The fashion industry is undergoing a coveted revolution right now. In recent years, many of the top players in the sector found themselves in the negative limelight for their unethical business practices – from exploiting the ecological balance to underpaying hard-working employees.
Fortunately, consumers were quick to respond in a globally unified echo – unsustainable businesses, no more!
And that led to the rise of some trendy buzzwords that you might have heard of – sustainable fashion, ethics-driven branding, and so on.
More than just keywords, these are the values that guide the top modern-day fashion brands, as they should.
But many consumers still have a hard time determining which fashion brand is completely sustainable, and which one is operating under a garb while still favoring exploitative business models.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the tell-tale signs of a sustainable fashion company.
What is a Sustainable Fashion Brand?
Sustainable fashion is all about making conscious choices that reduce and minimize the harmful impact of the fashion industry on the environment and society.
In the words of a fashion connoisseur and an official spokesperson from Jane Marvel, “A sustainable fashion brand is any clothing company that prioritizes ethical and environmentally-friendly practices throughout its entire production process – right from sourcing the materials to manufacturing and distribution.”
The blog further details that sustainable fashion transcends beyond the basic definition of simply procuring products using green processes. Instead, the ethical scope of sustainability covers fair treatment of employees, good working conditions, disbursement of proportionate wages, and so on.
When looking at a clothing company, there are many checkmarks that need to be filled – where are the clothes being produced? Who are the workers outsourced for the job? All of these questions paint a vivid image of the company in question.
Based on that, we can finally come to a justified conclusion.
8 Ways to Tell if a Fashion Brand is Sustainable
Trying to figure out if the brand you’re patronizing is, indeed, sustainable? Here’s a list of considerations that you need to have:
1. Check the Materials
The biggest tell of any clothing company – the materials they use. Most sustainable brands should use recyclable and renewable materials like silk, hemp, linen, and Tencel. Some exclusive brands go as far as to craft clothing masterpieces using vintage, waste, and upcycled fabrics.
Even organic cotton can promote sustainable fashion, as they are likely to biodegrade quickly. But it does tend to consume a lot of water, so there’s some grey area there.
After the material, what else is a critical component of any fast-fashion product? The plethora of colors that you see splashed on your favorite outfits.
That is made possible due to dyes. For sustainability, dyes should be natural. Textile dyes are highly toxic to the environment and can pollute waterways beyond imagination.
Another parting tip – if a company is claiming to be sustainable because they use recycled plastic bottles as materials, run the other way! This ‘sustainable’ material is highly prone to causing microparticle pollution, which is extremely bad for the environment.
2. Look for Relevant Certifications
Any fashion brand can claim to be a sustainable one, even if they do have some problematic practices enlisted in their operational framework.
So, taking the company’s word for it is not the answer. So, what is?
Fortunately, there’s a workaround. You cannot believe the company, but you can believe the individual entities who provide certifications for the same!
A lot of third-party entities, including the likes of PETA and B Corp, issue certifications to verify that the brand in question is, indeed, sustainable.
You can look for these certifications on any fashion brand’s website. You will have to navigate through their “About Us” or “Achievements & Accomplishments” web pages to get the necessary information.
3. Leather is Never Okay!
There was a time when leather jackets and boots were the lifeblood of the fashion industry. But that is no longer the same.
Sure, they still look insanely cool. But after knowing the backstory of how these products are made, people often steer clear of them.
Image source: insider.com
Unless you are wearing leather using recycled vehicle parts or from other sources, it’s not worth it.
Large rainforests are being cleared to raise cattle, the primary source for procuring leather. The process of dying and tanning cow skin also consumes a lot of energy and resources.
Based on all the above reasons, leather is never sustainable.
4. Consult Expert Websites
Contrary to popular belief, the internet can be a very helpful place, if only you know the right places to look!
There are many websites that use data-driven insights and compare them against several ethical and environmental criteria to determine if a fashion brand is sustainable.
Some of these websites even generate reports showing how much a brand has improved in this regard in recent years.
Many conscious consumers spend hours on these websites to determine which fashion brand is worthy of their patronage.
5. Consult the Brand Values and Company Objectives
Every company and every brand has a distinct set of objectives and goals that it needs to accomplish during its span. These are called intrinsic brand values.
In most cases, all the marketing campaigns, production & post-production processes, and even procurement strategies are centered around these missions.
A brand that prides itself on being environmentally conscious and completely green, for example, will never go for unsustainable practices – after all, it’s just not their USP.
Go to any fashion brand’s homepage and learn about their stories. Check out their mottos and see what they aim to accomplish.
If you come across a lot of buzzwords like sustainable and ethical, it’s probably looking good. But this should not be the only criterion. Make sure that you verify your findings with the other pointers that we have given above.
6. Ethical Labor Practices
So many people concentrate on the environmental aspect of sustainability that they completely omit the importance of ethically-motivated businesses.
Without putting a name to anything, several businesses in recent years have come under fire for hiring and exploiting underage and underpaid workers to do their bidding in the production phase. The completed products are then sold at extravagant prices in first-world countries after putting the brand tag on them.
This is the worst kind of unsustainable practice as it centers on taking advantage of the poor with no access to a better life.
A sustainable brand should be completely and irrevocably transparent about its employment strategies and labor practices.
They should ensure that all the workers are being paid fair wages, have access to safe working conditions, and are subject to workers’ rights throughout the supply chain.
7. Focus on Durability
Can you call a brand sustainable if its products are not known for their durability and longevity? Absolutely not!
The whole point of sustainable fashion is to sustain anything for a longer period. When you purchase a clothing item from such a company, you shouldn’t have to waste any more time, energy, and resources into getting a replacement for quite a while.
In other words, sustainable fashion brands produce durable products. This ensures that exploitative and damaging fast-fashion trends are kept in check and that the clothing industry does not overrule the ecological balance of the world.
8. Community Involvement
Sustainable brands are often community-oriented. They participate in various programs and environmental initiatives for the betterment of the society.
You can also expect large sustainable brands to donate a significant portion of their profits to causes that they support.
All of this information is available in a transparent manner on internet platforms. You can easily find out which sustainable fashion brand is actually making tangible contributions to make this world a better place.
Sustainable fashion is the present and the future of the industry. Consumers have grown conscious about their purchasing decisions and patronize only the brands they deem most worthy.
In the end, the environment and the society always needs to be prioritized.