In recent years, sustainability has become a buzzword and turned a few heads. Just as consumers today are taking a closer look at the food they consume and the chemicals they put into their bodies, they are also shifting their purchasing decisions to create a cleaner environment through the clothes they wear.
What it really means.
Today, professional women are savvier than ever and not only pay attention to the quality of their garments, but also the entire supply chain, production processes, and product afterlife. They are more aware that a hang tag using the word “sustainable” does not mean the retailer is using clean processes to develop that garment.
One of the biggest culprits in the fashion industry is “fast fashion,” or clothes made cheaply to meet demands for the hot new styles. However, fast fashion is putting our future planet at risk.
What so many of us forget or perhaps don’t realize is that sustainability is not just about using bamboo based fibers and slapping the term ‘sustainable’ on the hang tag. True sustainability comes when the entire supply chain of that bamboo is sustainable.
I’ve picked lyocell because it’s so prevalent in the marketplace and we’re told about the benefits of using eco friendly materials. However, we haven’t truly achieved an ecosystem of true sustainability when we’re still reading about deforestation, water contamination and shortage, and big business farming putting small farmers out of their livelihoods.
We have to understand that a supply chain is its own ecosystem that must be sustained and supported indefinitely in order for the world to see true environmental impact. We must design, develop, and manufacture into that premise.
Are all fabrics created the same? Are they:
- Made to last?
- Limiting the amount of wasted fabric in production?
- Aware of the environmental impact from fabric production?
Professional women are catching on to the new trends in textiles and technology. They are choosing garments and materials engineered to last longer. Some of the most sustainable materials are natural fibers (cotton, hemp, linen) and futuristic/innovative fabrics. They are ditching cheap synthetics (polyester, nylon, spandex). These fibers are not grown naturally, and instead come from chemicals and polymers.
We all love those quick-drying polyester tanks and tees because they are cheap, wrinkle-free, and readily available. But they hold on to bacteria and will stink so fast you’ll be inclined to throw them away after just a few post-work SoulCycle classes. What you don’t realize is that it can take up to 200 years for that garment to decompose. Using cutting-edge technology to create the fabric of the future, companies are paying closer attention to creating cleaner garments.
Microplastics are a huge concern for not only the environment, but also our health. These synthetic fibers are forms of plastic, and every time you wash fabrics made from these fibers, microplastics are breaking off, and many eventually end up in the oceans, ocean life, and our mouths.
Sustainable fashion takes into account the entire supply chain and life cycle of a garment, from where and how it is made to when it ends up in our landfills. It is important for consumers to think about how their purchase affects the environment, the lifecycle of their garment, and how to invest in clothes that last longer.-
Small steps make a big difference
As professional women, we need to take responsibility for our daily choices. Commit to buying less, limit your outfits per day, and invest in pieces that last longer. Sport outfits that carry you throughout your busiest of days, from the board room to barre class. Those of you who have project-based work know how long the days can be, and investing in staple workwear is becoming a priceless asset.
Next time you’re shopping, do your research. Pay close attention to how brands use the term “transparency.” Do they really mean it and prove it? Does the brand take initiatives with the fabrics used? Are they committed to ethical/sustainable practices?
It’s easy to forget the impact of a purchase or the power you have as a consumer. There are small steps we can take each day to pave the path toward a more sustainable fashion future.