Sustainable fashion, also known as a ‘green’, ‘eco’ and ‘ethical’ clothing is a manufacturing process that encourages quality production, ethical working environments and adding real value to a product. It also provides consumers with a way to connect with the environmental impacts of their shopping choices.
In today’s fast fashion cycle, there is a large amount of information consumers don’t really know about the clothing they buy except for the price tag. Altering shopping habits and swapping fast fashion with investment style pieces is one approach to introducing longevity into a wardrobe but there are other ways fashion brands can help to reboot consumer mindset and change shopping habits for the better.
Take a look at some of the ways brands and consumers are changing their attitude towards sustainable living and embracing the rise in ethically made clothing.
Researching sustainable fashion brands
Taking the time to look at the facts gives you an idea of the scale of the problem we are facing. With most of the fashion industry’s focus on boosting volume, the ethical aspects of the clothing cycle start becoming an unachievable goal. Resources such as Fashion Revolution are questioning the industry and encouraging transparency with campaigns such as #whomademyclothes. This collective voice is helping consumers understand the whole fashion cycle from factory to hanger and is showing the fashion industry that there are some significant improvements to be made.
Purchasing ethical clothing
Trying to get out of the mindset of cheap, ‘see now buy now’ fashion is going to be a tricky task but there are many designers and brands rising to the challenge. Sustainable fashion is starting to make waves in mainstream trends and is far from the stereotypical lacklustre style associated with ethically made clothing. Brands are embracing the need for change and with that, are helping to educate its target audience into a new way of fashion shopping. One of the best ways that fashion brands can help consumers make ethical and sustainable fashion choices is by offering collections that are classic and timeless. These investment buys last longer than throwaway garments and create on-trend style throughout various seasons.
Beautiful and sustainable materials, skilled creators and safe working environments all cost money and this amount needs to be looked at, not only as an investment in style but as an investment in the future of people and the environment.
Making clothing with sustainable fabrics
Synthetic materials such as nylon, polyester and acrylic make up a sizeable percentage of fabrics sitting in landfills today. They take years to decompose and the manufacture of this clothing has a notably negative impact on the environment. A study by Plymouth University also found that washing these fabrics releases microscopic plastic fibres into the environment, which can cause harm to marine life. Prioritising natural materials such as jute and organic cotton in clothing manufacture can make small but important changes to this global polluter.
Change the sustainable clothing stereotype
Sustainable clothing has evolved considerably over the past few years, yet there is still a stigma attached to green living. Last year academic research discussed the gender stereotypes regarding consumption of sustainable products and the  “prevalent association between green behavior and femininity, and a corresponding stereotype (held by both men and women) that green consumers are more feminine”.
This interesting study offers brands the opportunity to evaluate how they promote and sell sustainable products, to ensure they are proactively eliminating this prevalent stereotype. As shoppers, there is also the chance to break down the perception of labels associated with green or sustainable living by prioritising conscious choices about eco-friendly fashion and the environment.
Starting a sustainable fashion brand
In the current market, starting a sustainable fashion brand is favourable to the success of your business. The way people shop has changed, and a focus on buying ethical fashion or green clothing is now a key consideration for shoppers across the globe. Starting this type of fashion brand isn’t as difficult as you might first think, and there are a host of clothing manufacturers that can help to source organic fabric and ethically made clothing to produce your clothing.
Alongside how your clothing is made, there are some other aspects to think about when starting your fashion business. Take a look:
- Pricing - Naturally, sustainable fabric is more expensive as this process doesn’t just churn out mass-produced clothing. Price-point will be important to your customer but creating a brand identity that focuses on the benefits and positive impacts your clothing has in the industry will help to distinguish you in the market.
- Define your ethics - Starting an eco-friendly fashion label should be built on authentic ethics and standards that resonate with your target audience. Just following the crowd is not a useful tactic for new companies, as consumers need to believe your reasons for producing ethical clothing. Gaining certification with eco-friendly associations could have a beneficial impact on your brand identity to help build a loyal customer base.
- Think outside the box - As mentioned above, there can be stereotypes about the type of person that buys sustainable fashion. Breaking down this stigma can be achieved by thinking outside of the typical design scope. Use sustainable fabrics to your advantage and experiment with different styles and cuts to embrace the beauty and raw nature of its composition.
Sustainability in the fashion industry is a hot topic of conversation and is making its mark in becoming a critical movement that shouldn’t be dismissed as a passing trend or fad.
 Aaron R. Brough, James E. B. Wilkie, Jingjing Ma, Mathew S. Isaac, David Gal; Is Eco-Friendly Unmanly? The Green-Feminine Stereotype and Its Effect on Sustainable Consumption, Journal of Consumer Research, Volume 43, Issue 4, 1 December 2016, Pages 567–582, https://doi.org/10.1093/jcr/ucw044