Daniel Kramer - Fashion

Sustainable fashion - high fashion and street style labels are jumping on it

Sep 16, 2020

It has finally arrived in the fashion world: Thinking more sustainable and environmentally friendly! In times of global warming and scarce resources, this is more important today than ever before. But what does sustainability actually mean in the fashion industry and how do I recognize a sustainable label? In this article I would like to introduce you to the five most important criteria that stand for sustainable fashion and perhaps also give you an impulse to shop more consciously in the future. We all want to live more consciously and environmentally friendly, but we are less likely to give up our usual style. But trust me, both can be possible.

More and more fashion labels are already starting to produce more sustainably and focusing more on recycling. This includes some high fashion labels like Balenciaga and Stella McCartney, but also street style brands like Heron Preston.  

Since the beginning of May 2020 the fashion world has been looking at the new label Nu-In by model Stefanie Giesinger and her boyfriend Marcus Butler, when the couple released their own sustainable collection for men and women. The pieces of the collection have a very clean design and can be combined in many ways - casual basics find minimalist design. According to the two entrepreneurs Stephanie and Marcus, low prices and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. Following the motto "Fashion first. Sustainable always", the couple designs fashionable, sustainably produced streetwear in a price segment that is affordable for everyone.  

In order to produce in a sustainable way, the entrepreneurs rely primarily on sustainable textiles made of Ecovero Viscose and Lyocell. The production of Lyocell does not produce any harmful by-products, furthermore the fabric is biodegradable. Ecovero Viscose is produced using cellulose. Ecovero Viscose is made from wood, a renewable raw material. For the production of denim, Stefanie Giesinger and Marcus Butler say they only use fabrics from factories that reduce water consumption by 85 percent compared to normal production conditions. 

Nuin Founders Stefanie Giesinger and Marcus Butler

Nu-In Founders Stefanie Giesinger & Marcus Butler wearing pieces of their sustainable fashion collection

For several years now, Heron Preston has also been a prominent advocate of environmentally friendly streetwear. The American designer and DJ was in Nairobi in March 2019 and shared his vision for the future of the industry at a UN conference in front of an interested audience. In doing so, he supported the founding of the "Alliance for Sustainable Fashion", which aims to play a major role in shaping the development of sustainable fashion and improve the industry's practices. After all, this has a huge impact on our economy and environment.  

Stella McCartney has the most radical approach. The British fashion designer was the first to completely avoid animal products in her collections. Thanks to her, eco-fashion is more than crinkled linen shirts in beige. Stella McCartney calls on the fashion world to do its bit to save the earth. For fashion brands, too, it is time to wake up and take the climate emergency seriously. For her, sustainability is the future of fashion and not just a trend. Since July 2019, shares of Stella McCartney's label of the same name have been owned by the world's largest luxury group LVMH, even though she herself continues to hold the majority stake in her company. Its boss Bernard Arnault made her his personal advisor for sustainability. The daughter of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney described this year's spring/summer collection as the most sustainable of her label to date. Her collection includes bast bags made by women from Madagascar, fake fur made of organic plastics and recycled polyester as well as shoes with "sustainable" wooden heels.  

At Balenciaga, sustainability goes one step further. The Brand has teamed up with the World Food Program in 2018 to draw attention to the recent rise in world hunger and support global efforts to end it. Since December 2019, Balenciaga continues to support WFP's mission with a new line of clothing and accessories. A portion of the proceeds from each sale will be donated to WFP. The range includes new designs for popular Balenciaga items such as socks, hats, scarves, trousers, raincoats, blouses, hoodies and unisex bags, available in a variety of colors. Some feature the official WFP logo, while others have a repetitive, diagonal pattern of Balenciaga and WFP logos.   

The high-fashion house has been in business for a good 80 years, but has recently made a clear impression for its trendsetting designs. Today, Balenciaga has developed a greater awareness of sustainability by manufacturing products that do not harm the environment, respect animal welfare and conserve resources. For example, Balenciaga does not sell sneakers with reptile skin, fur or any other animal product. And they are not only sustainable, but also extremely stylish. 

Capsule collection by Balenciaga and Farfetch to support the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Capsule collection by Balenciaga and Farfetch to support the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)

Naturally, each label decides for itself how it can contribute to sustainability. The following 5 criteria are certainly the most important ones and give us a good overview of what sustainable fashion stands for.  

1. Organic raw materials  

Clothing made from organic raw materials is 100% natural and environmentally friendly, because in order not to contaminate the soil and groundwater, no pesticides, chemical fertilizers or insecticides are used during the entire production process. In addition, the farmers have to refrain from genetically manipulated seeds and the breeding of monocultures. Synthetic fibers, on the other hand, are harmful to the environment, both during production and when washed at home. This is because thousands of fibers are released from clothing every time it is machine washed and end up as microplastics in our oceans via the wastewater. 

2. Resource-saving production  

Just as the longevity of fashion conserves resources, there is also the possibility to work in a resource-saving manner in the production of garments. Important points here are low water and energy consumption, short delivery routes and the use of rapidly renewable raw materials. We are currently experiencing rapid development, especially in the latter area. New materials such as bamboo, which can grow back up to one meter per day, are on the rise. More and more "waste products" are also being processed into great materials, such as tree cuttings from forestry or pineapple leaves that are left over from the harvest anyway. 

3. Recycling and upcycling  

Recycling fashion is sustainable. It's especially great when you can use other discarded materials in addition to the old clothes. Stella McCartney, for example, recently designed some accessories from plastic bottles and old fishing nets fished out of the ocean. Just as valuable as recycling is the so-called upcycling of fashion. Innovative designers use old, discarded garments and give them a new look using various methods. An old men's shirt, for example, is turned into a new ladies' top or a used leather jacket into a new designer bag. 

4. Fair and social  

What is meant here is fair trade and socially acceptable production from raw materials to finished fashion. With fashion officially declared as "fair-trade", you can be sure that fair trade has taken place in the purchase and sale of garments or raw materials. In concrete terms this means for example: fair prices for the raw material farmers, fair wages and working conditions for the seamstresses and no child labor. 

5. Locally produced fashion  

If clothes are produced where they are needed, this has several advantages: Firstly, long transport routes are eliminated, which can save a lot of CO2. Ideally, the entire supply chain should take place in Germany and both the fabric production and the clothing manufacture should be carried out by German companies. On the other hand, the criterion "Made in Germany" supports the local economy and secures jobs here in Germany. 

I think that shows that the criteria for sustainable fashion are extremely diverse. It's much more than "just" about the materials. In fact, there is a whole range of aspects that play a role in sustainable fashion: Fair wages, no child labor, animal welfare and many more.  

In my opinion, the extent to which each label implements the criteria for itself should not be evaluated so strictly. Commitment counts and in return we as consumers are also in demand and can make our own valuable contribution. I've only given you a few examples here, but there are now quite a few fashion labels that produce in a fair and environmentally friendly way, that value timeless cuts and perfect workmanship, and that use the latest technologies for the production of their clothes, shoes and accessories in addition to traditional craftsmanship. So it's worth taking a look at the label or inquire directly in the shop.  

That sustainable fashion is uncool and hard to find, we can quickly get rid of these prejudices. And if you value good quality and durability, you have to spend a little more money. But that generally also applies to non-sustainable fashion.  

So in the future, it's better to have fewer but good items in your wardrobe, items that will give you pleasure for a long time and are also sustainable and protect the environment. 

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