The fashion industry ranks second in terms of environmental pollution (the first belongs to the oil industry), and customers are increasingly thinking about what exactly they are buying, want to know in what conditions the item was created, where the cotton was grown, how much water was used to produce steam jeans, which factory made the trousers and what working conditions there were. To survive in the global market, fashion brands have to change their policies.
Large companies succeed in this with more or less equal success: giants abandon fur (Prada recently joined fur-free brands), stop getting rid of unsold goods, which are provided with quarterly reports, and switch to "transparent" production, which allows tracking the whole cycle of creating a thing.
Sustainable brands are becoming more and more popular, offering collections that do not harm the environment at any stage of production. For example, the French mono brand Veja has won a huge success, creating sneakers from fully degradable materials. Today, on European streets, laconic Veja shoes are as common as adidas or Nike, and one pair costs about 7,500 rubles.
Veja © instagram.com/veja
As part of Milan Fashion Week in February 2019, online retailer Yoox and Vogue Italia presented a joint project in which designers from different countries showed sustainable collections. Ksenia Schneider brought things made from recycled old clothes, Peruvian brand Mozh Mozh showed rubber clothes. Recently, the Italian brand Liu Jo has released a collection of completely "green" jeans, and this applies not only to the materials from which a pair is sewn, but also to the method of production, labels, patches and even packaging. Every detail is safe for the environment.
However, the main harm to the planet is caused by brands from the mass market category, and therefore it is especially interesting what is happening in this segment and how the fast fashion agenda is changing.
Almost all major manufacturers now have eco-friendly lines. In Mango, it's Commited. Inditex brands Zara and Pull & Bear have such collections called Join Life. Two key areas can be distinguished. Firstly, more sustainable leather production in factories certified by the Leather Working Group. This means that enterprises use renewable energy sources and introduce technologies that can reduce water consumption.
1 of 3 Mango Committed © shop.mango.com © shop.mango.com © shop.mango.com
Secondly, it is working with materials that are safe for the environment. For example, in the Join Life collections, at least 50% of flax and cotton is grown in Europe in accordance with the principles of sustainable farming: with natural irrigation and without the use of genetically modified seeds. All fertilizers are also organic. In addition, Inditex brands use materials such as Tencel, which is sourced from sustainably managed forests for reforestation, and EcoVero, which is completely environmentally friendly and meets EU environmental standards at all stages of production.
Tommy Jeans, the younger brother of Tommy Hilfiger, creates items from plastic bottles, such items are accompanied by the tag "It's not all about new" ("It's not just about newness"). Weekday offers items made from recycled polyester.
Tommy Jeans © ru.tommy.com
One of the most successful brands in the green fashion segment is H&M. Its assortment always contains eco-friendly items that can be recognized by the "conscious" tag. In addition, the brand annually displays a special Conscious Exclusive capsule made from completely recycled materials such as fishing nets or candlesticks. The capsule is of particular interest also from a technological point of view. For example, this year's H&M green collection featured dresses made from pineapple leaves, algae and other biodegradable materials.
The Monki brand, part of the H&M Group portfolio, is also actively developing in the direction of responsible fashion. The brand's garments are created using 100% sustainable cotton, and the stores are powered by renewable energy sources.
1 of 6 H&M Conscious Exclusive 2019 © press service © press service © press service © press service © press service © press service
Categories assigned to things with the prefix eco- have also appeared among online retailers. The fashionable aggregator Glami offers to search for products using the "eco-materials" filter. Mass-market giant Asos has the same option. The choice here is significantly less than in other sections of the site, and many things raise questions, because they are not accompanied by any relevant information. However, curious products are still found, but the most important thing is that since such a large site introduces a separate category for such things, there is indeed demand.
Moreover, eco-friendly items are present even in the collection of Asos' own brand. The company has partnered with the Better Cotton Initiative, which aims to improve the working conditions of cotton farmers and help the environment by using less harmful chemicals and reducing water use.
© Better Cotton Initiative
Japanese brand Uniqlo, which also collaborates with the Better Cotton Initiative, also advocates to reduce the water used in the production of clothes. At the end of 2018, the company unveiled a collection of jeans that required far less water to create. The fact is that in the factories where Uniqlo sews things off, the used water is purified and recycled. At the moment, in the production of clothes, the brand uses about 10% of the volume that is consumed during traditional washing.
In addition, Uniqlo combines two technologies - nanobubbles and ozone treatment, which requires no water at all. “Both methods have their strengths and weaknesses, so we use them in different ways,” says Masaaki Matsubara, director of the jeans innovation center. “In addition, we have improved the stone processing of jeans. Previously, factories used pumice stones or pieces of cobblestones that were placed inside washing machines. The stones were gradually erased into powder, and after two or three washes they had to be replaced. Two years ago, we first started using artificial stones. They are as effective as natural counterparts, but they do not crumble. And although we have not yet managed to reduce water costs to zero, I think we have opened a completely new path and have already traveled far enough along it.The new washing method reduces water consumption by up to 99%."
Strictly speaking, most of the mass market initiatives are in their infancy. Nevertheless, the phenomenon of sustainable fashion has reached a global scale relatively recently, and it takes time to adapt to it. While some brands make 2-3 collections of sustainable clothing per year or offer separate lines, they are still opposed by others, releasing tons of things that cannot be called as safe for the planet. It is impossible to solve this problem in a few years.
In addition, such an important aspect as working conditions in production is also practically not covered. Sustainable cotton, innovative materials, safe dyes are major progress, but scandals surrounding the terrible working conditions in mass-market factories continue to surface, and with enviable regularity.
Otherwise, the truth is, as always, on the surface: the easiest way to take care of the planet and be healthy is not to buy exclusively items marked "eco friendly" and "sustainable", but simply to buy less and carefully consider your choice.
Also read about how famous designers, gallery owners and museum curators are tackling the problem of plastic.>