Sustainable fashion here's what you need to know before buying it

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What is sustainable fashion?

We define the sustainable fashion as a part of the rapidly growing design and trend philosophy in the path of eco-sustainability, whose goal is to create a system that respects the environment causing minimal (or no) damage and that promotes the ethical treatment of workers and responsibility social.

La sustainable fashion involves all phases of the product life cycle:

  • Planning
  • Selection and production of raw materials
  • Dyeing and finishing
  • Sewing and assembly
  • Packaging and storage
  • Transport
  • End of life and recycling

From an environmental point of view, the sustainable fashion it includes the use of recycled materials and components and the careful use of natural resources such as water, land, plants and animals.

From a socio-economic perspective, brands that define themselves as part of sustainable fashion have a responsibility to maintain ethical working conditions for workers in the field, factory and office, including compliance with best practices and applicable codes of conduct.

The consumer also has his responsibilities, such as staying educated and maintaining awareness on sustainability issues, especially when shopping:

  • Avoid short-term fads driven by fast fashion;
  • Properly care and repair clothing to extend its life;
  • Avoid excessive washing;
  • Recycle, reuse and donate old clothing.

When is fashion sustainable?

How to recognize it?

Where to buy it?

Start your journey!

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Why choose sustainable fashion?

  • In 2020, a petition is launched against the big fashion brands that do not pay their suppliers, causing serious social damage in the textile countries. The campaign launched by the Remake association takes the name of PayUp Fashion. Learn more about PayUp Fashion
  • In 2019 the Fashion Pact was signed at the G7 in Biarritz, an agreement between major fashion brands that bases its origins on 3 key aspects: Pay attention to Climate Change; Preserve Biodiversity; Safeguarding the Oceans. Learn more about the Fashion Pact
  • It was 2018 when we launched our ecoFashion app, a search engine for sustainable fashion brands. Download the app and find fashion online or in your city
  • The first Green Carpet Fashion Awards took place in Milan in 2017. A great success for sustainable fashion. Further information
  • H&M launched the Global Change Award in 2015, a real challenge among the most innovative companies in the field of sustainable fashion, the winners of this competition obtain attractive cash prizes to continue their sustainable development. Further information
  • Also in 2015, The True Cost was released, the documentary film by Andrew Morgan that highlights the environmental and social problems linked to the fashion industry Learn more about The True Cost
  • Fashion Revolution was born in 2013, one of the most important associations for the protection of the textile sector, engaged in the field to combat the discrimination suffered by textile workers.Learn more about Fashion Revolution
  • It was 2005 when the Global Fashion Agenda was born, defined as the “main communication forum on sustainability in fashion”. Learn more about the Global Fashion Agenda
  • Clean Clothes was born in 1989, one of the largest associations for the protection of the textile sector and aimed above all towards the social aspect of fashion production. Learn more about Clean Clothes

We are paying too high a price for our ecosystem, for our humanity, which we must immediately remedy by applying the basic concepts of sustainable fashion.

Thanks to the awareness campaigns launched over the years by many associations to protect the textile sector, the situation is improving, especially in recent years. Brands and large distribution chains are running for cover in view of the objectives set by the 2030 Agenda, and also due to the growing interest of consumers in the subject sustainable fashion.

Today's consumers are more attentive and those of tomorrow will be more and more: everyone wants to buy products without thinking that these are the result of who knows what misfortune.

Clearly the consumer will have to lose something out of his own pocket: producing in an ethical and sustainable way has higher costs than a production without environmental and social constraints, this implies a higher selling price than the low-cost fashion we are used to.

  1. Respect for human rights and decent working conditions.
  2. Encourage agriculture and organic farming.
  3. Safeguard the environment throughout the production chain.

Current fashion does not follow any of these ideals, which we believe to be 3 key elements to found the fashion of the future, a fashion where specialized shops will not be needed. sustainable fashion: applications to find sustainable fashion brands, because in our optimistic view, in any store you will be able to buy clothing with the certainty that it is made in an ethical and sustainable way.

