University of Fashion Blog

Posts Tagged: "Sustainability"

IS RENTING CLOTHING REALLY BETTER FOR THE ENVIRONMENT?

Renting a pair of denim pants. (Photo Credit: wabeno/iStock, cumhurkaplan/iStock)

After decades of scientists and environmentalists warning us of the affects of global warming, we are sadly starting to see the result of our inaction. In North America, the northwestern region is literally on fire as Oregon and parts of California are battling blazing flames that are contributed to record breaking heat waves and extreme drought. This past week devastating floods hit West Germany and over 150 people have died due to the rapid flooding. And in many countries, June hit record high temperatures, which is a great cause of concern as the arctic is slowly melting and sea levels are rising. So, as governments from around the world continue to try and find solutions, such as electric cars and recycling programs, we can all try to do our part.

The fashion industry is a big contributor to global warming A report by the World Economic Forum this year indicated that our industry generates 5 percent of global emissions. It has taken decades to convince its major industry players to look for ways to go greener by using sustainable materials. But the high cost of using these types of fabrics and limitations on how to scale production presented challenges. So, in 2009, Rent The Runway was born, a concept that seemed like the perfect answer for fashionistas who wanted to replenish their wardrobes daily but still wanted to be environmentally responsible. Soon, renting designer looks became the craze and rental platforms were popping up around the world. Brands got in the act too, by launching their own rental services. According to GlobalData, the clothing rental business is predicted to be worth nearly $3.2 billion by 2029, and is being hyped as a possible solution to fashion’s environmental crisis. Not so fast…

An image of Rent The Runway. (Photo Credit: Getty Images for Rent the Runway)

Some in the industry believe that by renting clothes they were doing something positive for the environment; brands were creating less and therefore, less waste was being produced. But today, research has found that renting clothes could actually be worse for the environment. According to a scientific study recently released by Lahti University of Technology (LUT) in Finland, which was published in the scientific journal Environmental Research Letters and reported on in The Guardian, renting clothes produces higher greenhouse gas emissions generated by shipping items back and forth from consumers to warehouses. And let’s not forget about the constant dry cleaning of the clothing.  The study found that in terms of environmental impact, the fashion rental process could actually be worse than buying and throwing away new pieces of clothing.

According to the Finnish study, researchers analyzed the environmental impact of five different scenarios for textile “ownership” and “end-of-life,” including clothing rental, recycling, re-selling, or wearing items for more or less time before throwing them away. This was something that had not previously been considered.

The results were surprising. Renting clothes was found to have the highest climate impact (specifically higher greenhouse gas emissions). Researchers concluded that this could be even worse than throwing out clothes after one wear. These findings are especially shocking as many of these fashion rental services present themselves as an eco-conscious alternative to conventional shopping.

According to research, renting clothes was found to have higher climate impact compared to throwing them away. (Photo Credit: Angela Bailey/Unsplash)

Specifically, the study implies that the numerous round trips between renters and warehouses, and therefore the substantial amount of transportation involved, play a key role in driving up greenhouse gas emissions. Correspondingly, the excessive dry cleaning of these rented articles of clothing also have a significant impact on the environment.

Ultimately, fashion rental companies would have to transform their logistics to make their services eco-friendlier. If they can achieve this, then the environmental impact of renting apparel would be on par with clothing resale, although this does not appear to be the most eco-friendly option either, according to the findings in the Finnish study. However, rather than trying to solve fashion’s environmental crisis, renting should be recategorized. “We should think of renting like second-hand shopping,” said Dana Thomas, author of Fashionopolis: The Price of Fast Fashion and the Future of Clothes. “It’s not something we do all the time, instead of buying our clothes and swapping out outfits nonstop, but on occasion, when the need arises, like proms or weddings.”

This new study also found many fashion rental brands misuse the phrase “circular economy” (the system of sharing, leasing, reusing, repairing, refurbishing and recycling existing materials and products as long as possible), as a form of greenwashing. “No executive wants to overhaul their business, and that’s what ‘going green’ will require, not tweaks but an entire overhaul,” said Thomas. “They are too focused on short-term gains to invest in long-term benefits. Only regulation will solve that problem. No company, in any industry, will volunteer to take a loss for the sake of the planet. They’ll do so when it’s the law. The biggest obstacle is greed.”

