How to produce in a more environmentally friendly way?
It’s a fact that fashion is now one of the most polluting industries. In 2018, 48 brands signed the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, created under the auspices of the United Nations. The idea? Banding together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30%, by 2030. This type of approach is not rare, and reflects the desire of fashion professionals to take full ownership of their impact by joining together with more engaged groups. It’s normal that companies are starting to wonder how to produce in a way that is kinder to the environment. Let’s take a look at one way of making fashion that is different, but no less interesting.
The importance of materials
Obviously, materials are the pillar of how our clothing is manufactured, since that’s what makes up the garment. In the production phase, there is a tendency to champion cotton as being a natural and versatile fiber. However, from an environmentally responsible perspective, it turns out that cotton isn’t the most ecological fiber; far from it! In fact, cotton requires a tremendous amount of water, as well as pesticides, and it is not commonly grown in Europe. That is why certified organic cotton is rising in popularity and more of it is being grown every year. But that’s not all. Different eco-responsible alternatives co-exist today, like Tencel, which is made from wood pulp, linen, and even hemp. All of these fibres are contributing to renewing the clothing industry in France, and are wonderfully complementary with another type of material: recycled fibers. Given that certain luxury brands were crucified for having destroyed unsold stock worth outrageous sums, it’s easy to understand why recycled fibers are being looked at as serious contenders in the production process. France is the first country to commit to forbidding the destruction of clothing by 2023. A considerable step forward that highlights how using recycled materials can ensure an environmental impact that is 98% less harmful than with “classic” textile fibers. However, committing to the use of ecological materials will not automatically make clothing production 100% environmentally friendly… other factors also count. And one of them is manufacturing!
Nowadays, environmental responsibility has become a goal for many brands, driven by an increasingly urgent demand from the consumer. Applications like Clear Fashion perfectly symbolise this mindset as, in just a few clicks, it’s possible to decipher the label of your favorite t-shirt according to different criteria. One of these criteria is the place of manufacture, which influences the buyer as it offers a hint about a brand’s engagement to reduce the environmental impact of its production. If “Made in France” is not always the case, a production that is the most local possible is an eminent symbol of a brand’s “responsibility”. Nonetheless, producing in China or elsewhere in the world is not necessarily synonymous with bad social conditions and will not always be seen as a negative for a brand. That is exactly when good communication becomes critical. Other techniques exist, like the reduction of the middle man in order to make the production chain as direct as possible. For example, certain brands like Forlife, Réuni, or Atelier Particulier have decided to sell their products online only, allowing the consumer to pay a price that is much lower than what it would cost in a boutique. Indeed, cutting out the middle men, in addition to constituting an environmentally friendly gesture, allows for doing away with markups on a product. And if it is local to boot, then that is a winning formula!
Labels, more than symbols
It’s not always easy to master them and yet, fashion labels are essential when a brand is looking to position its production as environmentally friendly. Why? For the plain and simple reason that this allows the brand to drive how the consumer sees them, in addition to lending credibility to the brand’s gestures.
Between environmentally responsible labels, made in France labels, or socially engaged labels, different stakes intersect. In order to gain more transparency, it seems important to clarify some of them before going any further:
The GOTS label (Global Organics Textile Standards) ensures a minimal presence of organic fibers and a reduced overall impact on the environment,
The Fair Trade label guarantees Fair Trade production,
The French Ecocert label illustrates a responsible production in the fashion industry,
The Soil Association, BioRe or Made in Green labels symbolise an ecological approach,
The Oeko-Tex certification offers certainty that no harmful substance is contained in the final product,
And there are many others!
Hence, labels function like an indicator for the consumer, but, at the same time, like a challenge for the production.
Producing in an environmentally friendly way can therefore be resumed in one single sentence: produce less but produce better. Indeed, if certain symbols are essential to drawing attention to the urgency of the situation, fashion is meeting the challenge by getting more creative and redoubling its energy to renew its production models. Between recycled fibers, natural materials, or online-only sales, its an entire facet of our consumption that is changing over the years.
To move forward, we can’t leave the field of fashion fallow!
Photography : COMME un camion / bleu de chauffe