Green Fashion: An In-depth Study of Sustainable Fashion

Learn and be a part of the sustainable fashion movement

green fashion

It is the dire need of the world to work towards sustainability in all common domains of one’s life. One of the most prominent domains of our life is fashion, where sustainability can be adopted easily. We all wear clothes, but we rarely consider the unsustainable consequences of their manufacturing and consumption.

Sustainable is a way of sourcing, producing, and designing garments that optimizes the advantages to the fashion industry and society as a whole while reducing the environmental effect. It is a movement aimed at bringing more ecological integrity and social justice to fashion goods and the fashion sector. Fashion fabrics and goods are only one aspect of sustainable fashion. Clothing that is designed, made, distributed, and worn in an ecologically beneficial manner is referred to as green fashion, popularly called sustainable fashion. It looks at the entire system of how clothing is made, who makes it, and how long a product lasts until it ends up in a landfill.

In reality, this entails ongoing efforts to enhance all phases of the product’s life cycle, from design through raw material production, manufacture, transportation, storage, marketing, and ultimate sale, as well as the product’s usage, reuse, repair, remake, and recycling.

From an environmental standpoint, the goal is to reduce the product’s life cycle’s negative environmental consequences by guaranteeing efficient use of natural resources, selecting renewable energy sources at every stage, and optimizing product repair, remake, reuse, and recycling.

Sustainable fashion also considers fashion from the perspectives of a variety of stakeholders, including users and producers, all living species, and current and future inhabitants of the planet. Citizens, the governmental sector, and the business sector are all responsible for sustainable fashion.

Simply put, sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is made and used in such a manner that it may be sustained while also safeguarding the environment and people who produce it. That is why decreasing CO2 emissions, dealing with overproduction, minimizing pollution and waste, and promoting biodiversity are all important.

History of Green Fashion

Mass manufacturing arose around the turn of the twentieth century, and the consumer society evolved in the 1950s, characterized by rising output and consumption rates owing to extensive marketing.

That was the start of the green fashion movement. The consumerist culture has been challenged with rebellious groups since the late 1960s, beginning with the hippie revolution, which embraced natural materials and anti-fashion. It was followed by the punk and goth movements of the 1970s and 1980s, which eschewed traditional fashion in favor of one-of-a-kind second-hand and vintage items and combining trends. Anti-fur movements swept the United States in the late 1980s. Fashion with a sustainable long-term perspective was beginning to emerge.

In the 1990s, however, there was a surge of democratization in the fashion industry. Fashion has never been cheaper or more accessible than it is now, thanks to advances in worldwide communication and offshore production. The rates of production and consumption accelerated much faster. Fast Fashion became a reality. At the same time, “eco-fashion” movements, similar to today’s sustainable fashion movements, began to emerge, with businesses like Esprit releasing its “Ecollection,” Patagonia, and Katharine Hamnett raising awareness about the fashion industry’s environmental consequences.

Rana Plaza Collapse case study

The sustainable fashion movement is on the rise in large part as a result of the world’s worst garment industry catastrophe, the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh. The 2013 Dhaka garment factory disaster happened on April 24, 2013, in the Savar Upazila of Dhaka District, Bangladesh, when an eight-story commercial building known as Rana Plaza disintegrated.

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The hunt for the dead concluded on May 13 with a death toll of 1,134. Around 2,500 wounded individuals were evacuated alive from the structure. It is regarded as the worst structural breakdown catastrophe in contemporary human history, as well as the deadliest garment factory tragedy in history. This widely recognized catastrophe led to over 1000 deaths, demonstrating to many in the Western world exactly how expensive their cheap clothes truly are. As it turns out, quick fashion has a slew of social and environmental consequences that are concealed beneath the gleaming façade of clean and beautiful fashion boutiques.

Following the Rana Plaza collapse, the world became aware of how terrible the fashion business had gotten. We’ve seen a resurgence of counter-movements in recent years. Slow Fashion is a rising movement that advocates for a more holistic approach to fashion as well as a slowing down of the rate at which we make and consume. The knowledge of the lifetime of clothing is also rising, resulting in vintage clothing purchasing becoming more accepted and stylish. Recycling and recycled clothing have also grown in popularity, as have up-cycling and circular economy activities that encourage techniques to add value to old garments.

Fast Fashion & Slow Fashion

1) Fast fashion

Fast fashion is defined as the mass manufacture of low-cost, throwaway apparel. Countless new collections released each year keep us feeling out of date and push us to keep buying more. Fast fashion is a design, production, and marketing approach that focuses on creating large quantities of garments in a short time. Garment manufacture makes use of trend replication and low-quality materials to deliver low-cost fashions to the market. These low-cost, fashionable items have resulted in an industry-wide tendency toward excessive consumption. Unfortunately, this has a negative influence on the ecosystem. Clothing is manufactured hastily and carelessly, and firms sell extremely low-quality items. The fast-fashion production method leaves a lot to be desired, and products are sometimes discarded after only a few wears. The same haste that throws quality out the window also keeps these clothes’ prices very cheap.

After the oil sector, the fashion industry is the world’s second greatest polluter and contributor to the carbon footprint. As the business expands, so does the environmental impact. All of the components of fast fashion, such as trend replication, rapid manufacturing, low quality, and competitive price, add up to a negative impact on the environment. Brands like Boohoo, for example, utilize hazardous chemicals, harmful colors, and synthetic materials that leach into water sources, and in the United States alone, 11 million tons of apparel are discarded each year. These clothes, which contain lead, insecticides, and a slew of other pollutants, seldom degrade. Instead, they decompose in landfills, releasing poisons into the environment.

