Thursday 21 August 2014

sustainable fashion 102

In the last post I covered two of my sustainable shopping tips:
In this post I am delving into more details, and probably into the areas most people think of when they hear 'sustainable fashion'.
  • Know your fabrics and learn your labels
  • Get comfortable clicking

Maiyet - pioneers of sustainable luxury fashion, working with artisans
from around the world.

Know your fabrics and learn your labels

There has been extensive research and technology into developing more sustainable clothing fabrics. Similarly, there has been progress in labeling and certification of organics and fair trade production, to help shoppers understand what has been officially recognised by a third-party and is not just fashion 'greenwash'.

Sustainable shopping tip #3 - do your homework. Before you head out for your next purchase, do your homework on fabrics and labels so you know what to look for in new sustainable fashion.

Here is a quick breakdown of fabrics I prefer:
  • Organic cotton
  • Wool
  • Hemp
  • Linen
  • Modal/Cupro/Tencel*
  • Peace silk
  • Upcycled or recycled fabric
  • Reclaimed or surplus fabric 
Amour Vert - organic cotton, wool, made in USA
(San Francisco, to be exact!)

Goodone - made with upcycled leather.

The Reformation - reclaimed viscose
fabric, biodegradable when you're done!

Teeki - a favourite of mine, fantastic leggings made
with recycled plastic.

Here are common certification labels you may see on clothing swing tags:

Organic certification
Ethical / Fair Labour certification

ALAS sleepwear - GOTS certified organic
cotton, printed with AZO-free dyes

Studio Jux - made ethically in Nepal, uses eco-fabrics
including organic cotton, hemp and recycled plastic.

Ginger and Smart - ECA accredited, made in Australia.

Heidi Merrick - Linen top, Made in the USA
(right in Los Angeles)

Not all companies are as outgoing as others about their sustainability credentials - if you're unsure if your favourite label has any sustainability measures, hop onto their website or give them a call to do your own research before you make your next purchase.

I'm not going to lie, while it is getting easier to find and purchase sustainable fashion, it's not as simple as heading to your favourite mall or shopping centre. For now, anyway, we sustainable fashionistas have to do a bit more homework before we go shopping. But the more we buy, the more we can push out the un-sustainable practices and make it easier for everyone to find sustainable and stylish fashion.

Which brings me to . . .

Get comfortable clicking
In addition to researching fashion labels, I find myself doing a lot of online shopping these days. Many of the up-and-coming sustainable fashion labels do not yet have wide distribution and are more likely to be found online.

Sustainable shopping tip #4 - shop from your sofa. If you're not comfortable shopping online (I wasn't until I became a sustainable fashion diehard!), you may want to start with a 'low-risk' purchase like an accessory that isn't size dependent. Once you're comfortable and feel ready to move onto clothing, always check the return and exchange policy, and examine the size chart to give you more information, before making your purchase.

Below are some of my favourite online shops to get you started:

I have noticed a couple extra perks of online shopping, actually. It saves me a lot of time, and I'm able to buy lovely items that are not owned by very many other people because they are less available. Also, I'm able to consider each purchase more carefully without the pressure of salespeople, which helps me create a more considered wardrobe.

* * * *

Well, that conclude this two-part series covering 'What is sustainable fashion?' I hope that helped clear things up a little bit. I told you it was murky territory, but the good news is, it is getting clearer everyday. And the more that we fashion lovers demand better practices from our fashion producers, the easier it will all become.

I feel I have just scratched the surface in highlighting sustainable fashion labels and stores in these two posts. There are so many, and more popping up all the time. I recommend you do some of your own searching next time you're in the market for a little something (it's amazing what a Google search of 'eco handbags' can do) - just remember to share with the rest of us what you find!

If you still want more tips, including my complete shopping guide covering shoes, accessories, denim, beauty products and more, check out my book, Sustainability with Style.

As always, drop me a line if you have any questions, or want to have a chat!

* * * *

*These are all part of the 'new' line of fabrics created with more sustainable plant sources than cotton (which is incredibly water intensive and can be damaging to the soil - and when grown non-organically uses an obscene amount of fertilizers and pesticides). These fabrics generally have to go through a chemical process before they are spun into cloth. Ideally the chemicals are used in a closed-loop system, meaning the chemicals are reused over and over. I have mixed emotions on bamboo, and have left it off this list because it is largely unregulated in terms of growing and manufacturing into fabric. Because it is so hard in its natural state more effort is required to turn this into fabric than the others mentioned here. There are multiple ways of breaking bamboo down, either by mechanically crushing it, or by using strong chemicals. The latter option is cheaper and most widely used, yet there is little regulation outlining how the chemicals are disposed of, or if they are used in a closed-loop process. I am not saying you should never buy it, but approach bamboo with caution and ask questions before purchasing.

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