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Eco Credentials, Explained

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Edited by
Waste Not, Want Not
Each year, surplus fabric and unsold inventory pile up, leading to excessive waste. As a result, collections made from existing clothes and deadstock fabric is an idea that is becoming mainstream. New brands Albaray and Aligne both utilise it where possible in their collections, and Reformation also regularly reworks unused garments from wholesalers into new pieces. Thankfully, it’s a practice that is becoming more widespread – in 2021, LVMH launched Nona Source, a platform that offers emerging creatives and brands in Europe access to high-quality deadstock fabrics and leathers from the LVMH Fashion & Leather Goods Houses. Another waste-management system to look out for is limited runs; Cossie+Co manufactures conservative-sized runs of pieces to ensure less waste and Kitri regularly operates a pre-order model, which ensures that it only manufactures what it knows will sell.
The variety of animal and plant life on Earth is increasingly under threat, and fashion is a big player in this global problem. The industry destroys natural habitats, pollutes waterways, causes deforestation and produces waste (92 million tons of textile waste ends up in landfill every year). In 2019, the Fashion Pact was launched at the G7 Summit as a global initiative of companies in the fashion and textile industry, including their suppliers and distributors, all committed to a common core of key environmental goals in three areas: stopping global warming, restoring biodiversity and protecting the oceans. Brands that have committed to the Pact currently include Prada, Gap, Zadig & Voltaire, Zimmermann and Mango. Similarly, in 2021 Gucci unveiled a nature-positive biodiversity strategy with a target of having a net-positive impact on biodiversity by 2025.
Carbon Negative/Climate Positive Clothes
Carbon neutral, climate positive, carbon negative, carbon offsetting… it can all get a bit confusing, can’t it? An increasing number of brands are announcing their intentions to become one of the aforementioned – but what does it really mean? According to sustainability platform Plan A, “Carbon neutral means that any CO2 released into the atmosphere from a company’s activities is balanced by an equivalent amount being removed. Climate positive means that activity goes beyond achieving net-zero carbon emissions to create an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon negative means the same thing as climate positive.” Carbon offsetting, meanwhile, is a way to compensate for emissions by funding equivalent carbon-dioxide saving elsewhere, such as by paying to plant trees. Leading the way are Eileen Fisher and Patagonia, who are adopting solutions such as regenerative farming practices. ARKET has committed to becoming fully climate-positive by 2040, and trainer brand Allbirds has already achieved Climate Neutral certification. Ganni, meanwhile, has moved from carbon offsetting to carbon insetting, which mitigates carbon emission hotspots at the source.
Resale & Repair
One of the most significant ways that we can move towards being more sustainable is by wearing and loving the clothes we already own for as long as possible. Luckily, increasingly more brands are making that not only possible but a core component of their offering. Last year, Bottega Veneta announced the Certificate of Craft, a lifetime guarantee on all of its handbags, meaning that they can be sent back to them for refreshes and repairs an unlimited amount of times at no extra cost. Other luxury brands provide similar services – Chanel offers complimentary repairs on bags for five years after purchase, while Mulberry offers a lifetime repairs service at a cost, as well as a buy-back programme – but there’s hope that more will follow Bottega’s more comprehensive example. When it comes to clothing, there have also been great leaps. In 2021, Isabel Marant launched Isabel Marant Vintage, a resale site that funnels its proceeds into The Isabel Marant Endowment Fund, which supports women’s education and artisan craftsmanship in indigenous communities. Zara recently also launched a platform where customers can resell, repair or donate Zara items, and Dôen has introduced ‘Hand-Me-Dôen’, where pre-loved Dôen pieces are resold via the brand’s official website.
Bio Textiles
Many of the fabrics hanging in our wardrobes have a negative impact on the environment, and while organic alternatives minimise the damage, there is pressure on the fashion industry to create bio-based materials that don’t wreak havoc on the planet. The developments are promising: Stella McCartney recently created the world’s first luxury bag, the Frayme Mylo, made from lab-grown mycelium, the root-like structures of fungi, and regenerated cellulose fibres. Similarly, this season Mara Hoffman – well-known for her dedication to sustainability – has become the first designer to use a non-nylon and non-polyester material for swimwear by utilising Pyratex Power 3, a bio-based material made from dissolved wood pulp and processed using a low-toxicity solvent. Reformation and Mother of Pearl are among many other brands championing the use of materials including Tencel Lyocell, which is made from rapidly renewable eucalyptus trees, and uses five times less land and 80% less water to grow than cotton. But, if buying organic textiles such as cotton, silk and linen is a must for you, look for those with GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certification.
Social Impact
It’s easy to think of sustainability as a purely environmental issue, but the social impact of how we manufacture clothing is huge. The pandemic emphasised the plight of garment workers, as have disasters such as the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh – the deadliest garment-industry catastrophe in history. Put simply, manufacturing clothing shouldn’t be a potentially deadly job, so we, as consumers, as well as the retailers and designers we buy from, need to act. One way to be confident you’re buying from a company that’s doing its best to ensure everyone in their supply chain is treated fairly is to look at whether they have B Corp certification. This covers a company’s practices and outputs across five categories: governance, workers, community, the environment and customers. Uniquely, it isn’t a one-size-fits-all certification; rather, it’s tailored to each company to take into account its size and the risk factors of the specific industry it belongs to. Furthermore, companies are re-evaluated every three years to ensure they are maintaining their standards and enable progress. Fashion brands that are B Corp-certified include Faithfull the Brand, Chloé, Sezane and Veja.