Eco-Fashion: Is green really the new black?
Sustainability has become a megatrend in fashion in recent years. But environmentally sustainable isn’t enough – social responsibility is also a key element, since not all clothes labelled “sustainable” have been ethically produced. So what can we do? Read More
Sustainability has become a megatrend in fashion in recent years. High-end designers and international celebrities have brought eco fashion to the streets of the world’s metropolises and awakened consumer awareness for the issue.
But environmentally sustainable isn’t enough – social responsibility is also a key element, since not all clothes labelled “sustainable” have been ethically produced. So what can we do?
For decades now, the fashion industry has taught us to buy fast – to purchase ever new pieces and try a new style every season. Fast fashion sells more since items are cheap copies of current designer trends; they fill the shelves instantly, smell new and are edgy.
But many of us have already started to doubt that this is the best way to go. At the very least, the nature of fast fashion in a sense encourages the consumer’s detachment from issues of sustainability and unfair labour conditions. Maybe it’s time we started thinking of clothes as an investment rather than a throwaway item with a limited shelf life.
Those neon pants make your legs and butt look awesome and everyone is wearing them. But do they fit in with your long-term style? If you hang on to them until they are out of season, fine. But instead of letting them gather dust in the back of your closet afterwards why not consider recycling? After all, lots of pain quite literally goes into producing one piece of clothing and the least we can do is show our appreciation by valuing what we wear.
Another option would be to buy ethically produced clothes – and this is where the huge trend has been headed lately. A wave of green fashion conquered the fashion world. Can eco-fashion become the future of fashion? And above all: will it make fashion production green and social? Or wouldn’t it be better to create less demand for fashion in general – perhaps try the recycling option – rather than more demand for so-called “sustainable” fashion?
Is eco fashion going to last?
The new wave of green fashion owes its popularity to revolutionary designers like Stella McCartney, Noir and Edun who elevated eco-awareness via their designs in the early '90s and late 2000s. Now, with champions like eco-consumerism pioneer Livia Firth and a slew of celebrities such as Natalie Portman and Gisele Bündchen committed to going green, it’s no surprise that the trend has gained momentum. Eco has become fashionable, and the public appears to be buying it – in more ways than one.
But will it last? Concern is growing that the cause is indeed just a passing fad people care about temporarily simply to keep up green appearances. Only a year ago, Livia Firth's eco-wares shop in London closed down, lending credibility to the belief that the movement might be less sustainable than the fashion itself.
Furthermore, eco fashion is not always as sustainable as one would wish for. The reverse is true as well: not every item labelled “sustainable” is really ethical. For instance, environmental sustainability isn’t enough – social responsibility is also a key element.
So is eco fashion just another trend that comes and goes with the seasons, or is green really the new black?
Here to stay!
I would say: Green could indeed become the new black.
Although the eco fashion hype of high-end designers and celebrities going green may be just a passing fad, it seems that we are right in the middle of a paradigm shift. There are some good initiatives that seem much more promising than the rapidly vanishing eco hype. Production methods are changing, and designers and suppliers are keeping an eye on working conditions in the factories where their clothes are sewn.
There are plenty of innovative, socially and environmentally responsible fashion brands with their own unique signatures.
Productions methods are changing too. Levi’s Waste<Less jeans, for instance, are made of at least 20% recycled plastic. Levi’s collects recycled materials, mainly used PET bottles, from communities all over the US and sends them off to a manufacturing plant. There the plastic is broken down into small pellets that then are spun into polyester fibres. The fibres are woven with cotton to create a denim fabric, which is used for jeans production.
This innovation is not only reducing waste – it seems to me to be creating a timeless trend.
Watch Levi's promotion video here:
“House of Denim” is an Amsterdam initiative that brings brands such as G-Star, Tommy Hilfiger, Denham and Scotch & Soda together in its ‘brighter blue’ initiative. Through research and innovation, it wants to give incentives to the industry for a cleaner production of denim products. Activities will be centred in a research lab in Amsterdam. Its “Jean School” offers a college-like course to train professionals for the denim industry, and it is the first to feature sustainability strongly in its curriculum.
Learn more about House of Denim:
The responsibility of each of us
But let us be quite clear: the effect of all of this innovation and cooperation is still too little. Simply put, sustainable innovations are used in too small a percentage. Linking the efforts taking place in the centres around the world would certainly help.
This is certainly the approach taken by fashion giant H&M, who have made it their goal to develop sustainable fabrics so that they’re available for smaller companies to use as well. The whole industry benefits when a company this big finds solutions that fit.
Interestingly, another powerful attempt is made by oikos, an international student organisation for sustainable business. Its global platform “oikos fashion” mentors students in the area of sustainable fashion by arranging webinars and via a who’s who of the ethical fashion industry.
It’s important to encourage consumers to focus on sustainability as well, so real demand develops and it is not just the industry pushing the idea. The industry should evolve based on a new business model that uses sustainability as a driver. If we can succeed in changing the consumer, we can create new demand for sustainable business models.
Fashion is just not about buying clothes; it is about buying an identity – and about focusing on sustainability to create change in society.
If you are a student and want to get active - why not join oikos fashion?