What is Sustainable Fashion?

Updated: Jan 21

Sustainable fashion is a buzzword phrase that’s been thrown around a lot lately, often with the adjectives “ethical” or “vegan” attached to it. As we become more sustainable in our daily lives and in the way we consume products, it can be hard to distinguish between which brands are truly sustainable and which ones are wearing it as a trend - no pun intended.

Fashion is known for being one of the least sustainable industries. Fast fashion and the supply chain that comes with it are responsible for 10% of the Earth’s carbon emissions, with 85% of textiles being thrown out each year. With these stats in mind, sustainable fashion is any practice that moves the needle of the fashion industry towards ecological integrity and social justice. The sustainable label is all-encompassing in that it indicates fashion brands care about the issues at hand and are taking some sort of action to remedy them. As a consumer, this means it’s up to you to do your research on what part of a brand is sustainable and whether you’re willing to shop there, which is why we created this guide to answer the questions of what makes fashion sustainable and why we should care.


What does sustainable fashion mean?


Oftentimes, we look at labels to direct us towards what we’re looking for. When a clothing brand calls itself sustainable, it means that their practices consider the environmental and economic impact that goes into creating clothing and that their supply chain is designed to maintain an ecological balance. There aren’t regulations on who can call themselves sustainable - the fashion industry doesn’t have rules like the food industry does, where you can go to a grocery store and know based on set parameters that something is organic.


That means it’s best to keep in mind the general idea of sustainable fashion when shopping for clothes, which Good On You defines as “fostering a fashion industry that takes a long term approach to the design, manufacturing, and consumption of clothes and accessories. It’s about fashion that both creates good and avoids harm, whether to people, the planet, or animals.” We recommend starting with this definition and then doing your own brand research to see what aligns with your values.


Why is it important?


Many fashion brands today are not modeled to be sustainable. With companies like H&M, Forever 21, and Shein creating trendy clothing at extremely low prices, the average consumer is more likely to shop at these vendors with little consideration on the environmental impact.


Fast fashion and the fashion industry as a whole are the second-biggest pollutants in the world after the oil industry. Clothing production has doubled since the early 2000s, while people keep their clothes for half as long. Knowing that the fashion industry has had such massive effects on the environment means it’s worth investing in sustainable fashion pieces that can help improve our future and the fashion industry as a whole.


The final thing to consider is the true cost of your item. While fast-fashion has made it possible to buy frequently at a very low cost, it often indicates that throughout the supply chain corners are being cut for example; workers not being paid fairly, or unnecessary waste being produced.


Sustainable Fashion Trends

There are a ton of trendy ways to shop sustainably across the internet and beyond:


Capsule Wardrobe - this method is huge among influencers. By creating a “capsule wardrobe” of only the necessary items, you’re able to narrow down what fashion pieces are truly important to you and stock yourself with a few high-quality pieces instead of a closet full of fast fashion. Start by deciding on a color palette, then eliminate anything you can’t mix ‘n match or that you don’t wear often.


Thrifting - with models like Gigi Hadid touting their favorite thrifting shops, this trend has reached the queens among us. Thrifting gives us a chance to repurpose clothing at a low cost and to get creative with styling instead of following set trends. Perfect for fashion trailblazers.


Clothing Rentals - rental websites like Nuuly offer a monthly rotation of fashionable pieces from big-name brands and help companies find homes for fashion pieces that weren’t sold online. Rentals are an excellent option for occasionwear and people who constantly restock their wardrobes.


Up-cycling - there are always pieces in your closet that you don’t wear but can’t bear to part with. Upcycling is the practice of taking clothes you already own and turning it into a new piece that you’ll wear often. Perfect for those who love to craft.


Transparency Research - if you want to still buy brand-new stuff, research fashion companies that have a transparent supply chain and sustainable practices.


Consumer Behavior


The fashion industry isn’t going anywhere - in fact, it’s predicted to grow by 6% in 2021. Many fashion brands are adopting sustainable practices, most recently with H&M creating a collection of recycled pieces. These are great steps towards creating a more sustainable fashion industry, but until we have legislation in place guaranteeing a more sustainable shift, the responsibility towards environmentally-conscious consumption falls on the consumer.


The practices we’ve outlined are a great way to make a personal effort towards a greener and more ethical future, and in many ways, consumers are already changing their behavior to reflect these values, with 60 percent reporting that they go out of their way to purchase environmentally-friendly products.


At White Rhino, our products are made out of 100% vegan materials and we use recycled, rescued and plant-based materials at every opportunity. We take our supply chain seriously and weigh the considerations of our impact on the environment. For more info on our practices, check out our FAQ page. We hope you’ve learned something about shopping sustainably and how we can make an impact to shape fashion moving forward.


Knowledge is power!


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