Lifecycle of a Tshirt: Image Copyrighted by Thread Channel

Sustainability in Fashion

Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, but when we think of sustainability and fashion, we do observe a gap in the market.

As consumers and retailers we need to understand that we are a part of a circular economy . If you think of sustainability it’s foundation is based on 3P’s , they are — People, Planet and Profit. It is important to strike a balance between these three.

Fashion has been rated as one of the most polluting industries.

As consumers, we need to be forward thinking and take initiatives to make a change in our shopping style today .
Chart shows fast fashion vs sustainable fashion interest over time. Source:Google trends

Lets dive in a little into these three elements and take a closer look at related aspects to produce one cotton t-tshirt, which is definitely a part of most of our wadrobe.

People

With the origin of high revolution Fast Fashion the industry has become more about fast production without taking into account the cost of this fast pace . Drawing a parallel with fast food, anything fast definitely cuts corner to make production and gain market advantage.

In the process of creation of a t-shirt, a lot of emphasis is laid on the operational experience. It is vital that all the workers that are involved throughout the lifecycle of the product are treated fairly. We have heard a lot of complaints regarding unregualated health, safety and wage standards under which garments are produced. This kind of carelessness has lead to tragedy such as the collapse of Rana Plaza. To bring down prices of a basic t-shirt manufacturers bring down operational cost.

We are in the era of economic liberalization, which has led to manufacturing process to be spread out in parts of the world where labor costs are low. This has caused a profileration of labor needs creating more job opportunities. What needs to be taken into account is the operational process adopted in these countries. Manufacturers need to keep a close look on the working conditions, working hours and not to be running these set ups as sweat shop. It is good to own a t-shirt, which has helped someone in remote part of the world to make an earning by working on it. Efforts need to be made to make this operation chain as fair and fun as it is for the companies and the consumers. Fair trade needs to become a part of all brands to ensure that they are not exploiting cheap labor in any part of the world.

Planet

Statistically 40% of these all clothes in one’s closet is not worn on a regular basis. These items after being bought sits in the closet for the longest time and gradually are discarded.

When we talk about how sustainability initiative by us affects the planet it is important to consider two aspects . Firstly, it is important to consider fabric. A lot of designers are becoming more conscious and preferring to use eco- friendly material for designing clothes. As consumers, some of these materials that you can look out for are: hemp, organic cotton, recycled polyester etc. (more here). Secondly, After a piece of garment has gone through the shelf life in one’s wardrobe how we choose to discard it is important. The shelf life of a t-shirt can vary from a week to months or several years based on usage, material and maintenance. Once we have gone through it there are several options to choose from. We can donate used clothes. Another option is to recycle clothes and make some bucks doing so. There are several options to sell your used clothing. If Apps is not your thing, another easy option is to look for a local consignment/thrift store in the area. Either of these three options prevent your t-shirt from landing in a landfill. If you are wondering what is the big deal about landfill you should know it leads to emissions of toxic gases such as methane, which jeopardizes our environment. As savvy consumers, we should try to ensure we dont contribute to the landfill waste.

Profit

As with any business all fashion retailers are interested in their products helping them make some money. Sustainable initiatives are seen to be an expensive endeavor. As retailers and consumers we both have to understand the value proposition a sustainable t-shirt has over a regular t-shirt.

Brand development and customer loyalty can be achieved by building brand transparency. We are living in the times where we see there is an ascension of ethical fashion. If the companies are able to educate the consumers on the value provided by the ethical steps the company adopts to create a t-shirt which costs $15 versus $5 as consumers we will be appreciative of the brand and this could lead to brand loyalty. A mere transparency in such initiatives could lead to user acquisition cost to go down. Good Corporate citizenship can be translated into revenue.

Operational costs are a big chunk of costs incurred by retailers. These costs can be kept down not by compromising on fabric selection or working conditions but to ensure the packaging choice and marketing initiatives are made minimalistic and sustainable. Social advertising is better than going towards the traditional billboard and newspaper media. For packaging, it is great if retailers opt for recycled material. They should avoid extra material usage with each packaging as well.

Inventory control is another big issue, which if dealt with properly could lead to profit. We have seen this production trend in a lot of new companies where emphasis is laid on quantity over quality. This leads to less wasteage of material. If there is a surplus it is a good idea to recyle this inventory for next season rather than discarding.

Other than these initiatives, it is great for companies to adopt socially responsible methods such as having a one to one model e.g in TOMS and Warby Parker for some selected products or invest in some carbon offset options as well.

In Conclusion

As fashionable and socially conscious citizens first step is for all of us to Know our closet. Next, think about the lifecycle of each product. We should try to move away from fast fashion trap of affordable clothing, which leads to mindless consumption of trends which we did not need in the first place. At Thread Channel, we plan to showcase daily trends, which will help you understand fashion better and make better shopping decisions. We strive to be a sustainable fashion App with all trends giving you an option of buying it from a recycled sources.

Learn More

There are several more great resources out there which are worth checking out to get to understand a lot more about the challenges and how we all need to reconsider our shopping styles.

Quick look at Fashion industry today Source: Last Week tonight with John Oliver.
Great documentary film covering cost of fast fashion. Full feature available on Netflix.
A biennial summit focussing on sustainable fashion.
Leading designer Stella McCartney talking about her take on being an Eco Warrior.

Brands that are making a difference

Stella McCartney

KowTow

H&M Conscious Collection

Amour Vert

Everlane

Reformation

Tips for Conscious Consumerism

Clevercare info: A quick guide that helps you maintain your clothes in a efficient way.

The Higg Index: A tool that measures the supply chain efficiency of a piece of garment.

Read Label: It is a good idea to always check the fabric used. Check for recycled material and type of dye used.

Fair Labor Association: Make sure your favorite brands ar a part of this association guaranteeing you your t-shit is made by a happy seamstress.


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