Looking for sustainable fashion? Here are some tips to facilitate the search

Looking for sustainable fashion? Here are some tips to facilitate the search


The popularity of sustainable fashion is on the rise, and as a result, more and more people are becoming aware of the astounding impact the fashion industry has on the environment. Many brands are taking note of this shift in consumer awareness, and responding by making their products more ‘green.’ ‘Slow’ or sustainable fashion works to minimize environmental impact at every level, from design to production, often in conjunction with the promotion of ethical manufacturing. 

The alternative to sustainable fashion is ‘fast fashion’, in which clothes are made cheaply and discarded quickly in favour of the next, best thing. Unfortunately, the majority of clothing production today falls under this category. The primary environmental concerns stemming from fast fashion can be categorized into five groups: water usage, hazardous chemical usage, short lifecycle, disposal, and agriculture. At the production level, many of the materials used in clothing are very water intensive; use dyes or other chemicals which may pollute water sources and prove hazardous for workers; and require pesticide use, which can harm both farmers and the environment. After production, the short life cycle of many items leads to a positive feedback loop which in turn, increases consumption and production. And at the end of a garment’s life cycle, it is discarded. Too often, items end up incinerated or in a landfill, when the focus should be on recycling or upcycling clothing.

Even despite best efforts by concerned manufacturers, all clothing production adversely affects the environment in some way. To bypass the impact of production, the best practice is to buy used clothing, or alternatively, to rent clothing (which are both often fiscally responsible as well). However, it is unreasonable to assume that the average consumer can go their whole life without buying any new clothing. In that case, the best options are to buy products made from entirely recycled material, or innovative new materials that reduce use of water or other resources  (like Tencel). However, it can be difficult to tell if a company is truly sustainable, or just green-washing their products (i.e. making themselves look eco-friendly in order to appeal to consumers).

To help consumers navigate the fashion landscape, the Good Housekeeping Institute’s Textiles Lab compiled a list of brands working to make the transition to sustainable fashion. These range from companies dealing in clothing rentals (Rent the Runway), to massive international corporations with new eco-friendly lines (H&M Conscious), to brands for whom sustainability is built into their business model (Amour Vert). You can find the list in its entirety here.

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Written by Olga Speranskaya