2) Slow fashion

Slow fashion refers to a fashion knowledge and approach that takes into account the procedures and resources necessary to create garments. It promotes the purchase of higher-quality clothes that will last longer, as well as the ethical treatment of people, animals, and the environment. With mindful manufacturing, fair labor rights, natural materials, and long-lasting garments, it provides an alternative.

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The phrase “slow fashion” arose very naturally. Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion originated the term. Slow fashion refers to long-lasting items, traditional manufacturing processes, or design concepts that aim to be seasonless or to last visually and materially for prolonged periods. Slow fashion is in opposition to the fast-fashion paradigm, which developed approximately 20 years ago and resulted in cheaper items and shorter trend cycles.

Despite continuous sustainability attempts to stop the fashion loop, businesses such as H&M continue to burn several tonnes of unsold clothes each year. Slow fashion refers to the removal of clothes and industrial waste from usage as a result of ephemeral trends for the benefit of the environment. The emphasis is on durability, whether materially, aesthetically, or through services that extend the life of clothes.

Unsustainability in Fashion

The fashion sector generates approximately 92 million tonnes of trash per year and consumes 1.5 trillion liters of water per year, in addition to chemical contamination and significant amounts of CO2 emissions (Manchester, 2020). The rapid fashion cycle is unsustainable since it depletes the Earth’s natural resources at an exponential rate, abuses people all over the world, and generates an enormous quantity of trash. Unlike conventional fashion houses, which typically release a few seasonal collections per year, fast fashion firms may release as many as one new collections each week (or more) to promote thoughtless purchases.

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, the fashion sector accounts for between 2 to 8% of worldwide carbon emissions. Textile dyeing is also the world’s second greatest polluter of water, with a typical pair of jeans using around 2,000 gallons of water. The equivalent of one trash truck of textiles is landfilled or burnt every second. If nothing changes, the fashion sector will consume a quarter of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. Textiles are also thought to contribute to around 9% of yearly microplastic losses to the ocean. 

Apart from manufacturers in the Fashion industry, consumers also need to take some accountability and begin the boycott of fast fashion. By indulging in fast fashion, consumers often discard clothes quickly after two or three wears which all end up in landfills. This gravely contributes to the negative impact of the fashion industry on the environment.

How to Practise Sustainable Fashion?

The most sustainable fabric is one that has previously been used. Everything new, regardless of substance, has a detrimental influence on the environment. The following mentioned are ways consumers and manufacturers can adopt to contribute to sustainable fashion. 

1) Environment-friendly materials

Sustainable fashion is often extremely affordable as it is made of sustainable and recycled fabrics. The most desirable fabrics for sustainable manufacturing of clothes are fabrics that are organically farmed, cellulosic, natural, and 100 percent compostable. Sustainable fibers are classified into three types: natural, processed natural, and recycled synthetics.

Natural materials such as hemp, linen, cotton, silk, wool, leather, and cellulose fibers (i.e., synthetically produced fibers derived from plant sources such as viscose, rayon, lyocell, and so on) are typically preferred over virgin, petroleum-derived synthetics such as polyester, acrylic, and nylon. This is because natural fibers are biodegradable and may be composted back into the soil, as opposed to synthetic fibers, which do not biodegrade and instead remain in landfills, continuously seeping harmful chemicals, and gases.

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2) Zero or low waste design

Cutting out patterns causes a lot of waste in the fashion industry; several sustainable fashion firms are creating patterns that result in zero wasted material instead.

3) Efficient and careful packaging 

Brands may strive to reduce the amount of water and energy used during the manufacturing process; reduce waste by eliminating excess plastic packaging when transporting from the manufacturer to the warehouse, and the customer; and/or ship in bulk and with recycled or biodegradable shipping materials.

4) Locally made clothes

The fashion business has a large carbon footprint due to all of the dyeing, stitching, and shipping involved. Some businesses address this by producing clothes closer to where they will be sold, rather than shipping from overseas. Others reduce their carbon footprint by installing solar panels and wind turbines to power their offices and factories with renewable energy.

5) Prefer reused attire

Being mindful of how you dispose of your clothing when cleaning out your closet will help prevent them from ending up in a landfill. Reselling your clothes or organizing a clothes exchange is the greatest method to ensure they get a second life, as does give to charity and organizations that accept old clothing.

6) Recycled or deadstock materials 

Using pre-existing materials to create new clothes is much more environmentally friendly as it avoids the extraction of fresh resources from the Earth and instead makes the best use of items that would otherwise go to waste.

7) Choose second-hand or long-lasting attire

Instead of buying fast fashion that is inexpensive and designed to be thrown away quickly, you may be a more sustainable fashion consumer by caring for your clothes properly to extend their life or shopping second-hand, which keeps items out of landfills for longer. Investing in higher-quality, more durable apparel that you can see yourself wearing again and again over the years.

The Future of Sustainable Fashion

To preserve the environment through the fashion industry, manufactures and consumers need to begin educating themselves on minimalistic and sustainable ways in fashion enterprises. Many of these sustainable ways are also cost-friendly and affordable for consumers as well as manufacturers. The fashion industry can drastically reduce damage to the environment if the industry adopts sustainable methods and commits to reducing its environmental damage. It is high time that the fashion industry prioritizes the environment over profits of not for the sustenance of the environment then at least for the sustenance of its industry.

Editor’s Note

Now it’s time to embrace green fashion in our lifestyle. At the end of the day, a small change in our lifestyle would make a larger global impact. You also have the responsibility to educate your surrounding about the same.

Let us know your thoughts about this topic by writing them down in the comment section below.


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