At a Glance:
While the fashion industry has made tremendous strides toward sustainability, manufacturers continually face mounting pressure from eco-conscious consumers and environmental activists. However, for the everyday fashion enthusiast, the cost of sustainable fashion materials seems to be out of reach. Why is that? Is it possible to make sustainable fashion cost-effective for shoppers and suppliers? That’s what we hope to discover.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
To know how to source sustainable materials, you must first understand what sustainable fashion is. Simply put, sustainable fashion refers to any clothing item designed, manufactured, and distributed in an environmentally-friendly manner. They will often use sustainable fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp, or recycled polyester, and even specialty fabrics like Tencel, Piñatex, or Econyl. These materials are popular because they have less of a negative impact on the environment.
Sustainable fashion brands will typically establish a production method that aligns with lessening their carbon footprint as much as possible. For example, many sustainable clothing brands may only use renewable energy to power their factories, manufacture their clothes on demand, use recycled materials for packaging, and limit fabric dyes, water consumption, and textile waste during production.
Related Article: Top 8 Sustainable Fashion Materials for Clothing Brands
Why is Sustainable Fashion Important?
Clothing brands should focus on sustainable fashion because of the direct impacts the current fashion model has on our planet. In the present landscape, fast fashion remains dominant and attracts a much wider audience despite lacking the quality needed for longevity. Fast fashion is far away from sustainability because the increased production schedules and high consumption rates deplete the planet’s natural resources at an alarming rate, set unsafe working conditions, and generate a staggering amount of waste.
Clothing should not be designed with the message of being cheap or disposable. Fashion brands should not lead shoppers to believe their clothes are intended to be consumed and tossed aside at the end of each season. Sustainability should be the driving force because it is society’s best chance to reduce pollution and preserve natural resources.
The pendulum is beginning to shift in support of sustainable fashion. Remake, a global advocacy organization, reported that 80 percent of fashion consumers are in favor of greater ethical and sustainable practices within the fashion world, so now it’s time for the clothing brands to catch up.
There are several sustainability best practices that any fashion brand can follow, including:
- Using less water
- Using renewable energy to manufacture goods
- Using recycled fabrics in their clothing
- Using recycled materials in shipping packaging
- Eliminating unethical disposal
- Establishing fair labor practices and fair wages for all factory workers
Related Article: Reduce Your Environmental Impact with Sustainable Fashion Materials
Why Are Sustainable Fashion Materials More Expensive?
Scaling sustainable fashion materials is more expensive than conventional clothing because the organic fibers used to produce each garment tend to be free of pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and GMOs. Organic fabrics often have a limited number of certified growers, and in some cases, are regulated by the government or subject to heftier guidelines. The combination of increased regulation, high demand, and limited supply all contribute to an increase in cost for sustainable fashion. Additionally, providing fair wages and a safe working environment costs more than outsourcing labor from unregulated factories.
Will Sustainable Fashion Materials Become More Affordable?
Sustainable fashion materials are not destined to remain as expensive as they once were. Several instances point toward an affordable means of sustainable fashion, including the secondhand shopping market. Thrifting is becoming increasingly popular because it provides an affordable alternative for clothes shopping and encourages consumers to reuse fashion products.
And let’s not forget the Backbone customers leaving their stamp and making their presence felt in the world of ethical trade. Girlfriend Collective uses fibers from recycled plastic water bottles as a manufacturing solution for its products, and ADAY uses vegan fabrics made from recycled, regenerated materials. Brands like Dagne Dover, Andie Swim, and BAGGU are progressing with at-home try-on, fit consultations, and recycling programs designed to prolong the lifespan of each product. As the demand for sustainable fashion increases, it is inevitable that more affordable brands and clothing options will become available.
Can My Fashion Brand Become More Sustainable?
Absolutely! As consumers demand greater sustainability initiatives, we encourage all fashion brands to take a closer look at their supply chains and focus on designing products for longevity. With over 100 billion garments produced each year, it is time for the fashion industry to transition back to a circular economy and recycle textile waste back into new clothing.
There is a tremendous opportunity for clothing brands to innovate and find a sustainable way of producing goods. Modern technology and accurate data enable fashion leaders to dedicate more time and resources toward research and development. Tracking consumers’ shopping habits and consumption levels allow them to refine their manufacturing schedules to prevent overproduction. Fashion designers and developers can spend more time creating products that last longer, adding greater value to the customer and the planet.
Related Article: 4 Ways Your Fashion Brand Can Become More Sustainable
What Are Sustainable Fashion Limitations?
Smaller fashion brands and fashion startups are often concerned with the limitations of sourcing sustainable fashion materials. They might be wary of a lack of variety for organic materials, limited access to certain fabrics, and the overall price point; however, sustainable fashion always provides more opportunities than limitations.
If you want to create products using sustainable fabrics but you’re worried it won’t align with your brand’s aesthetic, there are far more options available beyond organic cotton. We mentioned using Tencel and other biodegradable-certified modal fibers to restrict the use of harmful chemicals and add a luxurious feel to your fabrics, but deadstock fabrics partially address this concern, too. They open the door to a wide variety of fibers, colors, weights, and construction materials.
Well-constructed, sustainable fashion materials cost more to produce. However, the fashion space is experiencing a shift where brands create products with purpose — even with smaller margins and higher price points. Once again, using deadstock fabric is an affordable alternative to fulfill your sustainable mission if your brand does not have the resources to acquire additional sustainable materials.
If there is excess fabric the mill can no longer use, the price per yard will be significantly lower. When your total production costs reduce, it increases your chance of turning a profit while turning your attention toward the environment.
Related Article: 7 Sustainable Fashion Trends Reshaping the Future of Apparel
Fashion brands and consumers alike are taking action to fight waste and carbon emissions. With the influx of the slow fashion movement, sustainable organizations are doing their part to lessen the industry’s environmental impact with a sustainable business model that highlights the importance of eco-friendly clothing.
The benefits of sustainable fashion materials are endless. From limiting water pollution in our oceans to encouraging fair wages and labor practices, shopping for sustainable fashion will change the world, and it’s only just begun.
If you’re hoping to enhance your brand’s sustainability efforts during fashion development and production, discover our collection of case studies, blogs, and free resources to learn more about the relationship between fashion PLM and sustainable fashion.
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