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Ethics in the industry: Paths to sustainable fashion

Designers, brand owners, and fashion manufacturers are increasingly seeking to meet consumer demands for sustainable fashion.

Designers, brand owners, and fashion manufacturers are increasingly seeking to meet consumer demands for sustainable fashion.

Consumers see their roles as buyers of sustainably designed and produced fashion as ethical behavior, and players in the fashion industry benefit from the positive promotional messages that appeal to ethically-minded consumers while they also reduce the contributions that their products have toward environmental and social issues.

Seven forms of sustainable fashion

The Green Strategy website presents seven forms of sustainable fashion:

  • On demand and custom made: The concept of on demand means that clothing is not mass produced ahead of a consumer’s order. Production of one-of-a-kind and specialized garments reduces the oversupply of fashions, and the waste that accompanies that oversupply. Home sewing, or “do it yourself,” are examples of this strategy.
  • Green and clean means that the various phases of fashion production, from fiber growing or manufacturing to transportation of finished products, are done in ways that are environmentally healthy.
  • High-quality and timeless design: Classic designs made with high-quality fabrics and using solid construction techniques will yield garments with life cycles of decades compared to the practically single-use life of many fast fashions.
  • Fair and ethical design and production takes into account the well-being of the people who farm crops and work in factories, paying them living wages.
  • Repair, redesign, and upcycle: Reusing existinggarments—whether for components of new garments or simply repairing holes, broken fasteners, or other minor imperfections, adds life to garment use and reduces landfill waste.
  • Rent, loan, and swap: Trading and sharing fashions provides individuals with the opportunity for “new to them” fashions while reducing production and disposal waste.
  • Secondhand and vintage shopping options enable eclectic and unique fashion styles to emerge while redirecting used clothing away from landfills.

Promoting ethical and sustainable designers

The Good Trade website promotes ethical and sustainable luxury fashion designers:

  • Stella Mccartney is a forerunner in the fashion sustainability movement, with a long-standing policy not to use leather or fur. She seeks luxury fibers and fabrics that are typically reengineered and recycled.
  • Eileen Fisher is known for her womenswear constructed from organic and recycled fibers.
  • Rag & Bone founders Marcus Wainwright and Nathan Bogle created the company to celebrate reimagined denim. Rag & Bone implemented a denim recycling program, Blue Jeans Go Green, in partnership with Cotton Incorporated. This recycling program takes consumers’ donated jeans and turns them into housing insulation.
  • Mara Hoffman, a graduate of Parsons School of Design, uses regenerated fibers, including fibers made from recycled plastic bags, to fashion her swimwear. She extends her environmental advocacy to use of organic natural fibers and use of sustainable shipping and packaging practices.
  • DÔEN shows commitment to human rights, ensuring fair wages for workers producing their garments, and sourcing work domestically when possible. As a company, DÔEN directs proceeds from its children’s collection to the organization Room to Read, a non-profit organization that promotes literacy and gender equity.

The design-to-market strategies promoted by Green Strategy and the methods employed by ethical and sustainable designers provide examples of progress toward sustainability in fashion design as well as guidance to aspiring designers and fashion companies who want to implement sustainability in their business practices.

Resources

The design-to-market strategies promoted by Green Strategy and the methods employed by ethical and sustainable designers provide examples of progress toward sustainability in fashion design as well as guidance to aspiring designers and fashion companies who want to implement sustainability in their business practices.

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Manufacture and Design Ethics in the Fashion Industry

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