The Recycling Logo. (Photo Credit: Elle Magazine)

In the end, the Finnish researchers concluded that the greatest solution is to purchase fewer articles of clothing and to wear them as much as possible before reselling or donating them. And. according to Dana Thomas, “You want to be sustainable? Buy less, buy better.”

So tell us, as an aspiring designer, how are you reducing your carbon footprint to become a more sustainable brand?

Introducing our ITAA Sustainability Design Winner Lynda Xepoleas

Lynda Xepoleas of Cornell University – winner of the UoF/Alvanon/Motif Sustainability Award

The University of Fashion, in partnership with the Alvanon dress forms and MOTIF, were proud sponsors of this year’s Sustainability Award presented at the annual International Textiles & Apparel Association (ITAA) conference Nov 16th – 18th.  If you are unfamiliar with the ITAA, they are a professional, educational association composed of scholars, educators, and students in the textile, apparel, and merchandising disciplines in higher education. The association dates back to 1935, when the United States Office of Education cooperated with institutions of higher learning in studying the curricula. As a result of these curricula studies, conferences of textile and clothing professors have been held annually in the U.S. since 1944.

The recipient of this year’s Sustainability Award is Lynda Xepoleas, a Ph D candidate in the Fiber Science and Apparel Design Department at Cornell University, for her sustainable dress design entitled “Collision”. The Sustainability Design Award is a $3279 value and includes: 1) a one-year subscription to the complete catalog of Alvanon’s virtual AlvaForms via the Alvanon Body Platform, https://abp.alvanon.com/ ($2500 value).  2.) an all-access pass to the entire library of professional apparel courses on MOTIF https://motif.com ($590 value), and 3.) a one-year full access subscription to over 500 fashion design and business education videos via University of Fashion, https://www.universityoffashion.com ($189 value).

Lynda Xepoleas “Collision” sustainable dress design front view. (Photo credit: Lynda Xepoleas)

Lynda Xepoleas “Collision” sustainable dress design detail. (Photo credit: Lynda Xepoleas)

Lynda Xepoleas “Collision” sustainable dress design back view (Photo credit: Lynda Xepoleas)

Lynda’s “Collision” dress design was borne out of an opportunity where she witnessed the ecological footprint of the fashion industry firsthand while visiting several manufacturing facilities in different regions of India. Lynda was surprised by the amount of textile waste created during the cutting process. This experience not only led her to undertake upcycled design scholarship using cut-offs (production scraps), but also to think about how sustainable practices could be incorporated within the cutting and manufacturing of mass-produced apparel.

Currently, sustainable fashion is quite exclusive and unattainable for most individuals who can’t afford to spend $100 on a t-shirt. Therefore, Lynda hopes to work with several manufacturing facilities in India to identify ways whereby they can work with local vendors to transform production scraps into products for the domestic market. For Lynda, this really embodies the nonlinear nature of the upcycle design process, which she feels often requires us to reshape and rethink how we approach apparel design. This is also something that is reflected in her Collision dress design, which she attempted to capture visually, by positioning each cut-off at a different angle to create the illusion of intersecting diagonal and vertical lines.

Like many of us who chose fashion as a career, Lynda has had quite a unique and interesting past. In her own words:

“Initially, fashion served as another creative outlet that allowed me to express myself in ways that differed from my association as a high-performance athlete and competitive tennis player. From the ages of 10-18 I trained 6 hours a day and attended school online. My decision to attend school online was based on the fact that I started to play tennis quite late. Most competitive tennis players start at the age of 4 or 5. I started around the age of 8, so I had a lot of catching up to do. In the end this paid off, I was one of the top ranked tennis players in the United States for my age and was sponsored by Wilson for a couple of years. The transition from high school to college was actually quite easy for me since I was already in charge of staying on top of all my coursework and assignments. A typical day for me would consist of two, three-hour training sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon with a one-hour lunch break in between. Afterwards, I would do about three hours worth of schoolwork every night. I didn’t have the chance to attend a school dance or anything like that, but I was able to travel the country and meet people from all over the world. I have trained with coaches and hitting partners from countries like Egypt, Uganda, France, England, Bulgaria, New Zealand, Australia, China, Japan, Thailand, Ecuador, Venezuela, and Bolivia. 

