Cancerous pesticides. Exploitative labor. Polluted Water. What exactly is the price of looking good these days?
As the world’s second largest global polluter, the fashion industry catwalks right behind fossil fuels as the most dangerous threat to our planet. The rise of disposable clothing — a myth, since it’s not really disposed of for hundreds of years — is flooding the earth with disastrous chemicals and materials that, frankly, aren’t worth the $5 you save at Wal-Mart.
But for every blackheart in the industry, there’s a green heart that’s demanding change. Last year’s documentary The True Cost raised universal awareness of the industry’s misdeeds and served as a call-to-action. The Copenhagen Fashion Summit choose the theme “responsible innovation” this last May, and in November, Seattle is hosting its tenth and possibly most important Eco Fashion Week. Today, more and more designers are throwing their alpaca-made hats into the ring. The war for sustainable fashion is happening right now, and we’re revealing what’s happening on the front lines.
The Environmental Footprint of a Pair of Socks
So-called due to its rapid and cost-effective production, fast fashion earns its money through hasty application of Fashion Week trends into consumption before the styles fade out of season. Typically, this involves cutting corners in the supply chain, including hazardous materials and exploitative, third-world labor.
The trouble is not just with production, but with disposal. Americans alone are buying 5 times the amount of clothes as in 1980, and these same clothes account for 10.5 million tons of landfill waste once the trends die out. Not only is that a lot of trash — that’s a lost of trash with harmful chemicals.
Polyester, nylon, spandex, and more are all composed of plastic fibers that can take more than 200 years to biodegrade. Every load of laundry releases these microscopic synthetic polymers into the wild, where they clog waterways and release toxins that are ingested by humans and animals alike. Even a single pair of nylon socks unleashes 136,000 such fibers — with every wash.
In response, the sustainable fashion movement is encouraging more responsible practices that favor the quality of the garment over its quick release or hasty production methods. The ideology goes beyond improved ecological materials and more humane labor: supporters cite that better quality clothing creates a stronger emotional connection with the wearer, meaning they’ll keep and wear the clothes for longer than just one season.
4 Eco Fashion Brands to Watch
The revolution of the fashion industry starts with the consumers. If you’re moved to go green, try shopping from one of these four brands.
MetaWear — The U.S.’s leading manufacturer certified by the GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), with fair trade labor, organic materials, seaweed-based dying, and a Fairfax, VA factory powered by solar and geothermal energy.
Freedom of Animals — As if the name weren’t green enough, this stylish accessory company makes their cruelty-free bags from recycled materials in a unique process that uses 70% less energy than conventional synthetics manufacturing. What’s more, they even partner with Kenya’s Sheldrick Wildlife Trust for the conservation and rehabilitation of in-need wildlife.
Kowtow — Since its 2007 launch, this New Zealand company has spearheaded ecofashion with its fair trade labor, safe dyes, and organic cotton, all without sacrificing its chic, minimalist style.
Stella McCartney — One of fashion’s most recognizable names in general is becoming more and more associated with sustainability. Thanks to the matron’s commitment to ethical and transparent business practices and the complete absence of leather and fur McCartney’s brand remains one of the most environmentally conscious high-end labels .