Fact: The fashion industry is second-largest contributor to pollution on our planet (the first being fossil fuel production). Fashion labels are aware that their ethical stance on this issue can have an impact on their bottom line, especially since millennials say that they’re willing to spend more on sustainable fashion.
From fast fashion labels like H&M and Mango, to higher-end brands like Stella McCartney and Rag & Bone, we take a look at names that have been doing their part — and how you can play a role by purchasing their products.
There’s been controversy on how labels, including H&M, dispose of unsold clothing. But the Swedish fast fashion chain has, for years, been taking measures on the sustainability front. Its seasonal H&M Conscious Collection uses organic and recycled materials to create garments that are not only fashionable, but environmentally friendly. And one of the brand’s pledges is to ensure that all of its garments are to come from sustainable cotton by 2030.
The chain has long had a recycling programme, where one takes in old clothes into stores, and gets discount vouchers in exchange. According to H&M’s Sustainability Report 2017, it collected a jaw-dropping 17,771 tonnes of textiles in 2017. H&M’s sustainability business expert, Mattias Bodin, says that the H&M Group believes “it’s important to use already existing sustainable materials (and) also test completely new fabrics. When it comes to recycled materials, they are truly a win-win since they stop waste material going to landfill and at the same time reduce the use of virgin raw material”.
Photo: Stella McCartney
When you think of fashion and sustainability, you’d immediately recall that Stella McCartney was one of the first luxury brands to launch a line that eschewed using fur and leather. Faux fur coats and vegan leather bags are the norm for McCartney, and silk and wool are sourced ethically. McCartney has also partnered with Californian biotechnology company, Bolt Threads, to look for new and innovative ways to produce materials like a yeast-based silk.
The label also uses re-engineered (as opposed to virgin) cashmere, and viscose (a tree-based material) from sustainably certified forests in Sweden so that the world experiences less habitat loss.
McCartney aims to pioneer “alternative materials to utilizing cutting edge technologies, pushing towards circularity, protecting ancient and endangered forests and measuring our impact with ground-breaking tools”, according to the brand’s mission statement.
Rag & Bone
Photo: Rag & Bone
Rag & Bone introduced its Denim Recycling Project last year, a collaboration with Cotton Incorporated’s Blue Jeans Go Green programme, which has since 2006 managed to recycle over 1,000 tonnes of denim and help divert over two million pieces of denim away from landfills. Consumers turn in old denim jeans of any brand at Rag & Bone stores, in exchange for a 20% discount. What happens to the denim? It’s upcycled, turning it into a special insulation that’s used by Habitat For Humanity as an environmentally conscious option to fiberglass insulation used in homes and buildings.
Mango introduced its modern, sustainable collection, Mango Committed, in February 2017. The garments in this collection are made with sustainable fabrics that are internationally certified by Global Organic Textile Standard. Those fabrics include the likes of organic cotton and recycled polyester, to name a few.
The multi-fashion label says that 44% of its garments from other collections, like Mango and Mango Man, comprise of natural, ethical fibers and they are also in the midst of “developing an internal tool to calculate the company’s water footprint and identify the processes, garments and installations with the greatest water-saving potential, which will help it reduce its water consumption”. The company’s goal is to have at least 50% of the collections made with cotton from sustainable sources.
Photo: Ethical Fashion Initiative
Her name is synonymous with London’s punk scene in the 1970s. Today, Westwood combines fashion and ethics by partnering with the Ethical Fashion Initiative, a United Nations project. Through this collaboration, Westwood has turned out a collection called Handmade with Love, where bags for both genders are produced in Nairobi’s biggest slum using recycled canvas, roadside banners, brass and leather off-cuts.
Westwood also supports Cool Earth, a company with a mission to save rainforests and prevent climate change. As of 2014, Westwood had donated £1 million to the company, and also dedicated two fashion shows to Cool Earth. She designed a range of T-shirts for Cool Earth, and proceeds go towards the protection of the habitat of the Asháninka people in Peru.