Almost never. As said by others, being naked is the most sustainable option. This could be an option if you decide to live as Chris McCandless in Into the Wild and trading Alaska for Madagascar. To produce a clothing piece 100% sustainable can be difficult, financially unfriendly and just not the easiest route to take. This does not mean that we should just forget about it and wait for our next flight to Mars (or die a miserable death on earth ☺). In this blog we will help you in dressing more sustainable and we are going to start with that by clarifying when fashion is sustainable. We found out that there are seven features clothing must have, before it can be called sustainable.
These are the following seven features:
During the entire production of the clothing, the environmental impact is as low as possible. This applies to the whole supply chain. The environmental impact of a clothing piece must be low from picking the cotton till a consumer wearing the piece.
The fabric of the clothing is treated environmentally friendly. The choice of materials and fabrics in producing the clothing is a very important part of this. Some eco-friendly fabrics are: organic cotton, linen, hemp, (vegan) silk, bamboo, lyocell, soy fabrics, and alpaca. The most sustainable fabrics are fabrics that are pure and not a mixture or blend of multiple fabrics.
The brand is working on better working conditions in sweatshops in developing countries. (A sweatshop is a factory where workers produce clothing for an extremely low wage.) Better working conditions means mostly fair wages, no child labour and a safe work environment.
The clothing has been produced in an animal friendly way. I personally find this a bit vague, since animal friendly can mean a lot of things. For instance, animal friendly meat exists, which is ironic to me. But let’s just state animal friendly as: animals have been kept in mind and thought of during the production process.
The clothing has been produced close to home. With local is being meant: if you buy clothes from a shop in the Netherlands, your clothes are either produced in the Netherlands or somewhere else in Europe. This reduces emissions and boosts local economics.
Recycling and reusing clothes reduces waste. Many brands, H&M for example, have programs where you can donate your old clothes and which will be recycled afterwards. However, I am somewhat sceptical about this, since clothing made from blended fabrics cannot be recycled. And as you probably know, low-budget clothing is very often made from blended fabrics.
The brand actively contributes to a social project and this is also a part of their image. An example of a brand that started with this principal, is American shoe brand TOMS. When TOMS started in 2006, they donated a pair of shoes to a child in need, for every pair of TOMS they sold. After that, they started an eyewear collection in 2011, where they improved the eyesight of 400.000 people in need by selling TOMS glasses.
If a brand does not produce according to all of the seven features, it does not mean that the brand is totally shit. Being critical is always good, but being open-minded and understanding is even better. There is no harm in researching why a brand does not produce locally for instance. There can be more or other reasons than low production costs, for example.
Do not beat yourself up if you have never thought of these seven features when buying clothes. I think I speak truthfully if more than 80% of my closet does not comply to these seven ‘rules’ and that’s ok. Because dressing sustainable is a working process. I can’t expect you to change your closet overnight by getting rid of everything and buying everything again from sustainable brands. This is financially unfriendly and a waste of decent clothing that can still be worn for a couple more years. You can still wear your H&M jeans and Zara tops, but stop buying from them now on and start with making a change by following the seven ‘rules’ mentioned above! If you really want to buy something, but you are not sure if the brand is sustainable, google them or search for the brand on rankabrand.nl. This is an awesome and very informative website where brands have been analysed and graded from A to E (A= sustainable, E= not sustainable at all). You can also view full reports of the analyses for more information, if you are wondering why a brand has a low score. And when you’re not buying anything, keep on informing and educating yourself and others. Inform your family and friends about amazing sustainable fashion brands, the next time they need to buy something. Go thrift shopping more often. Donate your old clothing to your local charity. Wear that one fabulous party dress next year again (no one will notice), or lend it to your best friend! It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you do it. Cause when you do good, you will feel better and look amazing.