“In my spare time, I would often make my own clothing to wear on and off the court. When faced with the decision to play on the professional tour or attend college, I decided to pursue a career in the field of fashion. I attended Purdue University on a full athletic scholarship and earned my B.S. in Apparel Design. Even though I enjoyed designing apparel, I was also interested in exploring the two-dimensional representation of fashion in art and photography. I decided to pursue a M.A. in Art History at Arizona State University. This experience allowed me to investigate the representation of fashion in 1930s fashion photography for my M.A. thesis.”  

“As a Ph.D. student in the Fiber Science and Apparel Design Department at Cornell, I have begun to bring together my interests in apparel design and art history. My dissertation examines the ways in which several museum collections in New York City informed the design of early twentieth-century American fashion and simultaneously contributed to the normalization of cultural appropriation in the American fashion industry.”

Lynda Xepoleas “Collision” sustainable dress design side view (Photo credit: Lynda Xepoleas)

As part of her Collision project, Lynda utilized Optitex fashion design software and found it to be quite user-friendly compared to other systems that she had used before. In the future, Lynda also plans to use CLO3D to identify additional methods for upcycling production scraps, since much of her design scholarship seeks to use technology as a means of identifying sustainable solutions for the design and manufacture of apparel.

Upon receiving her Ph.D. in Apparel Design, Lynda hopes to become an Assistant Professor in the field of fashion studies or apparel design. While conducting research for her dissertation, she discovered that the very practices and systems which have informed the development of fashion education in the United States, continue to perpetuate Western ideals related to beauty, race, sexuality, gender, and indigeneity. Her objective therefore is to create more inclusive teaching practices in hopes of destabilizing the exclusive foundation of fashion education.

On behalf of Alvanon, Motif and University of Fashion, we wish Lynda all the best for a successful and productive career in fashion!

 

AT LAST! OUR ONCE-A-YEAR HOLIDAY PROMO IS HERE!

Having trouble finding the right gift for that fashionista in your life? Well, search no more, we’ve got you covered. More than 500 lessons to learn from in 13 different disciplines like drawing, sewing, draping, patternmaking, menswear, childrenswear, knits, product development, accessories, CAD art & CAD patternmaking, fashion business and fashion lectures in color theory, trend forecasting fashion history, influencer marketing, sustainable design and much, much more!

We only offer our book & video subscription discounts ONCE A YEAR so get going!

Offers expire 12/31/20

$40 off our Yearly subscription (was 189 now $149)

https://www.universityoffashion.com/holiday-offer/ Promo Code: Learn1

$5 off the first month of our Monthly subscription (was $19.95 now $14.95) https://www.universityoffashion.com/holiday-offer/ Promo Code: Learn2

35% off any of our books: Beginner Techniques: Draping or Pattern Making or Sewing

https://www.universityoffashion.com/3-book-series-ad-lkp-discount/ Promo code: Uof35

(Graphic courtesy Mark Higden: @mark_higden – www.markhigden.com)

INTRODUCING OUR NEW INSTRUCTOR: NOOR BCHARA Upcycle Design School

Noor Bchara – Founder Upcycle Design School – upcycledesignschool.com (Photo credit: Michael Cooper @mcoopercreative)

For years, the fashion industry insisted that upcycling would never be able to scale to the level of volume & profitability. And then along came climate change, irresponsible landfill overages, a global pandemic and sustainable-focused brands like Eileen Fisher, Reformation, Patagonia and Mara Hoffman. Brands like Alexander McQueen and Eckhaus Latta had experimented with upcycling for years, while other ethics-focused companies began using deadstock fabrics. By the end of 2019, sustainable design began trickling down to even more brands like Prabal Gurung, Tanya Taylor, Jonathan Cohen, Gabriela Hearst, Marine Serre, Coach, Collina Strada, PH5, Stella McCartney, Miu Miu, John Galliano for Maison Margiela and Demna Gvasalia for Balenciaga.

But the real challenge our industry faces is how to educate aspiring designers on the importance of designing sustainably. And that is where Noor comes in.

Noor Bchara is a New York based fashion designer, sustainability consultant & educator. She is the founder of Upcycle Design School where she offers on-demand video classes specializing in the scalability of upcycling and repurposing. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, and Polimoda in Florence, Italy.

Noor got her start in fashion by interning at Marc Jacobs and has since designed for Zac Posen, Tahari, Ellen Tracy and Kate Spade. In 2015, she founded NOORISM, after being disheartened by the volume of poorly-made, practically disposable clothes produced every year by the fashion industry.

