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Sustainable Fashion vs Fast Fashion

22 December 2022 | 5 Min Read

The world of fashion is effectively cut into two segments - fast fashion vs Sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion is also sometimes referred to as slow fashion, though the name bares no relevance to purchasing speed! Still confused? That's okay, there are lots of terms, buzzwords and meanings behind it all. If you're interested in lowering your carbon footprint through your wardrobe and fashion choices then keep reading, we’re going to take a look at what it all means.

What is sustainable fashion?

No, it doesn’t mean it’s just ponchos made out of hemp or fishing nets, sustainable fashion really is a bottom to top approach to fashion manufacturing and processes. These buying choices and processes can lead to positive impactful changes on our planet.

 

Sustainable fashion refers to the design, production, and consumption of clothing and other fashion items in a way that minimizes their negative impact on people and the environment. It involves the use of materials and techniques that are environmentally friendly, and the consideration of the entire lifecycle of a product, from the sourcing of raw materials to the disposal of the final product.

 

There are several key principles of sustainable fashion, including the use of natural and recycled materials, the reduction of waste and pollution, the promotion of fair labor practices, and the support of traditional crafts and techniques.

What is fast fashion?

Think of your big next-day delivery or high street brands - that’s most likely a fast fashion brand. Fast fashion can currently be designated by its rapid production of cheap, trendy clothing that is designed to be worn for a short period of time and then discarded. 

 

Fast fashion has been criticized for its negative environmental and social impacts, including the use of harmful chemicals, the exploitation of cheap labor, and the generation of large amounts of waste. It’s a purely profit-driven center of thinking. It’s also a massive contributor to greenhouse gases and plastic waste, but we’ll get to that later.

The Environmental impact of fashion

1. High Emissions

Today, fashion accounts for roughly 10% of our global emissions, so there’s a significant incentive to reduce our impact on the planet via the clothes we wear.   
 

So how does sustainable fashion reduce emissions? Sourcing materials more locally is a great start, as well as considering the practices of sourcing the materials to produce the clothes!   
 

Take a comparison: do you think a polyester or oil-derived product is going to be a better option to organic cotton? Now, agriculture and crop production isn’t perfect, even for clothing, but it’s better than the fossil fuel alternative. 

2. Increased Waste

It’s not just carbon emissions that make fashion a bit of a dirty business, but it’s also the waste, and just how bad that waste is too!  
 

The fashion industry is a massive waste producer (92 million tonnes), but it can absolutely clean up its act.   
 

By making the switch from plastic-based fibres to natural fibres, you can reduce the waste half-life of any clothing products you buy by centuries! Organic and untreated materials are particularly good signals for biodegradability, so look for cotton, wool, cashmere, linen, hemp and silk materials that are naturally derived. 

3. Additional Cost

Yes, Gucci, Versace and Burberry may come to the top of your mind when it comes to expensive clothing, unfortunately, we see sustainable clothing being slightly more expensive than fast fashion options for the masses.   
 

Why is this? Petroleum-based products are incredibly cheap to produce en masse, and thus make the end product of clothing far cheaper. Acrylic, nylon, spandex and polyester are commonly used petroleum-based clothing fibres, so make sure to avoid these if you’re against big oil products!   
 

The process of growing and harvesting a natural product that needs human labour, fair wages, and responsibly managed supply chains will come at a premium to the path of least resistance that the big brand names may use.

Does sustainable fashion have to expensive?

Absolutely not! Sustainable fashion is an entire movement. It doesn't have to be the more expensive option, think about reducing environmental damage by buying pre-loved items or adjusting your current wardrobe. 

Social responsibility

We’ve touched on this already, but just paying a fair wage is one way that companies can think about their social responsibility. But it’s not just that, it’s the impact that companies can have beyond the bottom line and the employees they have.   
 

Look at a brand like Patagonia - the founder is giving away the entire organisation to charity, and has already given tens, if not hundreds of millions of dollars to climate change-fighting charities. Now, not all impact has to be donating in the millions, there’s plenty more that can be done, such as employing local staff, fair wages, having a social responsibility charter, or even joining a certifying body for responsibility and sustainabilityTo this day, we’re still seeing child and slave labour in the fast fashion industry, which is unfathomable with the profits some of these brands make. 

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Overall, sustainable fashion takes into account social responsibility at its core. Being a decent brand from the start to the end of the process of producing clothing should be a core belief all brands have, but right now, we can surely see sustainable fashion leading the way in clothing you can sleep soundly with when you buy it.   
 

So what’s the best option for my collection? 

We get it, the luxury brands really can make some beautiful and hard-wearing products that just make sense, more so than the discount brands. But, do you really think about the sustainability of your favourite brands? Now, with all this knowledge in mind, you may look up the responsibility charter, practices and promises your favourite brands make. You never know, with your searching through the internet and Sustainabuyer, you may find brand new brands that have the perfect fit of stylish and friendliness to our planet.   
 

Do you know any good sustainable fashion brands? Let us know on our socials, or email us at hello@sustainabuyer.com 

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