What was once a fleeting afterthought has since become a key concern within the fashion industry.
Yes, I'm referring to sustainability.
Over the past decade, we've watched sustainability thrown around as a "trend" by many fast fashion companies. But protecting our people and our planet is not the next big thing to latch onto, only to discard at a moment's notice.
Sustainability has become the standard, and as a result, consumers are holding brands accountable and demanding that actions be taken. Now there are entire departments dedicated to implementing sustainable practices. So as a small fashion brand, you may be wondering how can I ensure that I'm committing my brand to sustainability.
This article will provide you with a list of actions you can add to your company's sustainability initiatives.
1. Utilize 3D patterning software such as CLO or Browzwear to sample smarter. By virtually checking the appearance and fit of a garment before it's ever even sewn, you can reduce material waste, carbon emissions, and the wasted labor of your workforce.
2. Double-check patterns BEFORE you have any samples cut and sewn. It's bonkers how many corrections can be caught at this stage. You may notice an oddly shaped armhole or unmatched seams. Tweaking these mistakes will lead to a better fit, and the fit is everything! If your garment fits poorly, it's more likely that it won't be worn and will end up in the trash or your returns.
3. Opt for ocean transport over air freight whenever possible. While airing products have their benefits in speed, the carbon emissions from air freight are about 40 to 50 times higher than those from ocean freight.
4. Create and optimize for a close-knit supply chain. Try selecting fabric and trim makers in a similar geographical location. You'll reduce your fuel emissions and make it easier for your garments to be made.
5. Incorporate eco-friendly packaging and do your homework on it. Ship with packaging made from recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable materials. Don't stop there, though. Make sure you encourage your customers to recycle or reuse to keep the momentum going.
PRO TIP: Check out LimeLoop! They've created simplified, reusable packaging that can be used up to 200 times.
6. Source eco-friendly materials that fit your values. Whether or not a material or fiber is "sustainable" is a complex debate in the fashion industry. Research is still being conducted, and quite frankly, each material has some sort of trade-off and impact on the environment. With that in mind, it's best to choose the materials that best fit your values and sustainability plan. For example, recycled polyester fabrics do a great job of recycling waste from plastic bottles and fishing nets. However, microplastic pollution is still an issue, and those polyester fabrics are a significant contributor. Overall use your best judgment and if you need help sorting through the pros and cons of each material Good For You has a fantastic guide.
7. Produce fewer seasonal collections. Approach your new drops with a less is more mentality. Opt for less instead of operating on a calendar that churns out multiple product launches throughout a season. Also, design your apparel to easily transition through seasons and stand the test of time regarding trends.
8. Design for longevity. Most of our clothes aren't made with long-term wear in mind. Brands that wake up and start designing for both fit AND longevity instead of profit margins will be one leg up against the competition. You can use better quality materials, higher stitches per inch, and extra reinforcement to make sure your product is long-lasting.
9. Educate customers on how to care for their garments. Garments reach the end of their lifecycle much quicker when they aren't cared for properly. Dedicate a blog or hangtag to teaching customers how to wash, dry, and store their garments for longevity. Our client, Mentionables, has a great example of how to educate your customers on caring for their garments here.
Photo Credit: Mentionables Lingerie Care 101 Guide
10. Plan for product end-use. The sad truth is that most textiles end up in landfills. To help fight this wastefulness, you can develop or contribute to a take-back program. Take-back programs work to give unwanted garments new life, whether through resale, respinning into new fibers, or shredding into fiberfill. Examples of take-back programs are Waste No More and The Renewal Workshop.
Going sustainable may seem like a strenuous process. That being said, it's incredibly rewarding to know you're doing your part when it comes to sustainable business efforts. Don't get discouraged if you can't implement all these strategies at once. Instead, start with just one or two eco-friendly practices, and then work to expand your sustainability initiatives into other areas.
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