Fashion is a reflection of society, and as such, has joined the global environmental concern to plunge into a new transformation towards sustainable fashion. Since only a few years ago, the system of the textile industry suffered a major global relocation jump. It was born what was called the “fast fashion”, the continuous creation of series of garments and at low cost.
Now we are in front of the start of a new era in which sustainability has everything to win the game. What some are calling a temporary trend or a mere marketing campaign of companies to gain followers or get rid of environmentalists, is actually a necessity. Sustainability is useful not only for society in general, whose future depends on maintaining ecosystems, but for large companies and corporations that reduce costs and perpetuate the long term.
Some brands are born as references. The firm of sustainable fashion Edun was created in 2005 and its entry in 2009 in the conglomerate LVMH, the parent company of Louis Vuitton, Dior, Kenzo or Fendi, has been marked as the beginning of the wave of sustainable fashion firms born thereafter. Eileen Fisher or The Reformation in the international arena and El Naturalista, Zara or Skunkfunk in Spain.
However, not only new firms raised, the traditional industry introduces also in the eco world. Because sustainability does not discriminate by the size, but large companies are able to invest large amounts of capital in improvements that also have a high return on profits.
Sustainable fashion is not simply based on the use of natural elements for manufacturing, but also involves procedures marked by innovation and increasingly efficient processes and in the support to the communities. The different brands apply the rules of this more responsible way for understanding the industry in different and original ways.
Original certainly is the new set of lingerie and stockings presented by Wolford. A collaboration with Cradle to Cradle that answer to the peculiar question: How to transform your lingerie in a salad? Simple, using fabrics made from yarns that can be part of an infinite loop that does not create waste and with healthy and safe dyes and chemicals so that they can become nutrients for the planet. That is how Wolford extends its environmental commitment even outside their production facilities.
More or less original or at higher or lower levels, countless firms bet on the environmental efficiency of their products.
Eileen Fisher is one of the America leading brands in eco fashion. With its “Vision 2020” program aims to achieve the goal of being 100% organic for that year. Meanwhile, it uses sustainable materials for garments and has created a system for collecting used clothing to create a new one. In addition, the brand works with artisans from India and Ethiopia sign of the revaluation of craftsmanship that makes its way between large chains of production.
It seems that concerned fashion has reached companies that control the world of the luxury, and among them, Kering stands out. The conglomerate involving brands such as Gucci, Stella McCartney, Yves Saint Laurent, Balenciaga and Puma has become part for the first time in 2016 Top 100 of sustainable companies made by Corporate, ranking number 43. A ranking in which Adidas occupies a surprising fifth place.
In 2017, they presented their new Sustainability Plan for 2025. A document prepared in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations, including measures such as reducing carbon emissions by 50% or reducing the environmental impact by 40%. They have also developed an index to ensure that their suppliers also respect the sustainability standards of the group.
The main areas of focus of this document match with those that contribute most to the ecological footprint of an industry that is the second biggest polluter on the planet: carbon emissions, water pollution, the production of cotton and livestock.
For Marie Claire Daveu, executive of Kering group,
“Sustainability is no longer an option
(In the fashion world)”
This business philosophy is spread to all the brands, which produce concrete measures to create sustainable fashion. In Gucci, handbags as the bestseller Dionysus, has replaced the PVC used in their details by the cleaner polyurethane. Following this way, a significant improvement in environmental impact is achieved and without repercussions on an aesthetic level. And although the firm uses in its accessories animals skins, they deal with select species that are not endangered and farmers who meet their standards of animal respect. In fact, they have started to build a python snake farm in Thailand to ensure that breeding these animals follows the appropriate regulations in sustainability.
With these changes in the design of the great classics, it is demonstrated that aesthetics is not a drag on eco–fashion. Technology opens the door to both create innovative pieces and recreating classics, all with minimal impact on the environment and maintaining the standards of social responsibility.
Meanwhile, Puma has gone from bankruptcy to become one of the hippest and most successful sports brands of the past year. All this after being purchased by the Kering group. The company has an important social philosophy, which has led them to sign a recent agreement with IFC that allows them to support their suppliers and invest in improving factories in environmental and occupational safety issues.
