‘Fast fashion’ is affordable, and it allows people to keep up with the latest trends. The drawback, however, is that it is destroying people’s lives and the world we live in. With governments and organisations all over the world declaring climate emergencies, consumers are becoming more aware of climate change and what they need to do to have a positive impact on the environment. Public knowledge on changes that need to be made to fashion, however, seems to be lagging compared to other forms of sustainability and climate change mitigation.
Sustainable fashion, by definition, is to change the products and fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice. As individuals we have the power to influence the industry and therefore must make conscious decisions about our purchases, where they come from and what we do with them once they’re no longer of use. Achieving sustainable fashion will be a gradual process but education and cooperation is the key way to promote this and PR can give brands a means of communicating their missions with their key audiences.
Environmental and ecological integrity
To achieve sustainable fashion through environmental and ecological integrity several steps must be taken:
- Avoid cheap ‘fast fashion brands’ as cheap clothes are often made with a short lifespan in order to keep up business.
- When you can, try to buy fashion items made from a high percentage of recycled materials, if not 100%. Also try to buy ‘sustainable’ materials such as sustainable cotton which is made using less water, energy and is free from chemicals.
- Buy items that are sold on fashion rental platforms instead of buying an outfit that you will only wear once or twice and then leave in your cupboard. Rental platforms give consumers a far less consumptive way of accessing their favourite brands.
- If you no longer want an item of clothing, instead of chucking it, you could sell it on to someone who will. Selling platforms such as Hurr, Depop, Etsy, Vinted and many others are being increasingly used to match old clothes with a new owner directly.
High street sustainability
Many high street brands are now trying to clear their name surrounding ‘fast fashion’. The H&M Group, which previously has had a reputation for fast fashion, has pledged to move towards sustainability. Included in the group are names such as Weekday and Monki. This April, Monki launched their new app which is part of their ongoing work to engage with its community. The app will enable customers to order a range of services that can help make their garments last longer such as being able to wash, repair or redesign services directly from home. They have an emphasis on ‘small but important’ actions that help customers care for their favourite pieces, and at the same time care for the environment.
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Mango has a ‘Take Action’ programme with the goal to have 50% of its cotton sustainably sourced by 2022. Earlier this year, the brand launched a denim collection that managed to reduce the amount of water consumed in the making process by 30 million litres, while French Connection is the only high street brand to make their handbags out of 100% recycled leather.
Luxury brand sustainability
Environmental and ethical concerns should not only be associated with cheaper brands as luxury items can also be tossed away as fashions change. The production of clothing from luxury brands also contains ethical concerns and as an industry they currently use far more animal-based materials including fur and leather. That being said, a number of luxury brands are now competing in the race to show consumers and regulators their commitment to reducing their environmental and social impact.
Stella McCartney has long been leading the charge for luxury brand sustainability. Since their launch in 2001 it has proved that it’s possible to create sustainable, ethical, trend-led collections without damaging our planet.
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Following a similar lead, Alexander McQueen and Mulberry are also showing what’s possible having both recently announced partnerships with Vestiaire Collective – one of the world’s most-loved pre-owned fashion platforms – as part of their ‘Brand Approved’ programme. Alexander McQueen has also announced its second round of fabric donations. A scheme introduced by the house in February 2020 to support students in need of fabric by redistributing surplus materials.
Last year, Selfridges announced ‘Project Earth’ which they have described as an exploration into how we can change the way we shop by 2025. They believe that by driving a transition to more sustainable materials, exploring new business models, and challenging the mindsets of our partners and customers as well as our own teams, they can offer an alternative perspective on retail and create a sustainable future. Daniella Vega, Director of Sustainability for Selfridges has said that, “Project Earth is about us taking radical action in response to the climate crisis”.
Added to this, having initially been somewhat hesitant to enter the growing market at the risk of sacrificing revenue, many luxury brands are now available via rental options as well as direct purchase. Rebelle, Endless Wardrobe and Rotaro are just some of many fashion rental companies that focus on designer fashion rental.
You can do your part to help- if everyone follows the guidelines laid out above, then companies without these goals on their radar will fall behind. Until companies are fully sustainable, they are not doing enough.
Communicating the steps you are taking as a brand to become more sustainable is more important than ever as consumer purchasing decisions are no longer purely motivated by price, quality and brand loyalty. Consumers are looking to wear clothes designed and produced by brands that share their commitment to sustainability so sharing this story through the right channels can be a highly effective way of setting your brand apart.
If you are looking to promote your sustainable fashion brand or would like some recognition for the work you’re doing, please get in touch with our award-winning PR team today.