Sustainability is important in any industry. This includes the fashion industry. Let’s look at some techniques used in the fashion industry helping it to be more sustainable and eco-friendlier.
Firstly, fashion houses can focus on the life cycle of their products produced. This may seem like a common-sense approach to design but even the smallest design choices can impact how long a product’s life will last. There are many reasons that people discard clothing – not the right fit, the person changes the size, the fabric quality or the style becomes uncool. If you are designing the product to last you are keeping your products from going to landfill. The product could be taken care of and repaired or reused.
The longer the lifecycle or the longer an item lasts, the less of an environmental footprint it leaves. As fashion houses are seen as a quality brand, it is also an advantage to them. In this case, fashion houses can be seen as ‘eco-friendly’ or socially responsible.
Another sustainable fashion technique is manufacturing fashion items from raw materials.
Clothes today are made from a wide range of different materials. Traditional materials such as cotton, linen and leather are still sourced from plants and animals. But most clothes are more likely to be made of materials and chemicals derived from fossil fuel-based crude oil.
Thirdly, a technique used in the fashion industry is using items that can be recycled. Instead of relying on new resources or raw materials all the time. If clothing has hit the end of its life cycle, there are ways to recycle it:
- Clothing can be donated or sold to another person at a discount price (i.e. garage sale, eBay, thrift, Goodwill Stores, etc.)
- Clothing and textiles can be collected, baled, and exported in bulk to developing countries. Read how Textile Waste Diversion does it here.
- Clothing and textiles can be collected, baled and recycled back into raw materials to be made into new apparel or non-apparel products. Learn more about textile balers and recycling here.
Some companies, such as Patagonia, an outdoor clothing and gear company, accept their product back for recycling. Other companies, like USAgain, are for-profit textile recycling companies using collection bins at a variety of sites. Textile recycling equipment plays an important part in the textile recycling industry – Standard and high-efficiency textile recycling equipment are quite important for supporting the textile industry. So far, the most popular and widely accepted clothing recycling bin use a high safety chute that is easily opened and closed.
Some textiles can be remade into other pieces of clothing, while damaged textiles are sorted out to make industrial wiping cloths and other items.
Eco-Friendly Dyeing Techniques
Clothes and other fashion items come in all sorts of different colours. Textile dyeing and finishing in a green way can be achieved by using chemical-free dyes and using kind to environmental processes. Using natural dyes made from plants, marine invertebrates (like sea urchins and starfish), algae, bacteria, and fungi. This has also led to the development of Herbal dyes, that are not just bio-degradable but also posses’ medicinal properties. Plants, fruits, barks, stems, minerals, and herbs are used to make fabrics with anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergic fabrics.
However, retaining colourfastness and obtaining certain shades can be difficult. The following are a few other dyes and pigments used to reduce the consumption of water and keep the environment from polluting to a minimum.
Fibre-reactive dyes are dyes that bond to the fibre due to a chemical reaction with fabrics like cotton, rayon, and soy. Colouring using these dyes does not require mordants.
Also, fibre-reactive dyes use less salt, heavy metals, and water than normal dyeing agents.
As the name suggests, bio-degradable dyes, do not require using heavy metals, amines, and inorganic salts. Hence they easily get decomposed without leaving any landfill in the environment.
Fifthly, designers can employ ‘zero waste cutting’ techniques.
Zero-waste is a design technique that eliminates textile waste at the design stage. It has been estimated that 15% of textiles intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor. Why waste a precious resource?
The zero-waste approach means that you need to know your textile dimensions to be able to design your garment; and likewise, you need to know your design dimensions to source your textile. You will need to carefully plan how you use the piece of textile by arranging your pattern pieces like a jigsaw puzzle. You can also work out the pattern by draping.
Zero-waste reduces their carbon footprint by eliminating most, if not all of the materials and resources, that usually go to waste during fashion production. This increase in efficiency can really help a fashion house to be sustainable.
Lastly, government, legislation and fashion houses can make consumers aware of their social responsibility. Supporting eco-fashion rather than ‘fast fashion’, where so many resources and items are initially wasted. It’s either in the production stage or afterwards, chucked away and replaced after only a very short period. By doing so, consumers and companies can be legislated to help create and sustain eco-friendly fashion – even though they are not wearing dresses from paper or corn starch.
Do you have any other sustainable fashion techniques in your mind? Share it with us, we’d love to hear from you!