One of the most aware sports firms with the environment. Adidas just launched which is its second collaboration with Parley for the Oceans a platform immersed in different projects to curb the environmental footprint and that has joined Adidas to create the shirts of Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
The kits are made from a new type of from sustainable fiber, which comes from the used plastic that the organization collects in its clean-up actions in Maldives seabed. In their first collaboration, the same type of fiber had already been used to create the Ultra Boost sneaker.
Beyond collaborations, Adidas has scored two great goals. The first, replace non-renewable materials of its shoes as polyester, and second, to investigate how to recycle the different types of plastic used to give them a new life. Its next challenge is to develop materials that can be recycled infinitely without losing its properties.
Another company that has used plastic bottles intelligently has been Emirates. The airline has used it in this case to create new blankets offered in its Economy Class flights of long-distance. Each blanket is made with 28 recycled plastic bottles and it is estimated that by the end of 2019 they would have re-used 88 million of plastic bottles from landfills.
Innovation in fabrics extends not only to the field of fashion, but businesses of all kinds are concerned to use recycled or ecological fabrics as part of their social commitment. C&A, H&M and Adidas are the fashion groups that use more organic recycled cotton in a ranking led by the giant Swedish Ikea.
The company’s commitment with saving water has been standing out for years. Levi’s is aware of the environmental hazards involved in the process of dyeing and washing of denim garments, so the company focuses its efforts on optimizing the consumption of water. The Levi’s Water Less campaign began in 2011 and since that moment has managed to save about two hundred million liters of water. While a normal jeans consumes 42 liters of water in the finishing process, a rigid jeans water <less 501 consumes less than one liter. But undoubtedly, the company has made the big step by making public its techniques. The best way to celebrate the World Water Day and a great gesture of generosity and social responsibility.
Commemorating the one that has become its symbol in terms of sustainability, in 2016 LS & Co Collaboratory was born, a program of annual scholarships for entrepreneurs in the field of sustainable fashion. Each year will have a different theme relating to sustainability in the fashion world and, as one would expect, the first year has been dedicated to saving water.
In addition, they also have a program for collecting used clothes, which has just started to spread in Europe but that has been active in the United States since 2015. The program has the support of I:CO, dedicated to reusing and recycling textile.
Low cost has joined gradually with sustainable fashion. Inditex has not been the first or anything, but in recent months has made great steps towards sustainability, especially in its flagship brand, Zara.
In 2007 the Spanish company drafted the “Manual for the design, construction, maintenance and management of the eco-efficient store” beginning a long process of remodelling and restructuring of their establishments and in order to achieve by 2020 that all its stores were eco–efficient and all its clothes had the hallmark “Green to Wear”.
In 2016, Zara also launched the project Join Life, covering various initiatives. Among them, a collection of garments made with organic fabrics, a clothing collection service in cooperation with Caritas, Red Cross and Oxfam and a new ecommerce service package that uses 100% recycled paperboard. Only with this measure it is avoided the cutting of 21,840 trees and CO2 emissions are reduced by 1,680 tons per year.
Join Life Zara collection 2017
The great distribution questions its system and other major paradigms of the fast fashion stands out among its competitors for its environmental consciousness. H&M is one of the largest buyers of organic cotton and one of the largest users of recycled polyester globally. In 2014, they used recycled polyester equivalent to forty million PET bottles and have set the goal that their cotton comes from 100% sustainable sources by 2020.
In 2017, it surprises us with its new collection Conscious Exclusive, formed by garments made from recycled waste from the coast. In addition to a comprehensive collection of women and menswear, they will include for the first time children’s clothing and the fragrance Conscious Exclusive, made from organic oils. It will be available in around 160 stores worldwide and online from April 20.
Supermodel and philanthropist Natalia Vodianova is the image of the Conscious Exclusive campaign this year, being her first campaign for H&M.
“I am proud to be part of the campaign Conscious Exclusive by H&M. It is amazing to see the progress in sustainable fabrics that are used in the collection, which provides for a more sustainable future for all fashion,” says Natalia Vodianova.
The main creation of this collection is certainly the ethereal pleated dress in pastel pink. The fluidity of the fabric shows that an impeccable style can be environmentally friendly. Eco is not synonymous with boring, but it opens up a world of possibilities to exploit that low cost firms like H&M bring closer to the public at an affordable price.
Neither price nor style are at odds with sustainability. The future of the fashion industry goes through reinvent themselves and get fast fashion, by definition unsustainable, to respond to the new values of a society that requires and needs a new model more responsible.
Translated by: Raquel Sanchez