Sustainable Fashion, part 2: How to identify what’s behind it

In our last blog post we wrote about the negative impact of the clothing industry on humans and the environment. Part two helps you to recognize fashion not being (or at least significantly less) harmful. In terms of design, sustainable fashion brands can easily keep up with established labels since the unattractive and unfashionable eco-look is long gone. Keep your eyes open for the following characteristics and sustainable labels when strolling the city next time.

What is sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion is about deploying resources responsibly, protecting biodiversity and the environment. Accordingly, in the manufacturing process no toxic chemicals should be utilized, humans should be treated fair, and resources should be deployed sensibly, and recycled. Thus implementing those factors seems to be very difficult. Most labels either are eco certified or certified for their fair working conditions.Up to now, there is no such label comprising all factors. A shirt made of natural fibers is not necessarily grown organically, and fair fashion pieces might consist of synthetic fibers. Therefore, you should be critical to what extent a brand is sustainable, and question the certification and then find your own standard for sustainability in fashion.

Cotton buds
Natural fibers such as cotton impact the environment less than synthetics. © Paul –

Natural fibers prevent micro plastics

In part one of this post you could find out about how micro plastics deriving from synthetic attire pollute the environment. Preventing this, you can wear clothes made of natural fibers such as cotton, linen, hemp, wool, silk, or rayon fiber.Yet, producing natural fibers is not inherently sustainable. For example, it takes 2,700 liters of water producing a cotton shirt. Alternatively, rayon, a cellulosic fiber, is manufactured far more resource-efficient, and Pinatex, a fabric made of pineapple leaves poses a great leather substitute. When buying rayon you should make sure the material was produced sustainably, just like Lenzing fibers also known as Tencel. The fibers are produced in a circular system, needs less water than the cotton production, and fibers are recycled internally.

Attire made of 100% organic cotton.
Garment made of 100% organic cotton. © Lynn Anders

GOTS: organic natural fibers

The Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is regarded as world leading in certifying organically produced natural fibers. As the currently most ambitious certification, it takes the complete production chain and social criteria into account. At least 70 percent of the processed materials must be organically farmed to become a GOTS-certified end product. Furthermore, substances for processing such as dye and aids must not be environmentally hazardous or toxic. For instance, toxic heavy metals are prohibited just like genetically modified organisms. Even the packaging and distribution of GOTS-certified garments have to meet sustainable criteria. The certification does not apply to leather and fur.

Circular fashion – creating cycles

The principle of circular fashion was the basis for various brands. New attire is fashioned from used garments and fabric remnants creating a cycle and thus saving resources. Recycling and up cycling play an important role in circular fashion. The principle of “cradle to cradle” works similarly and is regarded as being extremely economical and sustainable. “Cradle to cradle,” certified fashion is fully biodegradable and can be returned to the ecological cycle in this way.

Certificate by Fair Wear Foundation.
Fair produced garment certified by the Fair Wear Organization. © Lynn Anders

Identify fair fashion

When you aim to buy fair produced fashion, you should pay attention to the label by Fair Wear Foundation, the most rigorous certifier in the industry. The Dutch non-profit organization focuses on fair working conditions, decent wages, work safety, and fights child labor, discriminations, and forced labor. However, the label does not testify the characteristics and the production of the materials. Still, you can find organic fashion brands that are members of the Fair Wear Organization. Why not searching for shops near you offering fair produced and organic fashion. You will be surprised about the wide range so far!

By purchasing more consciously or buying less we can contribute to environmental protection and secure fair working conditions and learn to value our attire again paying a bit more to enjoy our garments a bit longer with a good conscience.


Cover photo: © Lynn Anders