NOORISM is a Brooklyn based women’s wear brand that produces clothing and accessories using repurposed jeans, all made in New York. Her mission is to inspire and educate people on upcycling and repurposed design and how to do it on a bigger scale.

Noorism by Noor Bchara (Photo credit: Michael Cooper @mcoopercreative)

Noor is a former Venture Fellow at the Brooklyn Fashion Design Accelerator, a Pratt initiative, as well as an adjunct professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She is also an Alumni of the Arts Envoy Program where she travels through the U.S. Embassy and teaches about upcycling in other countries. She is a frequent guest lecturer at fashion industry events, as well as at major art and fashion colleges around the world.

We are proud and honored to announce that Noor has generously offered to share her knowledge about sustainable fashion design and upcycling with University of Fashion. As a UoF subscriber, you will have full access to these three lessons:

Introduction to Sustainable Fashion Design

Sustainable Materials for Fashion Design

Designing, Producing & Marketing a Sustainable Collection

Fun fact: Noor was a student in the late 1990s of our founder Francesca Sterlacci, while at the Fashion Institute of Technology.  We are all very proud of Noor and her accomplishments, especially as a pioneer of fashion sustainability.

You may contact Noor at info@upcycledesignschool.com

On Instagram: @upcycledesignschool

 

Why not give the gift of learning on how to become a more responsible fashion designer?

We only offer our book & video subscription promo discounts ONCE A YEAR!!!

Offers expire 12/31/20

$40 off our Yearly subscription (was $189 now $149)

https://www.universityoffashion.com/holiday-offer/ Promo Code: Learn1

$5 off the first month of our Monthly subscription (was $19.95 now $14.95) https://www.universityoffashion.com/holiday-offer/ Promo Code: Learn2

35% off any of our books: Beginner Techniques: Draping or Pattern Making or Sewing

https://www.universityoffashion.com/3-book-series-ad-lkp-discount/ Promo code: Uof35

INNOVATIVE SUSTAINABILITY IN TEXTILES

Fashion and Substainability. (Photo Credit: Miss Owl)

DO YOU HAVE A CLEAR FASHION CONSCIENCE?

If you’re like us, you probably spent some of your Covid lockdown time cleaning out your closets (and if you didn’t you should). How many of you have a clear fashion conscience? Was every purchase justified? Or, did you discover that some of the clothes and shoes in your closet you never wore, not even once? Or maybe you wore them only twice? Well, it’s time to take stock of your buying habits and your carbon footprint. To get a clear fashion conscience, next time you’re thinking of making purchase, ask yourself, “am I doing all I could to help”?

 

THE POLLUTION INDUSTRY

The fashion industry is one of the biggest culprits in causing pollution and damage ing our earth. By 2030, it is predicted that the industry’s water consumption will increase by 50 percent to 118 billion cubic meters (or 31.17 trillion gallons). Its carbon footprint will increase to 2,791 million tons and the amount of waste it creates will hit 148 million tons, according to The Fashion Law website (TFL).

Today more than ever, designers, brands and retailers are looking for ways to reduce their negative impact on the environment. Brands are embracing sustainable cotton initiatives to: reduce water, energy and chemical use; new dyeing technology to reduce water consumption by up to 50 percent; as well as numerous energy and chemical saving schemes throughout the supply chain. In the UK, the result of this work is percolating through to retailers, with a reduction in the carbon and water footprints per ton of clothing of 8 percent and 7 percent respectively since 2012, according to TFL.

Eco Conscious Meets Fashion Conscious. (Photo Credit: Carrygreen)

The movement towards eco fashion is growing quickly. Followers of the movement believe that the fashion industry has an obligation to place environmental, social, and ethical improvements in their practices at every level of the supply chain. One of the goals of sustainable fashion is to create a thriving ecosystem and enriched communities through its activity. Some examples of this include: prolonging the lifecycle of materials; increasing the value of timeless garments; reducing the amount of waste; and reducing the harm to the environment created as a result of producing clothing.

Why Sustainable in Fashion Matters. (Photo Credit: Sustainable Fashion Academy)

Textile designers around the world are looking for innovative techniques to produce fabrics in a sustainable manner. There are a few pioneering companies that are creating innovative textiles, such as biodegradable glitter and fabrics created from seaweed. Here are a few companies that are making a big difference.

