What is sustainable fashion – a simple definition

Not too long ago we wrote ‘what does sustainability even mean?’. In this article, we defined the term. Sustainability is the act of stewarding people and the planet they live in. So to answer the question: What is sustainable fashion? It’s fashion that does the same – it stewards people and the environment well. The reason this is important, why this is even becoming a thing is that the majority of fashion we enjoy today doesn’t do any of these things. The majority of fashion today fits under the umbrella of what we call fast-fashion. Unfortunately, no good thing has come from it.

What fast fashion has done to fashion

We’re going to come out and say it. Fast-fashion is our nemesis. Why? Because it’s so difficult to give up. It’s like a drug. Fast fashion is cute, cheap and everywhere! Even for those among us strongly opposed to it, fast- fashion has a cunning way of still drawing us in until we get to the counter and realize that what we are about to do fits into everything we stand against. Outside of these seemingly emotional reasons, fast fashion is detrimental to both people and the planet. Fast fashion prices are low not because of automation. But because the people making the clothes are paid peanuts, if they’re paid at all. And this is factoring the cost of living and currency fluctuations. Given the amount of money the fast-fashion owners make on each item, there is no logical reason the makers of our clothing can’t be paid more. It’s not fair – hence the coining of the term fair trade.

Additionally, not only is fast fashion incredibly polluting, given the toxic dyes and the microfibers that pollute the oceans, but it’s probably one of the most wasteful industries on earth. Because fast-fashion is so cheap, we barely bat an eyelash when throwing our clothes into the trash. And as the clothing makes its way to landfills, someone else is left to figure out what to do with it. The thing is, there’s nothing they can do. Most fast-fashion clothing doesn’t decompose and so it just floods the landfills taking up space that could be used for more valuable endeavors. On a slightly brighter side, some clothing is exported to developing countries. But slowly, these countries are beginning to resist second-hand imports because it disrupts their own clothing industries

It’s not a far cry to say, we are headed for some interesting global situations because of clothes.  

Where you can learn more

A few years ago, the documentary True Cost came out. We were shocked and appalled at the impact of our actions when it comes to things as simple as clothing. But what exactly has changed? Well for starters it’s opened up the conversation. It’s improved awareness and it’s got people talking. But that’s not enough. We can do better and we’re trying to figure out what. 

The Threadbook
Shameless plug. There is also this blog. We post weekly on topics related to sustainable fashion as well as our lessons learned in building a sustainable fashion platform. We answer questions like today’s topic “What is sustainable fashion?” and we try to provide you with practical solutions.

Social Media
Social media is a treasure trove of information. Follow hashtags such as #sustainablefashion or #fairtradefashion and you’ll be inundated with people doing their best to help solve this problem.

Dedicated Organizations
Fashion Revolution has done an excellent job in shedding a light on the fashion industry. They have multiple events and programs throughout the year. But their most notable is Fashion Revolution Week that’s a week of awareness in April to commemorate the anniversary of Rana Plaza collapsing in Bangladesh On April 24th, 2013.

If you’re in the NYC area, the NYC Fairtrade Coalition is making waves in the area. They do lunch and learns, swap shops and many other initiatives to push sustainability forward. They’ve opened a sustainable fashion community center which is a great place to get more involved. We recommend visiting their website to learn more.

Ways to be sustainable

Today sustainability is increasingly becoming popular. To get in on the positive direction.

Shop sustainably – find brands that produce sustainably or using fair trade practices.
Rent – a great way to eliminate waste. Why buy something you’ll wear once when you can rent it.
Buy second-hand – This is an affordable way to get what you need without having to contribute to waste
Use what you own – The most sustainable thing you can do, is to use what you already own.

If all these seem like too much work, visit Thread Life. Place your request of what you’re looking for and you’ll get a report with sustainable options. We’ll do the work for you so you don’t have to bother. 

The Takeaway

So what is sustainable fashion? Sustainable fashion is fashion that stewards people and the environment.

Sustainable fashion is important because at the end of the day it protects people and the environment. Starting on your sustainable journey today is becoming less of a hassle because there is an increasing number of brands and initiatives pushing the cause. But even if all that seems like too much work, you can always sit back and let us do the work for you. Maybe your heart is in the right place but you might not have the time.

Are there sustainable options we might have missed? If so, let us know in the Comments Section below.

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