The textile and clothing industry has lived in ongoing change through the past 20-30 years. The first sustainability wave came somewhere in the 90s, when people were offered eco-friendly clothing made from natural fibers in earthy colors. This was also the image what mainstream got about sustainable clothing. And still today, many of us might have a picture of green hippy clothes in mind when someone mentions environmental friendly clothing.
The next wave came in the 21st century. Fast fashion had occupied the markets with cheaper and cheaper clothing that the brands were producing faster (and faster) and cheaper (and cheaper) in the third countries. Not many thought about the working conditions or salaries of the manufacturing people. Brands also got lost in their supply chains since the manufacturers to whom they gave the contract were giving the order forward to a next supplier since they could not fulfill the need for fast and cheap clothing for themselves. Once the order is given a few times forward, it leads often in cases about child labour, abuse and / or deathly working conditions. In a contrary, the movement called slow fashion was born. It is about producing slower more quality in the long term. In the core is the ethics; to give the manufacturers the time, and to be concerned about the quality of life of the people.
The next wave is coming. The textile industry is more complex than just about who has the most environmental friendly fabrics or the most ethical production. In the future, we need to take the whole supply chain, from raw materials to recycling the used item, into the consideration. 2/3 of the environmental impact is due to the use of a garment; how often do we wash them, in which temperature, with which washing powder, how long do we use the clothing in general. All these aspects have an huge effect on the sustainability of an item.
Decisions on fabric, design, pattern making and place of production are crucial parts when it comes to making long lasting items. The fabric needs to be durable and it needs to be suitable for the planned use. The fabrics need to feel comfortable so that we are willing to use it in the long term. The design must delight of one's eye, but also be timeless enough that the long term use is desirable. The patterns needs to be made carefully so that the item fits truly. The production must be in the highest quality so that the seams and other vulnerable parts of clothing are durable for the use. These are all qualities that the brand takes care of. Choosing the right partners is vital.
However, there are lots of decisions outside these that also has an effect on the overall sustainability of an item. Fabric making is a long process and begins with selection of right fibers. These fibers might be natural or man made. Both have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to environmental friendliness. The fibers need to spinned into yarns and it matters how and what kind of fibers are spinned together. For example, if the fabric maker uses cheaper and shorter fibers, the fabric and the item will pill faster than if the fibers were long.
Fabric making consist of lots of water and chemicals and if they are not in control and according to the laws, the clothing can have strong concentration of chemicals left in the fabric and cause some health problems such as rash. Also the waste water need to be taken cared of so that the chemicals do not end to sabotage the nature and finally for example on our fruits and vegetables that we eat.
As we already mentioned, 2/3 of the environmental impacts of an item are due to the use. We need clothes and we use clothes. In the future, it matters more and more how we treat our clothing. It is a great environment deed if we choose to buy less but higher quality, if we choose to buy when we really need an item. After the use it is important to take care of the recycling. If the item is still in shape the best way is to sell or give it forward. Also, the recycling methods develop all the time, and even more complex mixtures of different fibers will be possible to differentiate from a piece of clothing and reuse.
The best kind of reuse is up cycling, so that the raw materials can be used in a way where the cycle of use goes on and on. At the moment, man made fibers are easier to reuse on new items than natural fibers since man made fibres don't lose their qualities as natural do. Natural fibres get shorter and shorter after every recycling process as man made are able to retain their quality. However, the technologies develop fast and we are really looking forward to them.
This time, it was lots of information about the textile and clothing industry, but you made it through. Now you might be wondering how is it business wise possible to be a profitable company if we are telling people to by less and only when they are in a need.
Well, we believe that the world is able to live through a change. Behaviors have always changed, at the moment, they are changing, and they will always be changing. It is not that long ago (20 years maybe) when it was normal to put a bit more money into an item and then use it for years. It is also about the true cost. We pay our producer the real price for a really good quality items. We calculate our profit margins so that we get our costs (production, pattern making, fabrics, shipping, online store costs, marketing, insurances, our salaries and future development..) covered.
Finally, we believe that profit is not the aim but the result of a working business. We are also a small company that doesn't have any pressure from the outside stakeholders so we can make our decisions truly based on the business ethics we believe are right. In the future, we will open up this topic a bit more too.
Thanks for the read!
Ama & Essi
Text Inspiration: Vihreät Vaatteet