Environmental impact of fashion

We have seen what is sustainable fashion, now let's see “what it is not” starting from the materials that are used to produce our garments and accessories. We know that most of the fashion production nowadays is made up of cotton and polyester:

  • cotton is a natural textile fiber that requires large water resources for plant growth and a disproportionate amount of chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides;
  • polyester is a synthetic textile fiber that has far exceeded the use of natural fabrics, a rapid evolution due to reduced production costs, but which has a huge impact on the environment.

The statistics in this infographic are clear, and highlight the real environmental impact of fashion:

Environmental problems caused by the textile industry

In addition to the reduced production costs, one of the great advantages of synthetic fabrics is the possibility of creating variants of the same product very easily compared to what happens with natural fabricsFurthermore, thanks to science, we are able to assign unique properties to synthetic fabrics:

A natural fabric such as cotton has characteristics and qualities that remain such in all conditions, cannot improve without the use of additives, chemicals, or by mixing this natural fiber with synthetic fibers or artificial.

  • Do you want a more breathable product? We use a synthetic wetting agent on the fiber, which allows you to extract more moisture from the body and therefore make the same fiber more available to environmental evaporation, resulting in an increase in the breathability of the fabric.
  • Do you want a waterproof product? It can be done easily thanks to science, simply by using water repellent chemicals

Nature does not offer all the improvements that scientific research can develop. Thanks to science we can in fact improve the characteristics of our garments.

We are not opposed to the use of synthetic fabrics, if these were made with more attention to the environment and human health, and it is precisely here that science comes in, especially biotechnology that makes it possible to create biodegradable materials.

THEtextile innovation, the continuous search for materials that are ecological and rinnovabile, not harmful to the environment and with minimal waste of natural resources, are the core of the sustainable fashion.

Among the toxic substances present in our clothes we mention the most famous (and harmful):

    • Aromatic amines

Carcinogens deriving from azo-dyes, banned in Europe since the beginning of the 90s but which are still sought with assiduity and which sometimes surprise us to be present. It is a list of 24 carcinogenic compounds currently regulated in most of the world (including China).

    • Alkylphenol ethoxylates

In chemical jargon, the acronym APEO, the ethoxylates, and AP, the non-ethoxylates are indicated. They are non-ionic surfactants used massively until 2007 and which are highly polluting for aquifers. Regulated only in Europe (unpleasant surprises often come from China and other countries).

    • Heavy metals

Possible contaminants due to dyes and / or the ways of preserving the fibers. There are about 9 metallic species present in garments of poor quality and dubious origin.

    • Dimethyl fumarate

Strong anti-mold used to preserve natural fibers during long periods of storage. It has the bad habit of being a strong allergen.

    • Chlorophenols

They fall into the family of biocides / pesticides. Precisely for this function they can be found on natural fibers in particular cellulosic. Sometimes they are waste products of certain dyes.

    • Phthalates

Compounds used as plasticizers for PVC (give softness to the PVC layer). Some of these are mutagenic. They are regulated in Europe, America and China (for baby products only).

    • Dyes

Allergenic and / or carcinogenic, regulated only in Europe (some), are a list of dyes of various kinds.

For more information on this topic we recommend reading our article: toxic substances in clothes and the article on circular fashion.

Social impact of fashion

We talked aboutenvironmental impact of fashion, fabrics and toxic substances normally present in our clothes. Now let's talk aboutsocial impact of fashion, a devastating impact from all points of view.

Much of the textile production takes place in the so-called "developing" countries, think of Bangladesh, India, Vietnam, but also European countries such as Romania, Serbia. In these countries the situation has always been dramatic and today, due to the pandemic that has hit us, it is even more so.

Also for thesocial impact of fashion we have created an infographic that highlights the most obvious problems in this sector:

Social problems caused by the textile industry

Certainly the worst situations are in the countries where cotton is grown, in fact, here we live situations beyond our imagination: slavery, discrimination, violence, are on the agenda.

