The Future Of Fashion: What Is Sustainability And How Will It Affect Your Closet?

October 08, 2019

One of the most fun parts of changing weather is new clothes. New seasons are often the perfect excuse to run to the mall and scope out the new trendy pieces. (AKA the ones Instagram told you are hip.)

Or if your clothing obsession runs a little deeper, you might be up on all of the new designer collections from fashion week. Twice a year, fashion month takes over the globe hitting cities like New York, London, Milan, Paris, and even Los Angeles.

That’s right, LA Fashion Week is getting bigger and better, and this year the main focus (other than modeling killer outfits) is sustainable fashion. The environmental impact of clothing in the fashion world has been on its way to the forefront for quite some time. As climate change continues to grow as a major issue the planet is facing, the fashion community has started to take responsibility for creating more responsible and ethical, eco-friendly clothing.

Now we know what you might be thinking, ‘hey I don’t want to dress in scratchy fabric that looks and feels like a potato sack.’

Well, there’s good news, as brands began to dive into fast fashions environmental impact, they have also started to look for new fabrics and methods to create more sustainable clothing.

Sustainability was a major theme in fashion week for the Fall 2020 season.

Major labels centered around creating sustainable fashion and eco-friendly options. Shows like Dior even lined the runway with real trees and announced that after the show they would be planted around Paris. London Fashion Week was the first this year to be completely fur free, and in New York the United Nations held its first ever Climate Action Summit.

So, how does this new chapter in clothing manufacturing directly impact your life, and more importantly, how will it impact your style?

Here’s everything you need to know about sustainable fashion – what fabrics can you switch to to make less of an environmental impact, where to get it, and small changes you can make when your shopping that will make a huge different for our planet.

Asking you to shop as a way to help the Earth?

Sounds like a no-brainer to us. But we know how intimidating it can be! So how do you start an eco-friendly closet?

What Does Sustainable Fashion Really Mean?

Unfortunately, the fashion industry is taking a major toll on the environment. In fact, it’s the second highest polluter around the world right behind agriculture. (Yes, that means fashion is killing the planet faster the cars or energy. Yikes.)

1. That means it’s crucial we find a more long-lasting way to produce and wear clothing.

Sustainable fashion is sort of an all-encompassing phrase that means the clothes were made in an ecologically responsible manner. According to Livia Firth, found of Eco-Age, Sustainable fashion equals a sustainable wardrobe.”

Basically it’s a mixture of how the clothing’s made and how we as consumers buy the products.

If you’re investing in something long term, or buying something that is vintage, or recycled, you’re positively impacting the environment by making a choice that will last longer.

2. As for fashion companies, their goal is much, much larger.

Brands are starting to make products using materials like organic fibers and lower water usage during production as they move towards sustainable clothing practices.

According to sites like Reformation, the goal is to make sustainable clothing that respects environmental limits.

In the process, they also want to “protect people’s health and well-being.” What’s not to love about that?

“This also includes ensuring that harmful cleaners or pesticides aren’t used either.”

“Think of clothing kind of how you think of food, if something was dripping in chemicals you definitely wouldn’t eat it – so why would you put it on your body?” A fair point!

The Downfall of “Fast Fashion”

Here’s the thing about fast fashion: almost every single one of us is guilty.

The concept of fast fashion is centered around taking inspiration from the latest trend on the runway and producing it in a large scale as quickly and cheaply as possible.

This also allows brands to release new clothes at an alarming rate.

It almost means that fast fashion has a scary environmental impact.

Think of it this way.

You’re scrolling through your Instagram feed and see that Kylie Jenner is rocking a hot pink dress from Balmain’s most recent collection. As always, you think to yourself, ‘God she looks fantastic, and where can I buy that.’

Like most of us, we can’t afford to saunter on over to Balmain and pick up the same dress for ourselves.

This is where fast fashion comes into play. Brands like Forever21, Missguided, and Fashion Nova will instantly create a dress that looks just like it, only this time it’s around $30.

