Sustainability is not a trend. It’s a cry for help, especially to the big bosses.
The fashion industry is now being highly criticized for years and years of humanitarian and environmentally destructive practices when mass-producing. Not only are they a large contributor to the world’s waste and destroying vast bodies of water, but they also are guilty of exploiting human resources especially in third world countries.
Greenwashing has also been very apparent, taking sustainability as a trend rather than an action plan. Multiple products and brands have been feeding misleading claims to their ad campaigns about being environmentally healthy and making their companies look more sustainable than they actually are. Fashion brands are making sure that transparency is always the key to reach their market.
The movement against this system has begun, consumers are becoming aware, and brands must conform.
NGOs like Textile Exchange, Blue Ben, and others have been holding commitment campaigns, rallying change and promoting shopping as social action. Brands have started to tailor their means of production and company visions to various sustainability goals for the future.
And these big fashion names are taking the frontlines:
In June 2019, Prada announced its commitment to using only recycled nylon by 2021 and launched a pioneering new project called re-nylon that introduces a sustainable line of iconic Prada bag silhouettes—executed in a unique new regenerated nylon, ECONYL®. Created in partnership with the textile yarn producer Aquafil, ECONYL® nylon is obtained through the recycling and purification process of plastic waste collected from oceans, fishing nets, and textile fibre waste. This new material can be recycled indefinitely, with no loss of quality.
Zara has just pledged to use 100 percent sustainable fabrics by the year 2025. Their goal also comes with the promise of using 80 percent renewable energy for their headquarters, factories, and stores. “We need to be a force for change, not only in the company but in the whole sector,” Pablo Isla says to Inhabitat. He is the CEO of Inditex, the corporation that owns Zara. The brand also partners with the Red Cross to donate leftover stock and has an ongoing project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to innovate new ways to recycle fabrics.
The company has been involved in sustainability commitments since 1991 when it developed its “Terms of Engagement,” a questionnaire requires all its suppliers to complete about their labor and environmental health standards. Now that the world demands more action, Levi Strauss manager of sustainability says that they plan for more “aggressive” goals for the year 2025.
Burberry has added two new science-based sustainability targets concerning greenhouse gas emissions to its responsibility strategy for 2022. Some of their goals include: to source 100 percent of their cotton through the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI), an NGO focused on making global cotton production better for the people who produce it, better for the environment it grows in and better for the sector’s future. Another would involve communities in Afghanistan benefitting from training on more sustainable livestock management and participation in community-owned collective action organizations.
Timberland’s goals have been split into three macro-areas of interventions: product, environment, and community. The first including all the necessary expedients to reduce environmental impact for different productions as close as possible to zero, the second being a strong commitment to the process of reforestation and reappropriation of green areas in cities, the third interesting is the Timberland employees involvement in activities beneficial for the community.
This brand is on the quest of saving the fashion industry and the pioneer for fashion sustainability. A vocal vegetarian and animal rights activist like her parents, Stella decided at the age of 12 – the moment she resolved to be a fashion designer – never to use leather, fur or feathers in her creations. The racks of a Stella McCartney store are spectacles of glamorous deception: beautiful “leather” jackets and bags made from a fabric it calls Skin-Free-Skin (polyester and polyurethane, coated with vegetable oil) hang alongside leopard-print Fur-Free-Fur (spun from organic fibers).
Adidas has been quietly and consistently working for sustainability for more than 20 years. Their company-wide ambitions include: cutting in half the amount of water its apparel material suppliers use, phasing out the use of virgin plastic from all its products, stores, and offices around the globe by 2020, and targets to cut its waste in half and trim is key supplier’s energy consumption by 20 percent. The brand has also teamed up with Parley for the Oceans, a global network of creators, thinkers, and leaders from a variety of industries who have pulled together to raise awareness for the beauty and fragility of the ocean and collaborate on projects to end their destruction.
It is essential that big fashion names adapt to this outcry for sustainability, for they pose as models and goals for new and startup businesses that also aim for international success in the industry. But the fact also remains that these brands merely attune to what their consumers ask for, and wise shopping—looking into how your clothes are made—acts as a big message to the market.
Art by Tricia Guevara
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