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Over the last decade, sustainability has emerged as a critical issue in both the fashion industry and public conversation. We’ve become more cognizant of the environmental impact of our clothing choices and are looking for ways to shop more thoughtfully.

However, with so many different materials on the market, it can be difficult to determine which ones are truly sustainable. It gets even more difficult to differentiate when companies sell us myths. But do the designers even understand this?

Can you explain to a customer, or intern, why something is not made sustainably?

If you work in the fashion industry, whether as a sustainability manager, designer, merchandiser, or something else, you’ve certainly been questioned at least once, “But, why is that cloth not sustainable?” And if you haven’t been asked yet, you will most likely be soon. So, how do you respond to this question?

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There are several ways to respond to this question, depending on what the individual is asking. If they question why a certain cloth is not sustainable, the answer will vary depending on the fabric. The following are some common reasons why fabrics may not be sustainable (if you are happy to give an honest answer):

The fabric is created from non-renewable resources, which implies it is made of materials that cannot be refilled or replaced. Most synthetic fabrics, for example, are derived from petroleum products, which are nonrenewable resources.

The cloth is not biodegradable, which means it will not degrade naturally over time. Synthetic materials, such as polyester, can take hundreds of years to degrade in landfills.

The manufacturing process is hazardous to humans or the wider environment: This could imply that the cloth was dyed with dangerous chemicals, or that it was produced using a lot of energy and water.

Some materials (such as polyester) are not sustainable for all of these reasons, whilst others may only be unsustainable for one or two (like linen). The easiest approach to determine why a certain fabric is not sustainable is to conduct some study on the fabric itself.

If the topic is not explicitly about a certain fabric, but rather why sustainability is important in the fashion industry, there are a few other methods to answer this issue as well. Some of the most common reasons why achieving better degrees of sustainability is important in fashion are:

Fashion is one of the world’s most polluting industries: The fashion industry has a significant environmental impact. For example, one single pair of jeans can use up to 3781 litres of water (more than 6650 pints) to produce.

Fashion is widely seen as a key factor to climate change: In a variety of ways, the fashion business contributes to climate change. Cotton, for example, requires a lot of water and chemicals to grow, and synthetic materials emit greenhouse gases.

Fashion waste is a huge issue: as one example, it is estimated that Americans throw away approximately 80 pounds of clothing per person each year. This generates a lot of issues and pollution, and it also means that we are wasting more precious resources.

All of these reasons (and more) make sustainability efforts and education critical.

Fashion designers must be retrained in order to make sustainable clothes.

Many designers are looking for ways to develop sustainable garments as the world becomes more aware of the environmental impact of the fashion industry. However, because most designers have received little or no training in sustainability, many sustainable fabrics are not being used to their full potential.

There are several reasons why fashion designers should be re-educated on sustainability. For starters, many sustainable textiles are still new and unfamiliar to most designers. Second, because sustainable fabrics frequently demand different design and production procedures than typical fabrics to keep them sustainable or recyclable, many designers are unfamiliar with how to properly use them. 

Finally, because sustainable fabrics are frequently more expensive than standard fabrics, designers may be hesitant to utilize them unless they are confident in their ability to develop a garment that will sell (potentially at a higher price than their previous collections could fetch).

If we want to see more sustainable clothing on the market, we need to re-educate fashion designers on sustainability. Designers must be able to learn about new and innovative sustainable fabrics in order to make informed judgments about which materials to utilise in their designs.

Furthermore, they must be trained in the construction procedures required to utilise these materials successfully. This could include, for example, the specification of more suitable sewing threads or modified colouring and printing procedures. Only then will the average designer be able to make a proper impact on the sustainability of their ranges.

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Fashion companies must identify and implement better tools and systems so that their teams can keep track of and comprehend the impact of their efforts.

Many fashion companies continue to use antiquated ways to track product development and production, which can lead to inefficiencies and a lack of knowledge of the full impact of their work. Fashion enterprises may streamline their operations and gain a clearer understanding of the sustainability of their work by locating and adopting better tools and systems.

There are several software choices available to assist fashion enterprises in tracking their manufacturing, including those that are explicitly focused or very good at gathering product or component sustainability details. 

There are several software choices available to assist fashion enterprises in tracking their manufacturing, including those that are explicitly focused or very good at gathering product or component sustainability details. Suppliers can be connected into data collection using these systems, and organisations can more easily keep track of the resources they use, the emissions generated by their manufacturing process, and the waste generated across their supply chain.

This information supplied by the system can then be utilised to make educated judgments about how to lessen the environmental impact of their activity.

In addition to tracking tools, fashion businesses must have systems in place to help them assess the social and environmental impact of their activity. Many companies are starting to use corporate responsibility reporting standards like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) or the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB).

These standards, for example, outline how to make disclosures about an organisation’s environmental and social performance. Fashion enterprises can definitely develop a better understanding of their operations’ sustainability by measuring and reporting on important metrics such as greenhouse gas emissions, energy and water usage.

To sum up, everyone now needs to be able to collect, capture, and process more information. Whether for future improvements or to report and share with authorities and customers. It all begins with education and excellent tools. Tell us what you’ve been trying to accomplish. Perhaps we can assist.

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