It might be a good thing for your wallet, but for the Earth? Not so much.

While it may seem like a win-win situation, this method of creating clothing is taking a huge toll on the environment–and your health.

Since there is such a pressure to rush production on fast fashion, corners are often cut.

This leads to increased “water pollution, use of toxic chemicals, and levels of textile waste,” according to The Independent.

A surprising amount of brands test positive for dangerous chemicals.

Most fabrics from stores that have quick turnaround are dyed using chemicals that are extremely toxic both to humans and the environment.

It’s also been reported that textile dyeing is the second largest clean water polluter.

To combat the issue, Greenpeace has started a Detox campaign that will take action to force brands to remove toxin from their supply chains.

Think it’s not that dangerous?

Think again. These carcinogenic chemicals are so dangerous they are banned in some countries for being too dangerous. So, yeah it’s something to watch out for.

Fabrics To Avoid

1. Polyester

Chances are, if you’re buying a piece of clothing under a certain amount, there’s a good amount of polyester in it. We know the fabric isn’t that comfortable (or flattering honestly) but it tends to be cheap.

Trust us, it’s not worth the money saved.

Polyester is quick and cheap to make, and it’s causing major damage to the planet really quickly. When garments made of polyester or nylon get tossed in the washing machine,they shed plastic microfibers.

This doesn’t just ruin your clothes and make them look “pilly” — it also gets in the water supply.

Since the fibers are so small they easily pass through any water treatment facilities to catch waste. Suddenly these non-biodegradable pieces of plastic are ending up in the ocean. They’re eaten by marine life, and then often ingested by humans eating fish. In a word, gross.

2. Cotton

The main issue from cotton stems from how it’s grown and the toll it’s taking on farmers.

To grow the comfy cotton plant, it takes large amounts of water and a boatload of pesticides.

And some of these can be deadly to humans.

According to the World Health Organization, three of the “most acutely hazardous insecticides” are used to grow cotton. One, called Aldicarb, can “kill a man with just one drop absorbed through the skin,” says the Organic Trade Association.

Since the cotton industry is in such high demand, pesticides are used to ensure there isn’t any crop failure.

There’s been several studies and documentaries linking cotton farming to brain damage and birth defects for those who farm it.

And guess what else is made of pesticide cotton?

Most tampons! Loads of feminine hygiene products are made with cotton, and Dr. Joseph Mercola likened using these products as “a ticking time bomb” thanks to years and years of wear.

The upside is there is a more sustainable option.

Brands like H&M and Zara are starting to move toward using organic cotton, which reduces the use of pesticides and helps the planet. While this process is slow, the move to a more organic source of cotton will eventually make a big environment impact.

3. Fur, wool, and other animal based fabrics.

While we know that substances like fur and other products taken from animals are extremely unethical, there’s a hidden toll on the earth as well. Increased production of these goods create additional emissions of methane (a dangerous greenhouse gas).

According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock used for fabrics are responsible for 14.5% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

If we removed all of that gas from the planet, our ozone would be much, much happier, and safer.

What About All The Eco-Friendly Fashion Buzzwords?

Shopping for a sustainable closet can be somewhat overwhelming, especially if you don’t know where to start.

And not all environmentally safe clothing items are created equal, which  just makes it even more difficult to create a sustainable wardrobe.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, there is no “perfect” fabric, but there is a good amount of fibers that are much more low impact. Here’s a good breakdown of common labels you might seen on clothing – and what exactly they mean.

1. Sustainable

An umbrella term that means the company made the product with regards for the environment and its workers. There’s a good chance there are not harsh fabrics or chemicals in it. But it’s always good to check the tag, just to be safe.

2. Organic

Probably a little more expensive, but made from more responsibly sourced materials like cotton that was made without using harsh pesticides.

3. Biodegradable

The clothing was made from materials that will naturally decompose back into the Earth, reducing waste on the planet. Fabrics like linen, silk, and hemp are good to look out for.

Remember though, this label also counts for materials like leather, which create a different burden on the environment.