ALGIKNIT

The company Algiknit produces textile fibres extracted from kelp, a variety of seaweed. The extrusion process turns the biopolymer mixture into kelp-based thread that can be knitted or 3D printed to minimize waste. The final knitwear is biodegradable and can be dyed with natural pigments in a closed loop cycle.

BIOGLITZ

BioGlitz produces the world’s first biodegradable glitter. Based on a unique biodegradable formula made from eucalyptus tree extract, the eco-glitter is fully biodegradable, compostable and allows for the sustainable consumption of glitter without the environmental damage associated with micro plastics.

FLOCUS

Flocus produces natural yarns, fillings and fabrics made from kapok fibers. The kapok tree can be naturally grown without the use of pesticides and insecticide in arid soil not suitable for agricultural farming, offering a sustainable alternative to high water consumption natural fiber crops such as cotton.

FRUMAT

Frumat uses apples to create a leather-like material. Apple pectin is an industrial waste product which can be used to create sustainable materials that are completely compostable, while still being durable enough to create luxurious accessories. The leathers can be dyed naturally and tanned without chemically intensive techniques.

DRITAN

DriTan is taking sustainable steps towards water-free leather manufacturing. The technology was developed by ECCO Leather and uses the moisture present in the hides as a key step in their tanning process. This innovative technology will change the leather industry and save 25 million liters of water a year. This technique also minimizes the discharge of waste water and the use of chemicals.

MYLO

Mylo is a sustainable leather grown from mycelium, which has its root structure in mushrooms. In nature, mycelium grows underground in soil, forming networks of threads that help recycle organic matter on the forest floor, while providing nutrients to plants and trees. The threads interweave and self-assemble themselves into a 3D matrix that can spread for miles. Bolt Threads Mylo material looks like hand-crafted leather and shares leather’s warm touch and suppleness. Mylo can be produced in days, without the need for animal hides or the toxic chemicals used in the production of synthetic leathers.

RECYCROM

Recycrom is turning waste into colors by building on its “Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle” mission. Recycrom is a patented, sustainable range of synthetic colored dyestuff powders made from 100% recycled textile cotton waste and textile scraps from used clothing and manufacturing waste. The dyes utilize eco-sustainable inputs without using chemical dyes and harming the environment. When dyed using Recycrom colors, the fabrics have a washed-out and natural look that complements today’s current fashion trends. Brands can collaborate with the inventors at Officina+39 to make Recycrom custom dyes using a manufacturers’ own scraps/textile waste.

THE ECO MOVEMENT IS GROWING

While creating sustainable textiles is only one step to creating an eco-friendly brand, it’s refreshing to see so many fashion companies looking for ways to make a global impact on the environment. Stella McCartney has been ahead of the movement and has always produced her collections in an ethical manner. Today fashion brands have plenty of choices to reduce their carbon footprint.

Stella McCartney’s Spring 2020 Ad Campaign. (Photo Credit: Stella McCartney)

So tell us, what are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint?

RETHINKING FASHION AND REDUCING THE INDUSTRY’S CARBON FOOTPRINT

The most memorable eco-friendly Red Carpet looks. (Photo Credit Vogue)

In only a few short months Coronavirus turned the world upside down. Hard to believe this could ever happen, right? Not only were we forced to stay-at-home and students were expected to complete their studies online, but schools and businesses are now having to re-evaluate the way they conducted business in the past and are re-imagining new ways to move forward into the future.

One of the hardest hit industries affected by the pandemic is fashion. To help get through the crisis and to offer some advice, numerous publications including Vogue, are hosting Zoom seminars where editors and designers discuss the future of our industry.

For years the fashion industry has been debating the future of the business; is the old business model still relevant today? Are fashion shows necessary? Well, thanks to COVID-19, the industry to being forced to get off the dime. Among the issues? What is the industry really doing when it comes to the environment in terms of reducing fashion’s carbon footprint, sustainable fabrics and the overstock of garments.

In the mid 2000s, when I was an editor covering fashion designers for Woman’s Wear Daily, I remember Donna Karan complaining about the fashion cycle. Donna was against the concept of ‘pre-collections’ which added additional seasons to an already crowded fashion calendar. And, she would argue that store deliveries made no sense, as in, why are Spring clothes shipped in February, just to be marked down in May when consumers are actually buying spring clothes?

