What is a sustainable brand

What is a sustainable brand
30 June 2023

Today, a t-shirt costs less than a lunch. We live in the world of fast fashion, where famous brands like Pepco, H&M, Forever 21, Zara, Primark overwhelm us with new collections every week. Their production is so shoddy that it's not surprising to find a hole in your garment after the first wear. No problem! If it tears after the first wash, you can buy a new one. Every week.

It’s been proven that fashion industry is the second-largest polluter on the planet. There are almost no strict global regulations on that issue, although we are making the right (albeit small) steps in this direction - recently the European Commission voted a strategy for sustainable textiles. However, it is important to know what sustainable fashion really is and what are the advantages as compared to fast fashion.

By definition, it is an ethical approach towards designing, sourcing, manufacturing, selling, and delivering clothing in a way that minimizes the industry’s negative impact on people and the planet.

In practice, it means that a fashion brand must meet each of the following criteria to be defined as sustainable and ethical:

•       To use sustainable materials;

•       To ensure ethical supply chain and labor practices;

•       To aim at carbon footprint reduction;

•       To apply green business practices;

•       To stick to a policy of inclusion and diversity;

•       To be committed to charity and community giving.  



Most often, natural fibers with minimal processing are used, which easily decompose in nature after the end of their (long) life. These include organic cotton, hemp, linen, bamboo fabric (not to be confused with chemically treated bamboo silk), protein fibers (recycled or from certified humane sources).For some of the clothes (such as a swimming suits or a raincoats for example) synthetics are used. In such cases, they should be recycled and/or recyclable. Using existing plastic materials that otherwise pollute water sources is a win after all!Even if you have an organic cotton t-shirt, however, if it has been dyed with toxic dyes and excessive use of water, it is not a sustainable material. At least the dyes used should not be azo-dyes, which have been proven to affect human health, causing allergies, gene mutations and even cancer.And last but not least, the sustainable material is fit for purpose, i.e. durable. 



Using sustainable materials is not enough, however. How the clothes are made is just as important. In most cases, this means small and controlled supply chains. Clothing is usually produced in developed countries, where workplace health and safety codes and wage requirements are more strictly enforced. Sustainable brands maintain a small product line - a few simple things made with really good quality and longevity. They care about transparency and buying their product we can always find out exactly where it was made, what kind of certificate it complies with and how the labor to make it was paid. 



Until recently, commitments towards carbon neutrality were seen as something “nice” for sustainable brands to have. But in light of the growing climate change crisis, it is now a must if a fashion brand wants to be defined as sustainable.



It surely is important as how a product is made, but what happens with it after it gets to the customer also matters. Sustainable brands produce quality and durable clothes often times with a lifetime warranty! For them, things don't end with the sale. Almost all of them offer additional services such as repairs, resale or recycling of the produced clothes. Other green practices are hand-made production, zero-waste (by small-batches or  made-to-order manufacturing). Attention is also paid to the packaging (recycled or degradable packaging) and the transportation of the final product. 



No more fashion catalogs and shop windows that show us nothing but XS size models. Truly ethical fashion brands offer sustainable clothing in small and plus sizes (and no, XL is not the largest one), as well as gender-neutral clothing that fits all bodies and identities. 



Sustainable brands give back. They use their profits to improve the world in some way - from giving money to charities to organizing events and initiatives. Their priorities are people, the planet and then profit. In that order. And if all the above mentioned doesn't sound convincing enough to opt for a garment from a sustainable brand, here's what you're actually choosing: 



The materials used and the method of production guarantee the high quality of these clothes. The argument that children grow like mushrooms and the price of a sustainable clothing  isn't worth is irrelevant. The quality of  such garment allows it to be worn by more than one child, for more than one season, or more than one year. Even regardless of the gender of the child, because in most cases they are unisex. 



Do you think it is a coincidence that more and more babies and children suffer from atopic dermatitis or allergies, for example? Yes, the reason is hardly in the lack of control only over the production of children's clothing. But the list of toxic chemicals is long and they are used in every stage of production – nonylphenols, phthalates, heavy metals (lead, chromium), formaldehyde, amines, etc. etc. etc.And yes, they are still being used largely by the big and established brands. 



The most common argument against - a t-shirt from a sustainable brand costs more than the "same" one from an unsustainable brand. Is it really so, if we look at it in the long-term? Is the money spent on the sustainable one that your child will wear this summer, will be inherited by a brother / sister / friend or sold in one of the second hand groups really more than what you will spend to buy three t-shirts from a fast brand this summer because after the second wash cycle they will be no longer wearable? 



After all mentioned above, I would just add (from a parent's point-of-view) better the planet does not end with us.


Reference List: