Do you feel confused about the terminology around sustainable fashion?
Here’s a really good and simple guide from Fashioninsiders.co to help clarify some of it. Below I have briefly gone through the explanations from the article. Hopefully this will help you make sense of some of the claims retailers are making and whether they are actually walking the walk as well as talking the talk. We also want to help you understand where Essential Noir sits in all of this – more on that a bit further down.
Conscious Fashion is an all-encompassing term. It is often used to imply sustainability, ethical practices or eco fashion. For some brands it is used to imply mindful and purposeful and can also be used as a part of the brand name. This doesn’t mean they necessarily are a sustainable brand. Check with the brand if you are unsure.
Slow Fashion is a movement started by small independent brands that do not wish to adhere to the cycles and trends of the conventional fashion calendar. Slow Fashion is the opposite of Fast Fashion. Slow Fashion brands do not create and release seasonal collections but rather focus on a slower fashion cycle of timeless long-lasting products. They design and manufacture products that are long-lasting in design ethos and style as well as focusing on wearability and quality. Slow Fashion doesn’t automatically mean sustainable fashion and a brand can identify as slow fashion without being sustainable.
Ethical is often used to describe a product as cruelty-free and used for example to talk about ethical leather implying that the product is good and kind to the planet as opposed to the real thing. This actually isn’t the correct way to use the term ethical. In fact ethical is a people related term. It should be used for and refer to how people are treated. How are workers treated? Are they receiving a fair wage? Are they of legal age? What is the impact the factories have on the surrounding community? Companies who claim to be ethical should be able to provide transparency and evidence that they adhere to their values.
“When properly used, it should refer to the practice of paying a “fair wage” to workers form marginalised communities that contribute to the fashion industry.” (Fashioninsiders.co)
Historically these were communities operated through and exploited by slave labour. Fairtrade also refers to ethical working conditions and certifications. There are a lot of companies who promote Fairtrade practice.
Fairtrade should not be confused for ethical and sustainable fashion. It is possible to be Fairtrade without being ethical or sustainable.
What then is Sustainable Fashion?
The term is widespread and refers to the effect that manufacturing has on the environment and the planet.
“Sustainability is the practice of creating products by taking resources from the environment we live in and ensuring that, at the end of the product life cycle, the product will return back to the earth without harming it.”
“Sustainable products should always be able to biodegrade. But the reality is that this is still largely work in process and it is hard to ensure this happens. Least of all because for a biodegrading process to take place, oxygen is required, and many landfills are so densely packed there is no oxygen flow.” (Fashioninsiders.co)
Instead many brands put themselves into the sustainable category if they manufacture locally (reducing the carbon footprint), use materials made for example from recycled plastic or if they have schemes for customers to bring back and recycle old products.
None of this is truly sustainable – but they are steps to the right direction as being 100% sustainable is still far off being truly possible and feasible to achieve.
Organic usually refers to materials. These materials use natural fibres being grown and produced without the use of chemical pesticides in the growing process. Cotton is one of the biggest environment polluters. There is a great effort being made for organic cotton to be widely produced and easily available to fashion brands.
“Cruelty-free is relatively new for fashion. Until recently it was mostly used in the beauty industry to imply that products were not tested on animals. Today, the term also is used in fashion and refers to products made out of materials that do not contain animal products and no animals were harmed in the process of manufacture both the material and the product.” (Fashioninsiders.co)
And when a brand talks the talk and makes claims without actually walking the walk – this is called Greenwashing.
“Claiming sustainability credentials is common practise by many brands knowingly or not. Many large brands may have a tiny portion of products or a limited collection that is sustainable and decide to use the term “sustainable” to promote themselves.
Unfortunately, as this is misleading – they are in effect greenwashing the customers. In other words – duping them into thinking they are something they are not.” (Fashioninsiders.co)
And don’t forget – This sustainable fashion terminology is just a small scratch of the surface.
Where does Essential Noir fall in in all of this?
Our heart and soul are in Slow Fashion. We see the importance of Ethical Fashion and aim to be as Sustainable as possible. We are very much a Conscious Fashion brand.
We are very much the definition of Slow Fashion above. We don’t produce Fast Fashion or trend led seasonal collections but instead focus on quality and timeless designs. Creating items made to last.
For us it is very important to manufacture locally and to know who makes the product. We very much believe in paying a fair price for the work and want to support local jobs and communities through local manufacturing. As a small independent brand we use small UK manufacturing units that we can visit and have a good relationship with. We do still have work to do on the transparency on this so that we can call ourselves truly ethical with the data on hand to back it up.
Our Fashion Essentials tops are made using the Lenzing Modal Yarn. This yarn is knitted into fabric in Leicestershire, UK. And although when it comes to fashion there is no such thing as completely impact free way of producing fabric and garments – Lenzing is pretty amazing with the way their system works. You can read more via the link above. Local manufacturing allows us to leave a smaller carbon footprint. And focusing on slow fashion does mean that we are producing less new items which we encourage people to look after well and wear for longer. We are also working on changing our packaging in the future to be better for the environment. We don’t claim to be fully sustainable but are mindful of the issues around fashion and sustainability – and are working to be the best we can.
All of the above makes us a Conscious Fashion Brand. We also buy already existing end-of-roll fabrics to re-use in our Limited Edition Collection. Putting them into good use rather than ending up in landfills.