In fact, what is sustainable fashion? Many have asked the question and the question is answered in many different ways; even designers cannot agree on what sustainable fashion is. Frida Giannini, Gucci creative director, defines sustainable fashion as “Quality items that stand the concept of sustainability, symbolized by a timeless handbag that you wear again and again, and can pass on” (Friedman). Oscar de la Renta, designer and brand founder, states, “Sustainable fashion implies a commitment to the traditional techniques and not just the art of making clothes” (Friedman). Both have their own idea of what sustainability is and like them everyone has their own opinion as to what it can be.
First of all, you must know what types of fabrics are used in the clothing you buy. If you want to be sustainable, you cannot use materials that can harm creatures, people, or the planet. Many ways that fabric construction can harm are: “pesticides that farmers use to protect their crops can harm wildlife, contaminate the other products and food” or “the chemicals used to bleach and colour textiles can damage the environment and people’s health” (“New Strait Times”). Allowing people who create the clothing work in terrible conditions can also be harmful and be a negative method of sustainability. The main fabrics that can be known as “sustainable” are: natural fibers, such as, cotton, jute, flax, hemp, ramie, wool, silk or manufactured fibers like Lyocell (“Wikipedia”). “Organic can also be a component for sustainability. An example is cotton, which grows in the United States,” as said by FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandise) Instructor Ruch. But as told by Intelligent Life Magazine, sustainable fabric is not organic or natural. They say organic is not sustainable because “the plant is less productive, which will make farmers obtain more land from wilderness and forests,” and they also say cotton is not one either because “it has large quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, and water used in its production” (“Intelligent Life Magazine”).
Following the types of fabrics used will be designers becoming sustainable and how using sustainability can create a chaotic or a successful accomplishment to their brand. For a designer to be sustainable is not as easy as it seems. To become a sustainable designer, they must “use natural, sustainable materials to make their clothing; and sustainable, renewable forms of energy to power their factories” (“Wikipedia”). They must also be one hundred percent sustainable with everything they do, because if they do not work the entire time with sustainability in their mind, they will not be branded as sustainable. Many times a sustainable designer can be discriminated by who they work, like designer Stella McCarthy, who has been eco-friendly and cruelty-free, had been judged for partnering up with Adidas – who uses kangaroo skin in some of their shoes – to create “Adidas by Stella McCarthy” as told by Ann Donehue, journalist for Hollywood Reporter. Designers can be discriminated against but can also become a great success in fashion that is sustainable. An example of a successful designer is Linda Loudermilk, who uses earth-based textiles in her products; her key fabrics are sawashi (a blend of Japanese paper and kumazasa herb) and EcoSpun (plastic bottles refined into polyester strands blended with other fibers like wool or cotton). Loudermilk has also founded the Loudermilk Institute which is “a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the quality of sustainable goods” (Donahue).
Now that you have found out a little bit about what a sustainable designer does, let us find out how they will get their products to customers. One of the most successful ways a designer can show their creations is by using a device called a fashion show. The most famous fashion shows are called fashion weeks; they are fashion shows that feature many designers showing their latest designs to the public. Some of these Fashion Weeks are New York Fashion Week, Milan Fashion Week, or London Fashion Week. “They can use a link on their website to show the fashion show to pump up the customer by showing them the season’s collection. They can use mannequins using the products in the store. They can use the media or the new way is to have printed links on the tags,” as said by FIDM instructor Ruch, can be other great way for a designer to show their products to customers.
Next will be some ideas on how a person can be part of sustainability within a group of people or an individual. Buying sustainable clothing can be a great thing to do, but it can come out costly for the consumer because sustainable products can be more expensive to produce. So if you do not have the amount of money to buy sustainable clothing, here are a few ideas of how to be sustainable without going broke. One of the ideas is to care well for your garments. According to a 2006 University of Cambridge Institute for manufacturing study, “about sixty percent of the energy associated with a piece of clothing comes from cleaning it” (Zipp). An option is to use environmentally friendly detergent, washing with cold water (saves $65 a year and cuts energy use by 75%), and air-drying your clothing (cheapest and eco-friendly). Another way to save money and have a new wardrobe is to have a “Clothing Swap” as stated by Jolia Sidona Allen from Vegetarian Times. Clothing Swap is when you invite friends to bring clothing and enjoy “dressing up.” At the end they can bid on the clothing they liked and the clothing that is left over can be donated. Another great way to be sustainable is to reuse old clothing. “Ways you can create new clothing from old is by buying clothing from the Goodwill and cut them up to create the new product” as told by FIDM instructor Ruch. Two great examples instructor Ruch gave was “The Santa Monica Craft Show had a presentation of a woman who had, throughout her collection, fun tops made out of old sweaters,” and “When I was in school, we had to use a navy wool skirt, and I washed the skirt and it shrunk. Two years passed and I reused that same skirt as a miniskirt, since the miniskirt was a trend at that time.”
At the end, not everyone will agree to what sustainability really is, and that is ok, because sustainable fashion can be whatever comes to your own mind and you can best represent it in your own style, whether you want to buy new sustainable fashion or keep your old wardrobe to restore forever or make them into new and trendy garments.
Allen, Jolia Sidona. Green you Wardrobe. Vegetarian Times. 31 Oct.2011. Web.
Donahue, Ann. Couture Conservation. Hollywood Reporter. 31 Oct., 2011. Web.
Intelligent Life Magazine. Sustainable Fashion. Winter 2010. Web.
New Strait Times. Eco-friendly Fashion Designs. 18 Sep. 2011. Web.
Ruch. Personal Interview. 24 Oct. 2011
Vanessa Friedman, Sustainable Fashion: What does Green mean? 5 Feb. 2010. Web.
Wikipedia. Sustainable Fashion. Web.
Zipp, Yvonne. Heat Up that Iron: A Guide to Eco-friendly Clothing Care. The Christian Science Monitor. 3 Oct. 2008. Web.