Organic Cotton Farming; Source: PHB Group
The fashion industry is finally seeing the adverse effects of its impact on the environment. Not just that, activists don’t flinch before calling out unethical practices of fashion labels. Today’s fashion enthusiasts (a lot of them, at least) are inquisitive. They demand to know where their money is going and rightly so! While on the one hand fast fashion is still widely consumed, on the other, there is a considerable growth of sustainable brands that mean well for the planet and their suppliers.
Although this new crop may not be seeing as much frenzy as their fast fashion counterparts (yet), they cannot be discounted for what they are doing right. Here are a few lessons that fast fashion brands can pull out of the new crop of sustainable fashion brands’ books in order to improve the state of fashion.
Sustainable brands feel responsible towards society
Sustainability is not just about the well-being of the planet but also about people that live on it. Brands that are socially responsible tend to attract loyal customers. Such brands show a human side by taking responsibility for a cause that their heart goes out to.
Home-grown brands like Upasana work closely with weaver communities and organic cotton growers to empower them and ensure their financial security. Even Nappa Dori shares a part of their profits with an organisation that helps destitute children rebuild their lives.
Upasana; Source: Closet Buddies / Upasana
Philanthropy is not a new concept. For years we have been asked to do charity whenever possible by family and at school. But brands and enterprises can make a difference on a much larger scale than individuals and that is why it is important for them to take a stand for a cause. Studies have shown that people prefer to make purchases related to a charitable cause as it makes them feel more generous.
Sustainable brands care about the environment
Paying attention to the environment can not only better a brand’s reputation but also it’s profitability and longevity. Everyone knows that fast fashion brands tend to overproduce; It’s one of their biggest flaws. That makes tonnes and tonnes of textile end up in landfills on an annual basis. Not just textile, labels, trims, all the little things add up to an unethical amount of waste each year.
Sustainable brands are shunning just that. Instead of letting all that expense go into the dumps (quite literally), they are spending more on quality and on sourcing materials that have a low impact on the environment, to produce longer lasting products.
There exist brands like Nicobar, No Nasties and Brown Boy in India that have made extremely fashionable clothing with the environment as their prerogative. Enough cumulative data suggests that even if sustainability is not on top of a person’s list of priorities while shopping, they will still make a sustainable purchase if they are given the option, simply because it is the right thing to do.
Sustainable brands are honest with their customers
Transparency – the key to good business ethics. With customers being able to access information at a click of a button, brands are not spared the question of what they are asking to pay for. Initiatives like ‘War on Want’ and Fashion Revolution’s ‘Who Made My Clothes?’ are raising awareness among fashion lovers about the sorry state of affairs within the community of garment makers across the world, especially in South Asia.
Source: Fashion Revolution
Not just that, brands are now selling by informing customers about both the pros and cons of their product. This way, the customer makes an informed decision. For example, organic cotton users are fully aware that it is better for the environment but it is not as soft and comfortable as its inorganic counterpart.
Silent Goods, a British luxury brand of leather goods has set the bar for transparency. It comes attached with a microchip that enables you to trace its entire supply chain from start to finish.
Customers are asking questions which fast fashion has no answers to.
Sustainable brands capacitate their economies
While on the one hand, fast fashion is infamous for outsourcing their manufacturing to developing economies and paying less than minimum wage to its workers, on the other hand there is a sense of pride that comes with “imported” goods, especially in India. But the bigger picture is lost in fighting this battle. There are a lot of benefits to making locally. Not only does it help avoid contributing to the evergoing pollution from logistics but also empowers artisans and craftsmen within the country.
Looking at it from an economic perspective, manufacturing locally is as good as investing in the economy. Ethical payment means a better livelihood for those who are involved in the manufacturing process and isn’t it better if they are the citizens of the brand’s home country? Afterall, charity does begin at home.
11:11| eleven eleven is a brand that promotes khadi and Indian heritage textiles. They even employ local artisans to handle the block print and dyeing processes. Khadi, once deemed out-of-fashion is now being looked at through a different lens thanks to young, creative brands like these.
Sustainable brands recycle
When one thinks of recycled textiles, Patagonia is the first brand that pops up! That is probably because they have been ahead of the eco-friendly fashion game since 1993, when they started using recycled plastic bottles to make their clothes.
Today, there isn’t a dearth of sustainable brands that are using recycled materials to make fashionable garments but the point is that this should be a norm, not a trend! Recycling is not as inexpensive either. It requires specific machinery and expertise, something that fast fashion is not ready to invest in yet!
Despite the limitations, creativity sees no bounds. Brands like Doodlage source all their raw materials from factory wastes and have built a name for having unique, one-of-a-kind pieces!
Sustainable brands build communities not customers
Today, social media has brought people from different parts of the world so close to each other, it’s surprising! Massive social movements are taking place online. More people are fighting for justice on Twitter than in courts of law! The same holds true for sustainable fashion. When a brand does not align with their personal values, customers don’t hesitate to abandon it completely. On the other hand, when someone loves a brand, they make sure to promote it instinctively. Word of mouth may be the oldest form of marketing but it is still the most effective.
Communities of Sustainable Fashion Lovers Protest; Soure: Zerrin Magazine
Sustainable brands have access to plenty of online communities of fashion lovers trying to find a brand that they resonate with, a brand that speaks to them and is in line with their principles.
Sustainable brands are not scared to experiment with materials
There is always the question of aesthetic when it comes to sustainable fashion. In the past, the bandwidth of ethically sourced or environmental friendly raw materials was not as high as it is today.
Material innovation is at its peak right now. From pineapples, apples and cacti being transformed into long-lasting forms of vegan leather to plastic bottles being made into really comfortable shoes, there is no limit to what can be done. But brands embracing this is the icing on the cake. Sustainable brands are not afraid to use these experimental components and play around with their creativity.
That’s where they precede over fast fashion brands. These materials are not inexpensive or ample. The cost of manufacturing with them is also significantly higher than that of doing so with conventional materials. Sustainable brands bear this in mind when they build a community. They are aware and confident that their customers share the same passion for sustainability as they do, something that fast fashion brands cannot vouch for.
H&M COnscious Colletion; Source: H&M Conscious
Customers call for sustainability started about a decade ago and since then it is only sky-rocketing. Fast fashion brands like H&M are now changing their strategy, rebranding and even going to the length of altering their product offering. That is the power of knowledge and a customer’s awareness!