What is sustainable fashion and how do you know it?

The topic of sustainable fashion is becoming more and more in the public consciousness. But do we even know what sustainable fashion means?

Sustainable fashion, along with ethical fashion, falls under the term slow fashion. Slow fashion takes into account the entire product life cycle. Slow fashion products should be made from quality materials to last as long as possible. Slow fashion looks at the ethical and sustainable side of production, which should take into account the people working on the product from the very beginning to the final version, the animals and raw materials involved in production and the overall environmental impact of production.

When did the notion of slow fashion start to be discussed more?

The notion of slow fashion only began to be visibly addressed after Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 in Bangladesh. This event is considered to be the most tragic incident in the history of the textile industry. The building was mainly used as a textile factory where people were forced to work for minimum wage even after the space had significant cracks in the walls and it was only a matter of time before the building collapsed.

Kolabs Rany Plazy, April 24, 2013 - image by: Sharif As-Saber

This the tragedy has captivated the media world a people became more interested in the environmental and ethical side of the fashion and textile industry. However, this interest has not brought any positive results. Not only found that most textiles are processed by workers from third world countries in Asia, who are paid minimum wage or even below minimum wage, and their working conditions are severely unethical. It has also come to light that The fashion industry is one of the main causes of environmental pollution.

Why is the fashion industry one of the biggest threats to the environment?

1. Water pollution

The first danger is water pollution. Most textile factories discharge chemically treated water into rivers and the sea. The water contains highly harmful chemicals, which kills many aquatic animals and harms animal and human healthwho consume water.

The factories that behave this way are mostly from the aforementioned third world countries in Asia, so is also from other Environmental better for clothing brands to buy domestic fabrics or fabrics in Europe, just like he does our brand KADU. However, this does not mean that every factory in Europe, or in our case in the Czech Republic, undergoes environmental and ethical practices. Therefore, as a brand, it is essential to verify the way the textiles are produced in a given factory and whether the factory complies with environmental and labour regulations, so that you can guarantee yourself and your customers sustainable processing and ethical treatment of workers.

2. Carbon emissions and transport

Other benefits of buying domestic or European substances are related to carbon emissions and transport. In countries such as China, Bangladesh or India production largely powered by coalwhich is the least environmentally friendly way of processing energyin terms of carbon emissions.

Buying fabrics from the country where the brand operates and produces its clothes is without a doubt the most environmentally friendly option in terms of transport. In this way, the transport distance is definitely shorter and therefore more environmentally friendly. If you can't get the substances you want in your country and your brand is based in Europe, the second most environmentally friendly alternative is to buy textiles in another European country. The same thing that applies to fashion brands also applies to customers. We all, as customers should try to find and buy clothes from local brandsto reduce our carbon footprint. Therefore, we thank all our Czech customers for choosing our KADU brands and helping our nature.

Our colorful clothes are killing the environment - CNN Style
Water discolouration after discharge of chemically treated water into a river - author of the picture: Helen Regan, CNN

3. Water consumption

Another factor is again related to water, especiallyand thus to its consumption. During the dyeing and finishing of garments, huge amounts of water must be used. But even more water is used to grow cotton. For example, just 1 kg of cotton consumes 7,000 to 30,000 litres of waters. The problem is that cotton is often grown in places where the climate is not the most suitable for it, so to grow faster, farmers have to use more water than necessary. That's the first reason why in KADU we focus on organic cotton. Organic cotton grows naturallybecause it is grown in areas with climates that suit cotton. This means that farmers do not have to use excess water, but only use as much as is really needed.

The following procedurehow the brand can reduce water consumption, is cooperation with companies that recycle or process used water for further use. It is also important that The brand has instructed its customers not to wash their clothes as often and to wait until their washing machine is fully loaded with dirty laundry. It is wise to follow this not only for water consumption but also for the life of the clothes. Frequent and improper washing deteriorates the quality of the clothes, therefore always read the textile label on your clothes that describes the appropriate washing method.

3. Microfibres

The fashion industry is not only very harmful to our nature and animals but also to ourselves. Clothes made of synthetic fabrics shed around 1 900 microfibres during washing, which enter the water and then travel to our oceans. In the oceans, these microfibres enter the food chain. The larger fish, which are our food, eat the small marine organisms that contain the microfibres.

The environmental impact of textile production (infographic) | News | The European Parliament
Ecological footprint of synthetic fabrics & microfibres - author of the picture: European Parliament

The only way out of this cycle is to buy clothes made primarily from natural or semi-synthetic fabrics. U us at KADU We strive to make each of our products contain at least 10 % natural ingredients. So far we have managed to include around 90% of organic textiles in most of our products.

KADU GLOVES - Winter warm accessory from 90 % made of organic cotton and only 10 % of spandex.

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4. Synthetic substances

The use of synthetic fabrics has made clothing a short-lived object in our wardrobes as it is more prone to earlier deterioration or unsightly appearance due to its poor quality. This means that more and more textile waste is being producedthat ends up in landfills or is burned. Another the downside of synthetic substances is their degradation, which can take up to 200 years. This is one of the many reasons why the KADU We also try to focus on organic textiles and the overall quality of our products.

Textile waste isn't sexy, but it affects us all - Slow Femme
Textile waste at a landfill in Kpone, Ghana - image by the author: Nana Kwadwo Agyei Addo, Accra Studios, Slow Femme

Toxic chemicals should not be used in the cultivation of organic fibres, which reduces the number of deaths among farmers. Farmers, because of the chemicals used during the production of inorganic fibres, often suffer from various diseases and die prematurely. Mentioned chemicals can also have a bad effect on the users of the product. For example, if you ever get a rash, it may be caused by toxic chemicals in your clothing.

