Sustainable Fashion Terminology
The movement towards more responsible consumption and new practices in production, design or waste management has been growing for a few years. This has led to the creation of a new terminology to define all these practices. Technical terms are important for the consumer to have a better understanding of what is actually being consumed while helping to prevent brands and companies from misusing these concepts and misleading the consumer.
These garments are designed, manufactured, and distributed taking into account not only the economic benefit but also the impact on the environment and workers. In addition, it promotes responsible practices that reduce production and consumption.
A garment that is produced while taking into account the social issues associated with the people involved in the supply chain, such as the farmers, weavers, garment workers, and retailers.
The circular fashion, contrary to the linear production fashion (make-use-dispose) seeks to eliminate
non-compostable waste, either:
- through the biological cycle (using compostable materials)
- through the technical cycle (using materials and processes that allow reuse and recycling)
Conscious consumption is a movement that is based on awareness when consuming in a way that takes into account factors such as nature or the working conditions of workers in addition to quality and price.
Zero kilometer fashion is a proximity fashion that is made in the same country where it is sold, generally with local artisans or small manufacturers who work closely with the creative and commercial departments. This proximity guarantees the quality of the product at the same time that it allows having a human relationship of trust and long-term collaboration. It also contributes to reducing pollution from logistics and transports, and control the waste, producing only what is really necessary.
CRADLE TO CRADLE
It is a design philosophy that takes into account the entire life cycle of a garment, including sourcing and disposal as a model to design products without an end date. What is intended with Cradle to Cradle is to close the life cycle of all products, making the end of life the beginning of the next production.
Cradle to Cradle Certified assesses the safety, circularity, and responsibility of materials and products in five categories of sustainability performance:
Clean air and climate protection
Water and soil stewardship
A certification is a tool for companies to validate and communicate sustainability claims about their products.
Certifications in the Fashion Industry can be diversified according to the process: Fiber, Working Conditions, Chemicals used, Circularity... In the PDF from the Sustainable Angle (link), you will find the most relevant certifications, what covers each, the requirements, and which SDG is aligned with.
RECYCLING / UPCYCLING / DOWNCYCLING
Recycling is the process of converting waste into new products or raw materials. There are two types of recycling: upcycling and downcycling.
Upcycling is a creative recycling technique that uses products, waste materials, or residues to create new materials or products of a higher quality, with greater ecological or economic value.
Downcycling is a technique that converts a waste material or article into something of lesser value; For example, clothing fabrics can be converted into new fibers, although they lose quality in the process.
Considered one of the manufacturing industries with the greatest need for labor in the world. It is estimated that it employs between 25 and 60 million people, most of them young women. Many of these people do not receive a decent salary that allows them to cover their basic needs and work in conditions considered unhealthy, dangerous, and unfair, outside international conventions.
Currently, modern slavery is linked to the supply chains of many industries including fashion. There are many types of Modern Slavery in the fashion industry:
Exploitation of migrants
Verbal, sexual, and physical abuse
Dangerous working conditions.
PRODUCTION CHAIN AND TRANSPARENCY
The fashion industry has one of the most complex supply chains in the world, and the reason is that a single fashion garment passes through many hands and many countries before reaching the consumer. This makes traceability especially complex. Providing information about supply chains, business practices, and their effects on workers, communities, and the environment is a key concept in the textile industry. It means sharing information throughout the entire chain.
It is the process of providing misleading information about the real impact of a company's products, services, or policies on the environment to increase its profits or reputation.
Corporate Social Responsibility is a business model that actively and voluntarily helps the social, economic, and environmental improvement by companies of themselves, their stakeholders, and the public.
The textile industry uses 97% of raw materials from virgin sources and only 2% from recycled sources while 12% of the material is wasted during garment production.
In addition, every year, 150 million trees are cut down just to make cellulose, which will later become viscose. Large amounts of water are consumed for the production of fibers such as BT cotton, while synthetic fabrics such as polyester require about 70 million barrels of oil per year.
The clothing and footwear industries together account for five to ten percent of global pollution impacts, and emissions in the fashion industry are expected to increase by more than 60 percent by 2030. In addition, Fossil fuels are used in the production, manufacturing, and distribution stages. Throwing away clothing instead of recycling or reusing it also contributes to CO2 emissions.
We speak of Carbon Neutral when we manage to eliminate all the CO2 we emit from the atmosphere through compensation or capture.
We speak of Carbon Zero when there is no production of carbon emissions derived from a product or service, so it is not necessary to capture or offset carbon.
Waste from the fashion industry is increasing every year. It is estimated that 92 million tons of textiles are thrown away annually and that by 2030 the figure could increase to 134 million tons. Fibers like polyester break down into plastic microfibers that cannot be controlled due to their size. On average it is estimated that a garment is used only 4 times.
It refers to a voluntary and fair relationship between producers and consumers promoted by NGOs, the United Nations Organisation, and other political and social movements.
ORGANIC vs REGULAR
Organic refers to products that have not been genetically manipulated, is free of chemical synthesis products, and is manufactured exclusively from natural products.
Conventional or Regular cotton farming begins with GMO seeds (genetically modified seeds). It is modified to resist insects, but as the insects grow stronger, more pesticides are required.
BIODEGRADABLE vs COMPOSTABLE
Any biodegradable product is one of natural plant, animal or mineral origin that will break down at different rates depending on the original material and how much it has been processed. Although biodegradable materials return to nature and may disappear completely, they sometimes leave behind metal residue.
By compostable, we mean a product that can be broken down and decomposed by biological processes during composting, producing CO2, water, inorganic compounds, and biomass, without leaving visible or toxic residues. Compostable materials create something called humus that is full of nutrients and great for plants. So they release valuable nutrients into the soil, which helps trees and plants grow.