Well, today, finally, this is issue has reemerged as a major point of discussion. Gucci’s Alessandro Michele just announced that he is reducing Gucci’s shows from 5 to 2 a year. Hey Donna Karan, you were years ahead of your time!

Alessando Michele of Gucci is giving fashion a new model. (Photo Credit: Gucci)

COVID-19 is not only causing fashion designers and industry leaders to re-evaluate the fashion calendar cycle and how many collections are needed a year, but the pandemic is also forcing brands to look at their practices and think about how they can do more to protect the environment. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Francois Souchet, who leads the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular initiative, is bringing together leaders from across the industry to create a circular economy for fashion through business innovation and better design. When asked if sustainability initiatives and investment at fashion brands were under threat, he believes that for brands who have adopted waste management and sustainability initiatives at the core of their business, their sustainable transformation plans are secure, post COVID. In contrast, he believes that the brands who have used sustainability as a marketing tool, rather than integral to their processes, that they are likely to suffer. Souchet says, “The closer (sustainability and investment) are to the core and the more integrated, the harder they are to cut off. For some businesses, it will be a question of survival, so it is quite difficult to predict what will happen.”

Echoing Souchet, Dr. Hakan Karaosman, a fashion supply chain and sustainability expert at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe declared, “Sustainability as a marketing tool will go—inherent sustainability will stay.” Also, he claimed the biggest problem in the fashion industry is the “fragmented supply chain,” calling for a “restructuring” across all tiers. Lean, simple and transparent supply chains are proving the most resilient during this crisis, he said, and this is what brands are likely to favor as they emerge from the crisis.

In an interview with Forbes magazine, Karl-Hendrik Magnus, Senior Partner at McKinsey and Company in Frankfurt and leader of the Apparel, Fashion & Luxury Group said that: “consumers have seen how vulnerable the entire world is, and the whole crisis has raised awareness for social and environmental sustainability, even among those that were not previously onto the topic.” Due to the global shutdown, major cities are seeing a reduction in air pollution, and the industries carbon footprint has been reduced, so moving forward, consumers will demand sustainable clothing.

According to McKinsey research, a return to pre-crisis consumer behavior is unlikely. McKinsey collected data from 6,000 consumers across the UK, Germany, France, and Spain. The results showed that an additional 16% would now seek products with sustainable credentials once shops reopen, 20% intend to reduce their overall spending for the rest of the year and 45% would look favorably upon companies that communicate with concern and purpose rather than prices and products.

So, what should the fashion industry change post COVID to protect the environment? Well, according to Céline Semaan, founder of Slow Factory, a sustainability literacy non-profit that hosts global sustainability education summits and works in partnership with global brands, including Adidas, says “Everything. From the fast-paced fashion calendar to the overproduction of goods that encourage (and depend on) overconsumption to sustain its broken economic model; to the exploitation of land, labor, and exotic animals, to the way it capitalizes on movements such as Earth Day and all efforts around that day/month focusing on profit-driven initiatives. Everything.

The fact remains that global brands such as H&M and Zara, to name a few, still create so many garments a year that end up in landfills.  Do consumers really need all these clothes? The answer is NO. Brands need to focus on quality vs quantity, as well as selling garments in the actual season. For example, fall/winter should arrive in stores in September and not get marked down until February.  This will help designers make a profit off their garments at full price and therefore they can create fewer seasons to stay afloat.

According to H&M Group’s CEO Helena Helmersson, “the company recently signed with the European alliance for a Green Recovery alongside Ikea, Unilever and others, who are committed to contributing to the post-crisis investment decisions needed to ‘reboot’ and ‘reboost’ our economy, taking into account climate change and circular economy as key pillars.”

H&M Conscious Collection. (Photo Credit: H&M)

For years, H&M store had a policy that offered anyone who brought in their old clothes for recycling to receive a discount for future purchases. Today, H&M is moving away from its fast fashion roots with their “Conscious” collection, which is completely made of materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. and by 2030, H&M has set a goal to only use sustainably sourced materials.

And there are plenty of other brands who are trying to do their part to protect the environment and create ethical fashion brands. Let’s take a look:

People Tree was one of the fist sustainable fashion brands. Founded in 1991, this brand was the first to be awarded with the World Fair Trade Organization product label. People Tree invests heavily in sustainable and environmentally friendly practices, such as organic farming. The company also advocates and promotes fair wages, good working conditions, and only works with sustainable materials like organic cotton, natural fibers and chemical free dyes.

