Throughout recent years, an increasing number of consumers have become aware of the dangers that exist within the fashion industry and its contribution to environmental waste, ultimately existing as one of the top industries posing an extreme threat to climate change.
A large cause of this? Fast fashion. More specifically, brands that are rapidly producing garments consisting of plastic microfibers resulting from synthetic materials at an affordable rate that lures consumers in. Over a short period of time, these synthetic and swiftly made garments wear down and end up in the garbage. Which in return, contributes to the 57 million tons of clothing waste produced every year, as stated by the Fashion Revolution. With that number continuing to rise at an alarmingly concerning rate, some fashion brands have devoted their entire collections to producing outside of the box. In the end, for these designers, it’s all about the planet over profit.
Fast Fashion – What Is It?
Have you ever looked in your closet and seen an array of shirts or pants living in the shadows, which are most likely to never see the light of day again because they’re so worn down? If yes, rest assured you’re not alone. Nine times out of ten, the kinds of shirts that live in the decrepit depths of our wardrobes consist of synthetic materials made in a foreign factory that produce mass amounts of garments under unethical conditions. These items are what the fashion industry widely refers to as fast fashion. Good On You defines fast fashion as, “cheap, trendy clothing that samples trends seen on the runway or from influencers, that later get produced at an alarmingly quick rate to meet consumer demands.”
Hence, fast fashion.
Oftentimes, they’re produced out of synthetic, or man-made, fibers like polyester, polypropylene, nylon, and acrylic; as opposed to natural fibers like cotton, hemp, linen, and wool. Economically, these materials make sense. They’re able to move through production at larger, faster, and more affordable rates. Though environmentally they pose a huge threat due to an overwhelming amount of harsh chemicals, microplastics, and carbon emissions that exist as a result of their production.
Fast fashion retailers (i.e. Zara, H&M, Forever21) are notorious for fabricating collections highly dependent on affordable synthetics due to their desire for profit. As a result, their fast-fashion practices are contributing to what Earth.org acknowledges to be the second-largest consumer of water and producer of global carbon emissions – approximately 8-10% worldwide.
For context, that’s more than the total number of international flights and maritime shipping combined.
On the upside, not all fashion retailers operate and produce with the use of synthetic fibers. In fact, there are a plethora of designers who have begun to think outside of the box in order to provide garments that give back to the planet. Some fashion brands and designers even trace the fibers being worn by the consumer to better understand our relationship with the earth, fashion, and the lifecycle of a garment.
Thinking Outside of the Box
As the depressing reality of environmentally problematic consumerism continues to rise, both designers and consumers alike have begun to put the planet over profit. This requires taking a look at the bigger picture. How can designers utilize not only natural fibers, but completely omit the use of synthetic materials, all while giving back to the environment? Well, fear not, if there is a will, there is an aesthetically pleasing and environmentally conscious way.
Take Christy Dawn for example. They’re a somewhat small business husband and wife owned women’s clothing company based out of Los Angeles, CA that honors Mother Earth first and foremost. As stated by founder and designer Christy Dawn Baskauskas herself, “we are all related and interconnected parts of a greater whole.” That whole being the planet we collectively live on. However, their team acknowledges that still, holding onto simply being sustainable isn’t entirely enough when facing the overall threat the fashion industry poses to the planet. So what else is there?
At Christy Dawn, regenerative farming work is done as a way to heal the environment and those who take from it. In doing this, they’ve developed their farm-to-closet initiative in collaboration with artisan farmers at Oshadi Collective on acres of exhausted farmland in Erode, India. Handweavers and natural fabric dyers ultimately use the organic cotton and natural fibers harvested from the farm to create the one-of-a-kind and beautifully handcrafted textiles that end up as the garments worn by those purchased from the brand today.
The entire process is conducted through an international relationship with traditional farmers and the businesspeople at Christy Dawn. The use of organic cotton seeds found at local seed banks in India are planted by hand from a group of women under the warm sun to eventually grow and culminate into the beautiful materials used for the clothing today.