La sustainable fashion it's not just “polluting less”, otherwise we'll talk about ecological fashion. In fact, sustainability also includes all social aspects, as per the international convention on the protection of workers' rights: fair wages, no discrimination, the possibility of trade unionism, and clearly no violence or forms of slavery.

The big fashion brands are in constant war to make clothing at the lowest cost, but this at what price for our civilization? We elaborate on this topic in our article on ethical fashion.

Impact of fashion on animals

Intensive breeding, these two words are enough to highlight the gravity of the world situation. The impact of fashion on animals it is obvious, serious, and definitely underestimated.

We know that intensive farms are real and above all that they are the vast majority compared to organic farms. It is a topic that touches us more closely than others.

Many people are more sensitive to violence against animals than to violence against other human beings. Maybe we begin to hate each other, or maybe it is due to the fact that they cannot defend themselves from our wickedness.

We have not yet been able to create an infographic highlighting theimpact of fashion on animals, but we are working on it and we hope to put it online as soon as possible.

However, there are several textile certifications guarantors and more and more fashion brands renounce the use of raw materials of animal origin by forging partnerships with animal welfare associations.

La sustainable fashion it is also this, respecting the rights of animals, not using materials of animal origin unless these are waste from the food industry, but also not polluting rivers, oceans, land and air.

Let's delve into this topic in the article it talks about cruelty free fashion.

Sustainable Fashion: Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion

You will often hear about Slow Fashion e Fast Fashion by whom it speaks of sustainable fashion.

Fast fashion is a design, production and marketing method focused on large volumes. Above all, it tends to “clone” clothing and fashion seen on the catwalks and, using low quality materials, manages to guarantee consumers affordable fashion products.

We can instead define slow fashion as the antagonist of fast fashion. Slow fashion or "slow fashion" is based on quality rather than large volumes. The pioneers of slow fashion encourage slower production, unifying sustainability withethics and, finally, they invite consumers to invest in well-made and long-lasting clothes.

Slow Fashion vs Fast Fashion

Slow Fashion

  • One / two collections in one year
  • It encourages local manufacturing and production
  • It is environmentally sustainable
  • It is ethical from a social point of view
  • It usually has a higher cost

Fast Fashion

  • Up to 50 micro-collections in one year
  • It is one of the main causes of environmental pollution
  • It creates slavery and marked social inequalities
  • It has a low production cost and allows anyone to dress according to fashions
  • The quality of the products is decidedly inferior

Sustainable fashion: the label makes the difference

Remember this statement: There is no sustainable fashion without textile certifications guaranteeing this name.

We assume that products made in Europe offer an extra guarantee compared to those made in other countries of the world, this is because the legislation is in force in Europe. REACH: certain chemical / toxic substances are excluded from production, and this list grows year by year also thanks to the contribution of environmental associations such as GreenPeace.

This cannot guarantee sustainable production, but at least it is a start.

Unfortunately, however, we know that there is no traceability in fashion, so if a couple of production steps are done in Italy - perhaps only the labeling and printing of a graphic - here we hear about a Made in Italy product.

Clearly the "fake made in Italy"Does not comply with the regulations REACH, as in many cases the product is made in other countries of the world, especially in Asia, where the production rules are very different from ours.

Textile certifications used in sustainable fashion

Waiting for the regulation REACH amplify its power, we can rely on textile certifications, especially on the most common ones on the market:

GOTS and OEKO-TEX clothing labels

  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the label for clothing products of organic origin. If you find this label, you know that you have purchased an ecological and socially ethical product.
  • Oeko-Tex it is certainly the most widespread label in Europe. When you find this label on an item of clothing, you know that you have purchased an ecological product.

Certified textile fibers used in sustainable fashion

We can't talk about sustainable fashion without a low environmental impact textile fiber.

