Sustainable fashion is not just a fad; it’s a booming industry. In the last ten years, sales have grown from $1 billion to $5 billion due in large part to younger generations’ concerns about the environment. Consumers aged 17 - 26 want fabrics and fashion that has a limited impact on Planet Earth, a concern that hasn't been as important to older generations. Brands like Stella McCartney, TOMS shoes, and H&M market their efforts to use environmentally sound fabrics, manufacturing processes, and fair work practices. Some, like TOMS, donate money to protect animal species or protect the environment in other ways.
As fashion brands race to show off their eco-friendly credentials, it’s important to note that the shift to sustainable fashion won’t happen overnight. But it is happening, and these six best practices can get your brand up to speed on the one-way road to a greener future:
Upcycling is recycling with a more glamorous purpose. Fashion brands can use leftover fabrics and other material as well as recycle pre-owned clothing into something unique and fashion forward. Upcycling requires a true partnership between designers and manufacturers, but it saves water, reduces waste, and avoids the planned obsolescence that is all too common in fast fashion. For instance, Wolf & Lamb is a company that upcycles old leather jackets by taking old ones apart. It restyles, restitches and repairs them into stylish, one-of-a-kind new pieces.
#2 Hire a Sustainability Officer
In the last few years, many companies have hired sustainability officers whose duties are to minimize a business's effect on the environment. Sustainability officers or managers are responsible for making their companies as green as possible while still maintaining corporate profitability. At Tiffany & Co., for example sustainability officer Anisa Kamadoli Costa makes sure the brand’s iconic jewelry is manufactured using materials and supply chains that are "socially and environmentally responsible."
#3 Embrace Organic Materials
Companies that use only organic materials are doing the environment a big favor. Unlike petrol-based fabrics such as polyester and nylon, organic cotton, linen, and wool wear well but eventually "break down" and become absorbed into the environment without leaving dangerous by-products. Companies like Study NY have embraced the organic trend by using hemp, ethically sourced alpaca, and organic cotton in their designs.
#4 Monitor Greenhouse Emissions
In the past, the auto industry and steel manufacturers were pressured to reduce greenhouse emissions, while the fashion industry was ignored. However, fashion has long been guilty of leaving a huge footprint when it comes to these greenhouse gases. Luxury apparel group Kering, for instance, has stated their intention to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2025, and other companies are following suit.
#5 Invest in Supply Chain Transparency
Companies can be environmentally conscious at their headquarters, but if their supply chains are not, they are not producing sustainable fashion. Fashions that are manufactured in developing nations do not have to follow the same rules as items produced in the United States or Europe. A company cannot honestly espouse sustainable fashion while using poorly-regulated suppliers. Corporations like H&M use local sourcing to minimize their footprint and do less harm to the environment.
#6 Guarantee Product Authenticity
If you’re a Brand spending precious time and money developing a meaningful sustainability program, and investing in the hard work of manufacturing and selling more responsibly, it is critical to guarantee that products sold in your name were actually produced and sold by your team. Counterfeiters target even the smallest brands, meaning your customers could be duped into purchasing a fake product that was manufactured irresponsibly.
Implementing a product authentication platform is the most proactive and reliable method to close the loop on your sustainability initiatives. Ensuring that products with your name were made in accordance with your brand standards protects the critical connection between responsibility, reputation, and revenue — and returns power to consumers and brands who are doing the right thing.
Sustainable fashion promises to continue and thrive due largely to the younger generation. For these consumers, looking stylish is not enough. They want fashion that is sustainable and ethically produced as well as trendsetting. Companies that want to remain competitive in the fashion industry must work toward sustainability starting now.
Certilogo delivers digital brand experiences that engage and delight consumers, beginning with a safe and simple verification that a product is authentic. Learn more here.