What makes sustainable fashion so difficult? This year, the garment industry went from top three to the Number Two source of pollution worldwide. Clearly we haven’t made any progress in the last year. How come?
The reason is because the market isn’t supporting absolute sustainability. We know that in the current climate it cannot be profitable to go from one extreme to another with a quick solution. Green fashion is a work in progress, and while 100% sustainability is an excellent goal to work towards, let’s break it down into smaller choices we can each make in the progress toward sustainability.
Natural fibers are overall more sustainable options. The best ones are:
One thing to remember when selecting clothing made from natural fibers is that they are often created in a manner of “cut and sew” using woven fabrics. Woven fabrics are lacking the versatility of a stretch fabric, making it more of a labor-intensive process to create a properly fitted garment. This is why clothing made from woven fabrics will cost more and take longer to produce.
The benefit to working with woven fabrics is that you can accomplish sophistication in silhouette. The result can look polished, professional, even formal. The benefit to wearing well-made clothing is you look better. Whether you work in sales or in an office, or are a weekend socialite, a well-dressed professional will be more respected and overall more successful.
Bigger Strides toward Sustainable Options
The popularity of organic cotton has fluctuated, mainly due to the observation that cotton (like most any fabric) is still treated with chemicals in the milling process. There are some who feel it is not worth using because it isn’t 100% sustainable; however, it is my opinion that small steps toward sustainability are always worth taking. The water used to grow the cotton will not be polluted and the people who pick the cotton and work with it in mills will be free of the health risk. Look for GOT certification when selecting organic fabrics, such as the dress pictured below, available in store at I Love You Bedford.
Silk, wool, mohair and other materials are workable in raw form. We understand the concept of whole foods, how it is better to buy a whole potato than a bag of chips. Just like with food, the closer you can get to designers working with the raw materials, the bigger the impact it will have on sustainability. For example the wool vests available for purchase on my website were made by hand using the raw materials. An added benefit to purchasing clothing made this way is it is very difficult to copy, ensuring your investment is a valuable original.
A Sliding Scale
It’s dangerous to look for absolutes when working towards sustainability. Eco-friendly products have come a long way in other industries: for example look at our current easy access to recycled toilet paper, and our ability to recycle plastic and glass bottles with utmost convenience. We can reduce the harm caused by one of the top culprits currently destroying the earth, not by thinking in absolutes, but by taking small steps. Look for clothing made with 100% natural fibers, pay a better price for them, and don’t give up on organics. If we were to create a Sustainability scale from 1-10, I would place 100% natural clothing at 5, organic cotton clothing at 6, and handmade clothing from deadstock and/or raw materials as a perfect 10.