Fortunately, there are many ecological fibers on the market, each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, but it is important to understand that there is still no 100% ecological fiber. We are getting closer to this claim thanks to biotechnology, but it is still early to talk about it.

On textile fibers you could write a book and we have dedicated an entire section of the site to it.

Definitions of sustainable fashion

To explain the various definitions of sustainable fashion in the following paragraphs we will talk about clothing, but the same definitions apply to bags, shoes, belts, wallets and other fashion accessories.

We have created an infographic showing all the definitions of sustainable fashion:

Definitions of sustainable fashion

Natural Fiber Clothing

Clothing in natural fibers, or natural clothing, is made exclusively using natural fabrics: cotton, wool and variants, silk, hemp, linen, skin.

You can, you can, but you shouldn't define clothing made from natural fibers as a dress made from lyocell, modal, lanital, castor, corn, orange fiber and other variants of viscose. These are man-made fabrics that use only a part of natural raw material.

Le artificial fibers of natural origin they are fibers made in the laboratory through chemical processes and, although they are ecological fibers, they still have little naturalness except the raw material used.

Clothing in natural fibers it cannot be defined ecological regardless of certifications.

Ethical Clothing

Ethical, solidarity or fair trade clothing is defined as such when the production or retail sale supports some charity initiative / campaign of non-profit organizations and NGOs, or initiatives for social development aimed at communities, developing countries, situations of fragility.

Usually, ethical products are handcrafted, or come from developing countries.

It occurs to us that even a sartorial product made in Italy can be considered in some way an ethical product: the ethics aimed at small tailoring / artisan realities that are in great economic difficulty.

Ethical clothing must have social certifications.

Ecological Clothing

Ecological clothing is a product made with certified materials with low environmental impact. Eco-friendly products are often made from recycled, recyclable, often biodegradable or compostable materials.

Ecological clothing it must have environmental certifications.

Organic clothing

THEorganic clothing it is defined as such when the fabric used comes from organic farming, or from organic farms.

When we talk about organic clothing we are talking about ecological products from an environmental point of view and in most cases also ethical from a social point of view. Organic clothing respects the social standards of fair work as imposed by organic farming.

We may often run into fake organic clothing slogans, such as some labeled products Organic Content Standard, which guarantees only 5% organic fiber, while the remaining 95% could be a classic non-organic cotton, or other traditional material.

Excluding pesticides, fertilizers, herbicides, or other toxic substances normally used during textile production, organic clothing is considered one of the best alternatives to develop a more ethical and sustainable fashion.

Organic clothing it must have certifications of organic origin.

Eco-sustainable clothing

Eco-sustainable clothing, or sustainable clothing, must be “sustainable throughout its life cycle” and to be defined as such, the material used must be ecological and all production aspects must be under social control.

We speak above all of biological fabrics, artificial with low environmental impact, regenerable synthetics or those born from the recycling of existing resources such as plastic, and products that have certifications guaranteeing ethical production.

Eco-sustainable clothing it must have environmental and social certifications.

Vegan clothing

THEvegan clothing, cruelty free or animal free, is defined as such only if it has a textile certification that certifies the absence of materials of animal origin, but also a production chain that does not include the exploitation of animals.

Many are convinced that to buy vegan clothing it is enough to buy a cotton garment, but non-certified products, even if made of textile fibers different from those of animal origin (wool, silk, leather, fur coats..) are however harmful to our ecosystem and consequently a danger to animals.

Vegan clothing it must have cruelty free certifications that also focus on the environmental aspect.

Where to buy sustainable fashion?

We have created a search engine rich in sustainable fashion brands, clothing and fashion stores that sell ecological products, fashion artisans who work with ecological materials, online marketplaces where you can buy with the utmost peace of mind.

This search engine is called ecoFashion, and is available both on the web and in the app for mobile devices.

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We are a non-profit association engaged since 2016 in the promoting a more ethical and sustainable fashion.

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