Fashion used to revolve around 4 seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall. Clothing available in this country was mostly made in the U.S.A and cost a considerable amount of money.
But with globalization and cultural shifts, fashion has taken on an entirely new identity. Fashion companies like H&M, Forever 21 and Zara now subscribe to an 11-15 season model. Clothes are manufactured overseas and sold for record low prices.
Because of these changes, consumers have started purchasing and treating their garments differently, almost as if they were disposable. We both buy and get rid of more clothes at a more rapid pace.
These trends in clothing manufacturing and consumption have culminated in an era of “fast fashion”.
The Harms of Fast Fashion
The rate of consumption is exhibited by statistics. The top fast fashion retailers grew 9.7 percent each year over the past five years. Globally, the fashion industry is $1.2 trillion with approximately $250 billion of that spent in the United States. And it’s only growing.
However, as our rate of consumption increases, our ability to keep up with the disposal of these clothes has not.
As Tasha Lewis, a professor at Cornell University’s Department of Fiber Science and Apparel Design, puts it: “We don’t necessarily have the ability to handle the disposal. The rate of disposal is not keeping up with the availability of places to put everything that we’re getting rid of and that’s the problem.”
In fact, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that in 2013, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated. 12.8 million tons of that waste was discarded.
This does not include an estimate that found that nearly 15% of fabric used to make clothes ends up trashed.
This problem is only compounded by the fact that many fast fashion clothing companies manufacture clothes out of polyester, a material made out of petroleum, which is very difficult to recycle.
Plus, these synthetic materials have been found to pollute our oceans. When washed, materials like polyester or rayon release microfibers that then are drained into the ocean. In a 2011 study by Mark Browne, a senior research associate at the University of New South Wales, Australia, it was discovered that 85% of human-made debris on ocean shorelines worldwide come from microfibers.
With all of these problems surrounding the fashion industry, some socially conscious companies have decided to take on the challenge. Many consumers are now looking for environmentally friendly and socially responsible fashion products and hundreds of different companies are emerging with many different solutions.
Today, we will look at 5 different companies that are attempting to do just that. Each one, of course, has advantages and disadvantages. But with this critical environmental and social problem, each one of these companies is a step in the right direction.
5 Companies Combating Fast Fashion
If you follow fashion via fashion bloggers, then you have probably heard all about this brand: Reformation.
According to their website, thereformation.com: “Created in 2009 by Yael Aflalo, we design and manufacture the majority of our limited-edition collections in our factory headquarters in downtown Los Angeles. All other garments are produced by responsible manufacturing partners here in the U.S. or abroad using sustainable methods and materials. We source sustainable fabrics and vintage garments while incorporating better practices throughout our supply chain to make beautiful styles at a fraction of the environmental impact of conventional fashion. It is our mission to lead and inspire a sustainable way to be fashionable.”
However, this brand is not any other environmentally friendly clothing line, but it is actually designed in a very millennial-friendly and trendy way—making it a promising alternative to shops like Zara and H&M. This is because they have a much shorter turn-around time since they manufacture clothing in the United States.
As they put it, “Most fashion is designed 12-18 months before it’s released, but at Ref a sketch becomes a dress in about a month.”
This company also uses vintage and eco-friendly fabrics. Many of their clothing is made from Tencel, a material made from Eucalytpus trees.
Reformation has also developed a way of tracking their environmental footprint, which they have termed the RefScale. The RefScale measures the pounds of carbon dioxide emitted, the gallons of water used, and pounds of waste generated.
Each of the many ways that Reformation is trying to incorporate sustainable practices into their business is slowly moving younger generations away from fast fashion and making eco-friendly fashion “cool”.
To find out more about Reformation, check out thereformation.com.
Rent the Runway
Another company that is approaching the fight for sustainable fashion practices in an entirely different way is Rent the Runway.
This company rents out name brand clothing to customers for a monthly fee. This way, a consumer can wear the garment a few times, then simply return it for another garment—addressing the consumer culture of disposing fashion.
Rent the Runway is dedicated to sustainable fashion in many other ways—from recycling plastic, investing in designer pieces that can last, and using responsible dry cleaning methods.
The company’s website, renttherunway.com, also touts another accomplishment: “Since launching our environmentally-friendly packaging in 2015 we have saved more than 900 tons of shipping waste.”
To find out more about Rent the Runway, download their app or visit renttherunway.com
When it comes to sustainable fashion, Eileen Fisher has been an absolute leader of the industry. This clothing brand has infused environmentally and socially responsible business practices in every single dimension of their business.
Nearly all of their clothing is made from organic and sustain fabrics like organic cotton and organic linen. The people behind this brand care deeply about the supply chain of fabrics, clothing and packaging.
They have a set goal that by 2020, they will only use 100% organic cotton and linen fibers, responsible dyes, carbon positive operating and a no-waste facility.
These sustainably produced clothing is quite expensive. However, because of their materials and construction, they last much longer than any typical garment.
To learn more, check out eileenfisher.com