4. Recycled

Much like heading to your favorite vintage store for some new finds, recycled means that the clothing was made with materials that were used in another product beforehand. This method is becoming a popular way to reuse materials like metal, plastic, and rubber.

5. Fair Trade

The unfortunate reality is tons of clothing is made in underdeveloped countries where many men, women, and children aren’t treated properly.

Buying something that is fair trade ensures that any workers who made your item were paid fairly and treated safely.

6. Vegan

Just like cutting out meat and dairy, vegan means that the fabric was made using absolutely no animal products.

How Can I Make More Ethical Fashion Choices?

Sustainable fashion tends to get a bad rap for being more expensive than its fast fashion counterparts. The truth is, much like buying organic food options at the grocery store, sustainable clothing tends to be slightly more expensive–and we stress slightly.

1. Paying an extra few dollars is small change compared to all of the benefits.

Helping fight climate change and the environment, ensuring that the workers who made it were treated fairly and paid for their efforts, and that your keeping dangerous toxic chemicals far away from your body.

It will save you money in the long run, too.

Keep in mind that if you’re spending money on quality items, the less chance it has of being something you toss away a month later after an unfortunate shrinking incident in the dryer.

Ethical shopping is actually pretty easy.

According to Eco-age, the average U.S. citizen throws away around 81 lbs of clothing every year. Yes, as in each person. And guess what? Roughly 95% of the clothes thrown away could have been recycled.

2. To be more responsible, do a quick search of brands sustainability efforts before you buy.

If you’re shopping online, check out the product details for a material breakdown and avoid harmful materials. If you’re in person, be sure to check the tag.

3. Buy nicer clothing.

Well, this part seems fun. But seriously, if you’re investing more money into an item of sustainable clothing, chances are you’ll want it to last you for a longer period of time.

4. By buying more investment pieces you’ll significantly decrease your fashion carbon footprint.

You can also buy more up-cycled and vintage clothing items. Suddenly you’ll have a wardrobe that is not only environmentally friendly, you’ll up your style game in the process.

Brands To Buy

 According to Stella McCartneythere is a misconception around the word “eco.”

The great news is that tons of fashionable brands are already fully committed to making sustainable fashion.

Check out brands like Reformation, Boyish Jeans, and Ninety Percent, all of which are not only full of great sustainable clothing choices, but also give you a report of all of the resources you saved by purchasing on of their items.

A nice-upside to the guilt-free shopping is that the fabrics tend to be much softer.

Sustainable clothing is all about fashion and comfort, AKA the dream. Who knows, maybe there’s even a dress with pockets.

Healthy Fabrics 

Lastly, it’s good even when shopping at regular stores to keep an eye out for more earth friendly fabrics. Soon they might be on the forefront of the fashion world – and some of the materials are getting pretty innovative.

1. Pineapple leather is here to answer the call.

We all know that a leather jacket is the ultimate fashion staple, and we’re not asking you to give it up. What we are asking is to invest in vegan options like pineapple leather.

What is it?

The material, called Piñatex, is made from pineapple leaves and is sourced in the Philippines. Other plant and fruit leather alternatives are starting to gain major steam.

2. Linen dates back to ancient Egypt.

The fabric linen is made from flax plant fibers and has been used for centuries to make clothing. It takes very little water to grow and doesn’t require any fertilizing.

It’s also super durable, and is often used as a summer fabric since it is also very breathable.

Plus, you always casually look as if you’ve just stepped off your yacht in the Hamptons.

3. Natural fabrics like Lyocell are also a good alternative.

Lyocell is actually derived from the cellulose in wood pulp, but we promise it’s softer than it sounds. The material is not only biodegradable, but it can be made with recycled water and grows without chemicals. It’s similar to hemp, which is another low impact fabric.

All in all there are a number of reasons to switch to a more eco-friendly lifestyle.

And while it may seem like super small changes, they make a huge impact on the environment.

Do environmental factors play a part in your clothing shopping decisions?