In a world of climate change, large scale waste and major social injustices connected to working conditions, unsustainable production in the fashion industry is only the tip of the iceberg: there cannot be a sustainable fashion without a sustainable consumerism and, as long as we keep on cramming our closets with unvaluable items, produced by slave labour (because that’s what it is), bound to fall apart after two spins in the washing machine and made of materials which are impossible to biodegrade, the situation is not going to improve.
A sustainable consumerism mainly comes from individual education and there isn’t much that fashion companies can do about personal choices. However, the fact that some companies have started producing “sustainable fashion collections”, giving ethical options which oppose to the reckless idea of ridiculously cheap, disposable clothes is definitely an important first step: not only because it limits pollution and waste, but also because it helps educating consumers to quality and respect for the environment as well as acting as luminous examples for other companies. In addition to this, providing a strong communication is also extremely useful since it has the power to inform, to influence and to somehow turn sustainability into something “cool” and desirable.
Stella McCartney is a valuable example of a high end fashion firm strongly committed to change: their goal is to deliver exceptional, luxurious and high quality products by working with nature instead of against it and by thoroughly respecting human rights. The company’s supply and production change guarantees a fair wage and decent working conditions to everyone involved and the brand stands against exploitation and modern forms of slavery. Stella McCartney’s clothes never ever feature fur or leather and the brand is constantly sourcing new, sustainalbe materials as well as investigating technologies which help to recycle and reduce waste. It is the case for cashmere, the production of which has an immensely strong impact on the environment: the brand now only uses regenerated cashmere made from post-factory cashmere waste from Italy. This also helps to redefine the concept of waste, since everything that can be brought to a new life cannot really be considered garbage.
Of course, being high end ready-to-wear, Stella McCartney’s products don’t come in cheap and, no matter how versatile they can be, they will mostly suit men and women with a sophisticated, metropolitan style in accordance with the brand’s identity. However, thanks to the designer’s collaboration with Adidas, sustainability can also be purchased by sporty millennials or by whoever adopts an on-the-move budget style. Her collection of feminine technical wear – running, training and yoga – follow the same guidelines as her signature brand: high quality with low environmental impact.
Aside from the fashion industry, the amount of waste or, putting it in a clearer way, of things that go wasted, is embarrassing to say the least and it touches pretty much every field. Each year, in the South of Italy (but not only) tons and tons of perfectly good oranges are thrown away because unsold. This sums up with other citrus juice by-products which end up as garbage for the lack of better use. As well as it being quite shameful, disposing of this so-called waste is extremely polluting. Founded in 2014, Orange Fiber is an Italian company which has elaborated a pioneering way to extract cellulose from citrus by-products and creating exquisite sustainable textiles which perfectly match the needs of Italian fashion and luxury companies for high quality fabrics. Salvatore Ferragamo was the first brand to understand the power of the Orange Fiber and joined forces with the company to create a daily-wear collection, which hit the market in 2017 as a futuristic vision of luxury: beautiful and genuinely good.
Surprisingly (or perhaps not so much) it is not only ready-to-wear brands which have embarked on the journey of sustainability. The colossus of fast fashion, H&M, which had over the years become a symbol of wild consumerism and cheap (in all senses) production, has turned over a new leaf and started releasing the yearly Conscious Exclusive Collection. Made entirely of organic fabrics and with a particular attention to design and quality, the items from these collections are very far from being your average H&M pieces. The price is increased (still affordable though) but the value changes completely: long lasting, exclusive and cruelty free. Putting the Conscious Exclusive garments right next to the usual H&M ones is perhaps one of the most powerful acts towards sustainability done so far by a brand as it clearly shows to consumers the difference in quality, style and design between a properly produced garment – with good textiles and attention to details – and a fast fashion item. People can look, touch and try on the two types of clothes simultaneously, and draw their conclusions. H&M will always remain a fast fashion brand, but the fact that, without any kind of economic drive, it has felt compelled to deliver also sustainable fashion products which lead to a different kind of consumerism is – hopefully –precursor of change.
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