In 2013, global authorities, such as the European Union (EU), began to take note of the startling Danish Fashion Institution claim that the fashion industry is one of the world’s worst polluters, second only to oil.
This unfavourable title was awarded due to the harmful chemicals used during the cultivation of materials, the toxic waste that remains after production, the levels of water wastage and general overconsumption resulting in health hazards for textile workers and consumers.
Nowadays, while the status of fashion’s environmental impact is yet to be updated, the situation still remains bleak. According to Green Cross Switzerland and Pure Earth, pesticides, such as the ones used in the cultivation of cotton, still remain one of the world’s top six pollutants.
Furthermore, due to the demands of fast-fashion, that seeks an endless stream of disposable garments at low prices, experts predict that this worrying trend will continue.
Nonetheless, despite challenges, several labels are taking an initiative to end waste and create sustainability fashion’s latest must-have item.
1. Levis Axes Water Waste
In 2007, and again in 2015, Levi Strauss & Co. conducted a lifecycle assessment of a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans.
“The results were eye-opening, especially around the use of water in making our products,” says Michael Kobori, Vice President, Sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co. “It helped push us to find new, innovative ways to design with sustainability in mind.”
Since the assessment, water waste has become a key concern for the company.
“A pair of Levi’s uses nearly 1,000 gallons of water in its entire life cycle, from growing the cotton to consumer care,” Kobori says.
The company adopted “Water<Less” finishing techniques which reduced the amount of water used in manufacturing a pair of jeans by up to 96%.
“Since launching in 2011, [the company] have saved over one billion litres of water,” Kobori says. “Our goal is to continue to expand “Water<Less” to 100 per cent of all the products we make.”
2. FEIT Fire Up Eco-Fit Footwear
For Tull Price, co-founder and designer of New York-based footwear label,FEIT, a fear of losing a connection with our planet spurred the sustainability ethos that rests at the core of their label.
“Sustainability to me is not just about sustaining the planet but sustaining the people who inhabit it,” he says. “You can’t have one without the other.”
With this in mind, the company adhere to strict policies of hand-made footwear, who’s materials are outsourced with sustainability on the mind.
“Our process is centred around human involvement,” Price says. “Human hands, human time, human thought, instinct, adaptability. People, not assembly lines, craft our products.”
The label’s leathers are developed with a select group of small, family-owned tanneries throughout Europe that focuses on traditional, metal-free vegetable tanning.
“One of the big concerns is that at the moment everything is trending towards the lowest common denominator,” Price says. “What we need is a pursuit of quality. Less is more. We need to produce less but better.”
3. Burton Aim To Protect The Snow Caps
Climate change and its impact on the slopes has been a key concern for snowboard manufacturer, Burton.
“Snow is at the heart of our company, both financially and emotionally,” says Ali Kenney Senior Director of Global Supply Chain and Sustainability at Burton. “While we’re committed to tackling many different aspects of our environmental impact, we’re putting the most into climate change.”
That said, Burton’s approach to sustainability sees the company investing in technology, such as Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) software, to find out exactly what the highest environmental impact of their products are.
They’re also committed to obtaining a bluesign seal of approval for all their soft goods. Bluesign is the highest independent standard available that guarantees products are made with safe chemicals and materials, don’t waste resources, or create air or water pollution.
“We live on a warming planet with growing populations and finite natural resources,” Kenney says. “It is irresponsible not to take action. We hope that people start to reward the brands that are doing their best. In the meantime, we’ll keep trying to lead everyone forward.”
4. Evergreens For A Green Solution At Marimekko
In May, Marimekko took part in the Copenhagen Fashion Summit Design Challenge, one of the world’s leading events on sustainable fashion. They were among the three brands awarded for creating a sustainable wardrobe.
They have an in-house textile printing factory at their headquarters in Helsinki, which prints more than a million metres of fabric annually and assures everything, from their cotton supply to their dye, is ethically-sourced.
To them, “throwaway-ism” is a major concern.
“Timelessness and functionality have always been at the core of Marimekko’s design philosophy,” says Emmakaisa Soisalo, Design and Product Development Manager and Designer of Marimekko’s Ready-To-Wear. “We want to create products that are of good quality and that also visually stand the test of time because we believe that these aspects build the foundation for sustainable consumption.”
Their ethos has paid off, with many of Marimekko’s older collections becoming collectables. Their second-hand garments are in high demand.
“We want to make sure that the time, energy and resources that go into producing a collection lead to the longevity of the final product and that our own production has a minimal impact on the environment,” Soisalo says.
By: Milly Stilinovic