The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goal 12 of responsible manufacturing and consumption has become an increasingly significant subject
within the 'slow fashion' movement.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is a method of sourcing, producing, and designing clothing that maximises the benefits to the fashion industry and society as a
whole while minimising the environmental impact.
Textiles and clothing account for USD 2.4 trillion in global factory output. According to reports, it employs 300 million people globally across the value
It uses approximately 215 billion litres of water per year and suffers a material loss of 100 billion dollars per year due to under utilisation. Textiles
contribute about 9% of microplastics lost to the ocean.
Sustainable fashion, also known as slow fashion, is a method of producing garments that considers all elements of the supply chain and seeks to respect
people, the environment, and animals in the process.
Fast fashion is the absolute opposite of sustainable way. This implies that, rather than the wasteful 'take-make-buy-discard' loop of in bulk, disposable
clothing from brands and retailers that prioritise profit over people and the
environment, the sustainable solution aims to reduce impact on the environment
and, in some cases, regenerate it.
With the fashion business accounting for approximately 2-10% of global carbon emissions, integrating sustainability can also mean creating significant
progress toward decarbonization and meeting global climate goals.
Sustainable vs Ethical fashion
In ideology, the 2 concepts overlap, yet each of them have slightly distinct concerns, both of which are equally important to the future of fashion.
Sustainable fashion refers to designers and brands who create clothing using
organic, natural, biodegradable materials, reprocessed clothing or repurposed
fabric, non-toxic dyes, and other environmentally friendly materials.
However, ethical fashion refers to the goods that integrate the aforementioned points as well as the social aspect of fashion. For instance,
equal wages and decent working environment for garment workers are factors that
sustainable fashion does not always consider.
Vegan or cruelty-free fashion should not be confused with ‘sustainable' fashion.
While avoiding leather, fur, cashmere, wool, silk, snakeskin, and feathers is much more ethical, it does not ensure a brand's environmental authentication –
for instance, many vegan alternatives available to leather and wool are made out
A brief history of sustainable fashion
The origin story of the sustainable fashion movement occurred concurrently with environmental social movements over the last 30-40 years.
The fast fashion crisis is considered a fairly modern issue – clothing was appreciated in a significantly different manner in the first half of the
twentieth century, with relatively increased prices, a make-do-and-mend
mentality, a shorter trend cycle, and a mostly local made-to-measure shopping
With accelerated globalisation, technical advances, as well as the explosion of fashion as an entertainment business in the 1960s, demand for mass-produced,
cheap, trend-driven clothing skyrocketed, and while clothing companies lined
their pockets and consumers indulged in the latest looks, little research was
done on the serious consequences for the planet.
Some observers say, despite some small 'eco' initiatives by a few brands in the 1990s, the clothing industry was already drowning in the sea by the time the
UN defined the term 'sustainability' in 1987.
Nike's sweatshop scandal in 1991 and the Rana Plaza disaster in 2013 drew considerable attention to the fashion industry's concerns. The Rana Plaza
building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, which housed five textile mills, collapsed,
killing at least 1,132 people and injuring over 2,500 others. It drew
international and consumer attention to labour conditions and sustainable
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