5. Land degradation

One of the most threatening environmental risks relates to soil. Healthy soil is an indispensable element of the ecosystem, of which we have less and less due to soil degradation. For example, the use of chemicals in cotton cultivation is a major cause of soil degradation. Solution again depends on the brands, their the choice of materials and overall production, and then on the customers and their choice of fashion brands.

Soil erosion costs European farmers €1.25 billion a year | EU Science Hub
Land degradation - author of the picture: VALENTINA TRAVERSONE

How do we know if we are choosing the right brand that is truly sustainable?

As consumer interest in sustainable fashion grows, more and more brands are trying to deceive their customers about the true sustainability of their products and make more money from their customers. This marketing ploy is called greenwashing. The term greenwashing was already known in the 1980s. Nowadays, the topic of greenwashing is much broader and carries more importance due to the dramatic changes in our climate.

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So what can help us to distinguish the difference between a sustainable brand and a brand that only presents itself as sustainable?

If we're not sure about the sustainability of the brand, One way is to turn to sites that do detailed research on individual brands. The most reliable websites include Good On You. Good On You was established to help people make more sustainable future shopping choices. It also helps sustainable brands to become more visible. Knowing that many people don't have the time to do their own detailed brand research, Good On You will do the process for you. The site has its own rating system that focuses on three categories: people, planet and animals. By people, we mean workers throughout the supply chain. This section addresses ethical behaviour and actions towards workers. The planet category examines the environmental impact of the brand. The last thing Good On You looks at is the living conditions relating to the animals involved in production. To find out more about the rating system, click on this link: https://goodonyou.eco/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/Good-On-You-Brand-Rating-Updated-September-2021-2.pdf

To help you judge for yourself whether a brand is sustainable, read the following hints.

1. Brand presentation & data

The brand presents itself as sustainable wherever we can, but at the same time does not provide any data confirming its sustainability. For example, it does not give the exact percentage of fabrics contained in clothing or provide the public with the names of the factories from which it buys materials. However, consider that smaller fashion brands often do not provide the names of factories for competitive advantage. Finding a factory that treats its employees decently while following sustainable production and having quality goods can be a challenge. The search can be long and arduous, so when a brand does manage to find such a factory, we can't be surprised that the brand considers disclosing their supplier. By disclosing, a brand's competitors could start sourcing materials from the same supplier, which could cause the brand to lose its competitive advantage.

2. Green halo effect

The brand applies marketing and psychological techniques Green halo effect. This means that the brand primarily promotes a product line or collection that is sustainablewhile their other products and the overall business model is far from sustainable. In this way deceives many peoplewho unknowingly get seduced by their sustainable collection campaign and then perceive the whole brand as more sustainable. An example of a brand that uses the green halo effect is H&M. H&M's aim is to change the way customers view the brand and see it as more sustainable and environmentally friendly to both workers and animals. H&M is trying to get customers to associate H&M with a new concept called Conscious. The products in the Conscious line would be made in a more sustainable way than their current products. Marketing campaigns focusing on H&M's environmental activities help to create the aforementioned Green halo effect with the customer. This the customer's attention is drawn to the brand's sustainable activities and the customer misses the fact that H&M still follows a fast fashion business model. Here you can read how Good On You rated H&M: https://directory.goodonyou.eco/brand/h-and-m

Fast fashion is the antithesis of Slow fashion. Fast fashion or fast fashion is simply explained fashion that aims to produce as many clothes as possible as quickly as possible at the lowest possible price. Manufacture of fast fashion clothing has no moral or environmental principles and no regard for quality.

3. Orders

Vtickle you when you come package with orderif the packaging is made of recyclable materials. Even though it's fundamentally does not address the major environmental issues in the fashion industry, it shows the brand's desire to have the least environmental impact and considering all options to improve their environmental practices.

4. Certification

Another way is to check whether the brand has international certifications that testify to its sustainability. The most well-known certifications include Fair Trade, B Corp, 1% for the Planet, World Fair Trade Organization and SA8000. The most proven certifications specialised in textiles and dyes are GOTS, Bluesign and Oeko-Tex.

5. Price

For a brand that truly produces with quality and sustainable materials and pays its employees fairly, it is impossible for its products to be exorbitantly cheap. For example, if you see a T-shirt for 200 CZK, that T-shirt could not have been produced sustainably, because a realistic price for a sustainable T-shirt would be around 1,000 CZK.

6. Contact the brand

If you are still unsure about the sustainability of the brand, The last resort we suggest is to contact the company directly and ask the questions you are interested in. The answer often shows whether the brand is really sustainable. If you don't get an answer, we wouldn't recommend trusting the brand completely.

Conclusion

The aim of the article is to raise awareness of the environmental and ethical issues associated with the fashion and textile industry. Informing each other is the first step towards improvement. Czech Slow Femme magazine said on their Instagram:

"According to WRAP, the amount of discarded clothing in the UK has reduced by 14% between 2012 and 2015, which means 50,000 fewer tonnes of textiles in landfill! How has this been achieved? Most likely due to people becoming more aware of the problem of textile waste. So educating customers has a big impact."

10 facts about the fashion industry - Author: slowfemme

Our wish is that our readers think about the clothes they buy and try to make the most environmentally friendly purchasing decisions.

He wrote: Natálie Koudelka
Support us by sharing on your networks.

Further reading

21.02.2022Natálie Koudelka

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