In the end, the goal at Christy Dawn is to make garments that actually last through the durable and natural materials used in the production stages; whether it be through their regenerative agricultural practices, or the reuse of deadstock fabric – i.e. fabric that is saved from a landfill and turned into a garment.
Not a bad alternative to that overworn polyester tee-shirt that’s hiding out in your closet, right?
Excitingly so, Christy Dawn is not the only retailer working to combat the fashion industry’s threat toward our planet. Other brands like Reformation are incorporating new technologies such as FibreTrace to identify the lifecycle denim jeans have endured as a way to better understand and enforce clothing reuse over clothing waste.
Trace and Reuse
Reformation once started out as a vintage resale company in Los Angeles, CA in 2009 by Yael Aflalo – a former model and daughter of clothing store owners. Over time, they developed into the retail company that exists today. As stated on their website, sustainability is at the core of what they do. However, as our friends at Christy Dawn taught us, the fashion industry must go one step beyond sustainability alone. So, how does Reformation implement that mindset?
Well, let’s take a look!
For starters, Reformation is entirely climate neutral. In fact, they’ve been 100% carbon neutral since 2015, and continue their initiatives to do so through their partnership with Climate Neutral. Additionally, they’ve curated six green business certified locations, meaning they conduct operations that improve water regulation, reduce CO2 emissions, foster resource stewardship, save energy, manufacture their goods locally, and purchase sustainably.
Still, though, we’re only talking about sustainability. What else is there?
Well, one of the more interesting environmentally conscious initiatives Reformation has taken action on revolves around their FibreTrace practice, which measures the lifecycle of the denim sold at Reformation. Consumers can learn where the cotton-seed-turned-denim-jeans were initially planted, grown, and harvested, followed by the travels the fibers and fabrics embarked on to later be dyed and woven into the denim fabric we have become familiar with today.
What this does is educate the consumer on the relationship between clothing and our planet. It sheds light on the bigger picture and how closely intertwined we are with our planet, while also acknowledging the ethical and sustainable manufacturing process of the clothing brand.
Similar to Christy Dawn, Reformation also sources its wool regeneratively in partnership with NATIVA™️ certified farms. Based in Australia, the sheep found at Prospect Farm and La Magdalena Farm are raised ethically on land that prioritizes soil health and the removal of harsh chemicals in the farming process. The process in which the sheep’s wool is produced has also been noted to help restore some of the CO2 back into the atmosphere.
What’s even better is that both Christy Dawn and Reformation are paving the way, amongst other countless brands both large and small – and setting the trends for the industry not only aesthetically, but through their practices in manufacturing.
So What’s Next?
In order to continue the race against fast fashion, textile waste, and the production of synthetic materials, consumers must continue to educate themselves on fashion alternatives and ways in which they can offset their carbon footprint. Encourage yourself and others to learn about the importance of regenerative farming, how exciting it can be, and how international of a practice it is, ranging from locations in India to Australia and more.
Not only is supporting sustainably-minded fashion brands an option, but thrifting, reusing, and recycling vintage and secondhand clothing is just as important – and fun! Like the folks at Reformation work to teach through their collaborative efforts with FibreTrace, you never know what the lifecycle and history of the pre-worn pair of pants you purchase might have. Let your imagination and sustainable side run wild.
Better yet, encourage your friends and family to join in on the ethical fashion fun, too. There is so much value in conscious consumerism and in purchasing a garment that is made to last not only in your wardrobe but on the planet, too.
ecomadic is a sustainable tourism brand that empowers travelers to make more conscious decisions. By curating a marketplace to easily find and identify responsible businesses to support, and providing educational publications through our online green travel magazine, ecomadic is committed to helping empower travelers make responsible choices throughout their journeys.
Want to learn more?
Waste – is it ‘really’ in fashion? – Fashion Revolution
What is Fast Fashion? – good on you
What Synthetic Materials Are Doing To Our Environment – The Sustainable Fashion Collective
Honoring Mother Earth – Christy Dawn
A Synchronistic Partnership: Oshadi and Christy Dawn – Christy Dawn
Here’s where your jeans have been – Reformation
It’s nice to have climate plans for 2050 – Climate Neutral
Wool for the planet – Reformation
@reformation – Instagram