashion brands generate waste of different kinds: waste of resources, waste of health, or waste of environmental stability.
Let’s take a quick look at the most common types of waste businesses generate:
- Environmental pollution: different chemicals, and hazardous materials used in production, as well as greenhouse emissions, contribute to the pollution of land, water, and air
- Plastic pollution and non-recyclable waste: a large amount of non recyclable waste ends up in landfills which not only damages the environment but adds extra costs and issues for local governments and people to deal with
- Leftover resources: unusable materials from production are regularly thrown out
- Overproduction: unsold inventory is a common example of wastefulness that could be easily avoided
- Thrown out/disposed products: many products end up in waste due to low quality, boredom, or the quick arrival of the newest model or collection
- Waste of People: unfortunately, the problem of overworked and underpaid employees is still a burning issue, as people are often treated unethically and exposed to different threats and health risks
As you can see from the list above, wastefulness has both internal and external impacts. It not only generates issues and costs that affect quality, productivity, and continuity within a business, but it also generates issues and costs governments need to deal with, not to mention the harmful and sometimes irreversible impact it has on the environment.
How the fashion industry contributes to the waste issue
The majority of fashion brands promote the fast consumer model and due to this approach consumerism is getting out of control. These brands constantly update their apparel, as collections keep rolling in and out one after another.
The combination of low prices and the large variety of options implements a constant drive for making new purchases.
Buy more, buy new to look good, to feel better, to keep up. The message is extremely harmful on so many levels.
Not only the low price but low quality contributes to the waste pollution too. A massive amount of clothes is getting thrown out as they are poorly made from cheap quality material. Clothes end up in waste because they are not durable or because people simply get bored of them and choose to buy new ones from the latest collection.
The impact of overconsumption of low-priced clothes can be observed throughout the whole production.
Due to the high demand, suppliers are forced to cut corners in their manufacturing process. They compromise labor wages, working conditions, and put quantity over quality. More and more suppliers switch to using dangerous chemicals and unsustainable raw materials to achieve the cost margins required by fashion companies to produce low-cost products.
And at the end of the chain, there is the customer chasing the latest trendy look with minimal love and appreciation for the final product or the way it was made.
Sustainability within the fashion industry
Luckily, hope’s not lost yet.
For almost all waste issues mentioned above, there is a sustainable solution we can switch to.
Undoubtedly, it requires more thoughtfulness, different strategy and a whole other attitude towards production and innovation. One that is ethical and grateful for the gifts of nature.
A sustainable and ethical approach can transform the fashion industry and create a better alternative for everyone involved from manufacturer to customer.
Here’s what should be avoided and achieved instead:
- To avoid apparel ending up in landfills due to lack of durability or desire, we should aspire to create clothing pieces that are not only high-quality but also reusable and timeless. The goal is to create apparel the customer falls in love with and wishes to use it for years to come.
- To avoid generating waste during production, we should aspire to have closed-loop production cycles by reducing leftover materials or finding creative ways to reuse them. To achieve that, we should produce based on demand to avoid overproduction.
- We should always put the environment first and strive to use only sustainably produced raw materials that have low to 0 impacts on the environment.
- To stop bad employee conditions and unfairness, we should only partner with suppliers and producers who share our view on ethical workforce treatment and fair wages. Needless to say, we should always treat our employees and everyone down the chain with respect and fairness.
So what exactly makes a product sustainable?
To call a clothing piece sustainable, some challenges need to be overcome from both part of the creator and the consumer:
- The business should aspire to procure raw materials and opt for services that keep the carbon footprint low (resourcing, transport, production, packaging, etc.)
- The raw materials should only be sourced from suppliers who manufacture sustainably or recycle materials and/or waste
- Avoid mass production to reduce waste and environmental impacts
- Creating high-quality clothes that are durable
- Designing versatile clothes that are timeless
- Appreciation for the sustainably made clothing piece and desire to wear it for a long time
Final thoughts – What sustainability means to us?
We founded Etishe with the purpose to create ethical and sustainable clothing of premium quality. In all parts of production, from resourcing the materials to packaging the finished product, we do our best to embody our love for fashion and care for the environment without compromising on sustainability and fairness.
To summarise, these are the core values and aspirations that lead us on our journey to be an ethical and fully sustainable fashion brand:
- We only use GOTS-certified fabrics and biodegradable materials, all ethically sourced and produced.
- All accessories from buttons to belt buckles are plastic-free and handmade.
- We create our apparel in our small workshop. As most products are manufactured after an order is placed, we are able to reduce our carbon footprint and generate less waste.
- We seek services from local artisans and collaborators that share our view on sustainability.
- We pay fair wages to everyone within the supply chain and ensure a modern, healthy working environment for our employees.
- Our packaging is 100% recyclable and compostable, locally produced with a clean air policy, and using eco-friendly ink.
Last, but not least, we thrive to be better. We are continuously brainstorming, searching for new opportunities and ways to be more sustainable. Our goal is to have 100% green manufacturing in the nearest future, running only on renewable energy.
To us, sustainability means finding a way to live our life to the fullest in the present without compromising the life of future generations and the welfare of the environment. What does it mean to you?