Actress Emma Watson and People Tree launched a clothing line together in 2010. (Photo Credit People Tree)

Another pioneer of sustainable fashion and circularity is Eileen Fisher. Every facet of Eileen Fisher’s design and manufacturing process is built to be as sustainable and eco-friendly as possible, from the eco-friendly materials used, to the ethical treatment of all her workers. Eileen Fisher uses creative processes and innovative techniques in order to limit textile waste. The company also initiated a program to buy back used items and to recycle them into new garments or their Waste No More team transforms used garments into one-of-a-kind art, pillows and wall hangings. To further reduce the brand’s carbon footprint, Eileen Fisher avoids air shipping.

Eileen Fisher’s Waste No More team transforms used garments into one-of-a-kind artworks, pillows and wall hangings. (Photo Credit: Eileen Fisher)

Tentree’s clothing is made entirely from ethically sourced and sustainable materials including cork, coconut and recycled polyester, all  produced in ethical factories.  The company is also committed to planting ten trees for each item purchased. To engage their clients, after each purchase, the customer receives a code so they can monitor the growth of their trees. Tentree is on track to plant one billion trees by 2030.

Tentree’s marketing initiative. (Photo Credit: Tentree)

Sustainability is key at Everlane as the brand recently launched a clothing line made from recycled plastic bottles and other reused materials. The brand also focuses on transparency to their customers, as they offer an exact breakdown of the cost of each item, as well as showing the factories where those garments are made. Everlane has built strong relationships with factory owners to guarantee that the employees and production meet Everlane’s high ethical standards.

Saitex jean production for Everlane. (Photo Credit: Saitex)

Denim is one of the harshest fashion items on the environment, but many denim brands are looking for ways to make sustainable denim. Huge amounts of water are needed to create only one pair of jeans, but now Levi’s has introduced a new collection called Water<Less; which uses up to 96% less water to create a garment. Across the board, Levi’s is committed to sustainability through the entire design and manufacturing process, including working towards 100% sustainably sourced cotton. Levi’s has also initiated recycling old jeans into creating home insulation.

Levi’s Waterless Campaign. (Photo Credit: Levi’s)

Reformation has become a cult favorite among the fashion “It-Girl” set. Not only are the clothes trendy and fun, but the brand is also environmentally conscious. Each look is created using upcycled and sustainable materials in fair wage markets; also, every item comes with a description and score of its environmental footprint to help customers understand the impact of their clothing. Since 2015, Reformation has been carbon neutral and the brand helps to protect deforested regions to offset its manufacturing. The company has also implemented a recycling program that their customers can sell their old clothing to Reformation to earn credit for future purchases.

Reformation’s recycling program campaign. (Photo Credit: Reformation)

Patagonia is known for its durable outerwear, but did you know that it also helps customers repair their clothing instead of buying new items? Their products are so indestructible that customers are encouraged to recycle their old Patagonia pieces and purchase only items second hand. In addition to using sustainable materials in each new garment, the company also follows fair-trade practices and strictly monitors its supply chain to make sure they are safe for the environment, workers and consumers. One of Patagonia’s main goals is to find solutions to environmental issues without causing unnecessary harm to the world.

Patagonia’s Campaign. (Photo Credit: Patagonia)

Contemporary fashion label GANNI has quickly become the go-to brand for street-style stars world-wide. Nicolaj Reffstrup, co-owner of GANNI, is implementing strategies to become an environmentally-friendly brand. One strategy is that the brand’s Denmark stores are combining fashion rental, an outlet to test resale of older styles, samples, and prototypes called Postmodern (which they intend to take online), and a re-structured merchandising strategy, which will downsize their collections by offering less styles, so the store will hold less volume, but there will be more drops.  In addition, Reffstrup said that every fourth drop of products will be “made of recycled or deadstock fabric,” and this is being built into their range planning and material ordering processes.

GANNI Repeat, A new sustainable rental service. (Photo Credit: GANNI)

Footwear & Carbon Footprint

According to Adidas, the footwear industry emits 700 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, every year. That’s equivalent to 80,775,444 homes’ energy use for one year. For a single pair of running shoes made of synthetic materials that translates to having a carbon footprint of somewhere between 11.3 and 16.7 kilograms of CO2. To change this, Adidas and shoe brand Allbirds have teamed up to make the first net zero carbon shoe. Adidas with their End Plastic Waste initiative and Allbirds’ Tread Lighter Together initiative marks the first time in history that Adidas has collaborated with another footwear brand not under its own umbrella. To quote Tim Brown, co-founder and co-CEO of Allbirds, “Our hope is that the future is more about collaboration than it is about competition.”

As consumers are focusing on more environmentally friendly fashion product, every brand should look at ways to reduce their carbon footprint. Even small improvements can help protect the Earth. Every little bit helps!

Resources to Help Designers Become More Sustainable-Minded

As part of the CFDA Sustainability Initiatives’ ongoing commitment to sustainability through education and professional development, they have created a  sustainability-centered resource hub designed to provide open access resources and information specific to fashion design and business sustainable strategies. These resources are intended for everyone- for CFDA Members, educators, students, professionals, designers, and anyone in our community interested in learning more about sustainability and sourcing relevant contacts. An annex to that initiative is a Guide to Sustainable Strategies Toolkit which helps map and frame sustainable priorities. Also part of the initiative is the CFDA A-Z Materials Index  and, in partnership with NYU Stern Center for Sustainable Business, their KPI Design Kit, a Sustainable Strategies Playbook for Measurable Change.  A Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives.

 

Re/make, is a community of millennial and Gen Z women whose mission is to put an end to fast fashion by training women leaders around the globe to: host workshops, panels, and webinars to educate, inspire, engage, and uplift the voices of their community. In turn, the community hosts film screenings, clothing swap parties, and educational panels to mobilize others in the fight against fast fashion. The organization offers documentary films, fact-filled stories, campaign assets, and workshop materials to empower the community and recruit more women to the movement. Re/make drives transparency and accountability with their Seal of Approval process. They call out greenwashers and they push brands to disclose better information publicly. How are they making a difference? “Our mission is to make fashion a force for good.”

Ethical Fabric Suppliers

If you are a designer who is interested in moving into more sustainable, ethical fabrics and notions, then check out the directory on the website Change the World by How You Shop. 

Queen of Raw is a marketplace to buy and sell sustainable and deadstock fabrics and textiles, for students, clothing manufacturers, and designers. Using a technology engine to build a supply-chain management service, owner Stephanie Benedetto, started MateriaMX (short for Material Exchange) so monthly subscribers can map, identify, measure and trace waste throughout their supply chains in real-time, ultimately allowing them to minimize their excess fabric, water and other waste streams. The online platform uses blockchain and machine learning to find and track excess fabric— post-consumer waste, fabric on rolls, you name it—and then match it to factories, retailers, designers and other buyers looking for that material.

Fabscrap is another deadstock fabric resource.  According to info on their website, “each pound of waste from apparel production is associated with 2.06 pounds of CO2-E. In New York City, if 10% or more of your commercial waste is textile material, you are required to recycle itExtended Producer Responsibility polices for textiles are on the horizon. Fabscrap provides reports enumerating tonnage diverted from landfill and CO2 emissions saved. When disposed in landfill, the dyes and chemicals in fabrics can leach into the soil, contaminating local water systems.” Fabscrap claims that, “In the U.S., 48% of customers check tags for sustainability information. Brands that market their eco-conscious efforts and corporate social responsibility practices show increased sales.

Swatchon.com is an eco-friendly, recycled, organic wholesale fabric marketplace based in Korea with 3 yard minimums and free shipping.

Nature’s Fabrics is another great resource located in Pennsylvania with a very nice selection of organic fabrics to choose from.

Retail Consignment Resources

As a result of store closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, shoppers have rediscovered the online consignment clothing market that had its start in 2012. Companies like the The RealReal, Tradesy, Poshmark and ThredUp (who recently partnered with Walmart) and the resale handbag company, Rebag are making secondhand clothing not only affordable but ‘cool.’ As climate change concerns grow, especially among millennial and Gen Zers, according to the 2019 ThredUp Resale Report, “secondhand items are expected to occupy one-third of people’s closets by 2033.”

Macy’s, Madewell and Nordstrom, have all added secondhand clothing to their merchandise line-up. According to a January 31, 2020 article in The Washington Post,  “As resale goes mainstream – the resale market is expected to triple in three years – department stores have become an unexpected next step to woo young shoppers.”

So tell us, what steps are you taking to reduce your carbon footprint?