Sustainable fashion is the newest fashion movement that’s more than just a trend. It aims to change the way we create, purchase, and use clothing forever — for good. Especially in recent decades, the ethicality of everything we do has come under close scrutiny. Sustainable fashion brings ethics to the industry through positive social change, careful attention to materials, and rewarding the workers themselves.
Sustainable fashion seeks to improve the life cycle of garments by promoting quality and longevity. This alternative to fast fashion is closely related to the idea of slow fashion.
In slow fashion, companies seek to create garments that last a long time and elevate a timeless style. This starkly contrasts the more-is-more attitude which pervades fast fashion culture.
Below, Paskho goes on an excursion into the existing fashion industry and how sustainable fashion is changing everything.
What Impact Does Fashion Have on the Environment?
The fashion industry has a dirty secret. Nearly every industry has one.
For the food industry, it was the meat-packing secrets infamously unearthed by Upton Sinclaire in The Jungle. For many industrial businesses, it was a history of unfair labor practices. For the fashion industry, the dirty secret is the way that fashion impacts our environment and workers.
The first issue with the fashion industry is water consumption. Every year, over 90 billion cubic liters of water are used, accounting for 20% of wastewater worldwide. Despite that high input cost, most textiles used in clothing production end up burnt or in landfills. When it comes to emissions from the production process, the fashion industry is even worse than the airline and maritime industries.
It also wreaks havoc on our environment in an immediately tangible way. Poor harvesting methods damage local soil and endanger biodiversity.
The environmental impact of the fashion industry makes for a bleak statement. None of the above details are good. The worst part is that our consumption of clothing is increasing due to fast fashion brands. Without clothing brands that fight fast fashion, the water consumption, waste, and carbon emissions are only going to worsen.
There are some well-known ways to enhance the life cycle of apparel. Instead of buying new clothing, many turn to secondhand clothing thrifting as a hobby. Though affordable, this doesn’t address the sustainability of the fashion industry at large.
To uncover the role every step of creation has, we’ll begin with exploring the fabric itself:
How Fabric Affects Sustainability
Before the manufacturing process begins properly, the base material you use for fabric has an immense environmental impact. Natural fibers like conventional cotton have a higher input cost. Synthetic fibers utilize toxic chemicals in a bid to create specialized, stronger fabrics. Each has its own associated greenhouse gas emissions and carbon footprint, and no fabric is perfect.
Even though no fabric is perfect, some are definitely worse. Denim is one of the worst materials for the environment when it comes to the input cost of water. A pair of jeans requires dyes, harmful chemicals, and a massive water cost that is not sustainable. This sort of opportunistic clothing design is also at the core of why there is such a huge sustainability push.
In 2013, Bangladesh tragically faced a series of factory building collapses. These collapses were of buildings producing clothing en masse for fast fashion brands. Cheap labor and cheap construction may have negatively impacted the consumer, but the workers suffered the most. Fossil fuels and cheap dyes poisoned their environment, and shoddy labor conditions took hundreds of lives.
The problem goes deeper than the fabric of creation. However, if someone cares enough to source fabric ethically, they will likely pursue sustainability in other ways as well.
Using organic cotton, cruelty-free wool, and vegan and carefully-created synthetic fibers is the key. Fashion brands can also be sustainable by preventing their designs from reaching landfills. Most garments end up in landfills, adding to an already-problematic trash issue. W
Instead, when clothing is upcycled, they can become the raw materials for new garments, reducing the fashion industry's environmental impact.
Fabric is just one small part of fashion. Every step of the way, there are ways to improve sustainability.
What Does Sustainable Fashion Mean?
There are several key ways we can make fashion sustainable in the future: Textile sourcing, natural materials, safe labor practices, manufacturing, and transparency.
We have partially gone into textile sourcing above. In traditional cotton production, heavy pesticides are used in order to maximize yield. The overemphasis on cotton over other materials like Tencel or rayon leads to erosion and soil degradation over a few generations. Unless it’s harvested and grown ethically with minimal chemical fertilizers and pesticides, cotton viscose isn’t as eco-friendly as it would seem.
It’s not enough for sustainable fashion brands to simply focus on “natural” fibers because the name sounds more pleasant. They must focus on truly being ethical about where they source their materials.
What Is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is when a company presents misleading information to maintain the appearance of being more ethical than they really are. It sets back sustainability goals and weakens the image of companies dedicated to doing the right thing — which means more than just giving some revenue to non-profits.
The supply chain in labor and manufacturing also matters. Many fashion brands will outsource their labor to countries with lax labor laws in a bid to increase profits. This almost always comes at the cost of workers who must prevail over harsh working conditions and punishing quotas.
Ethical fashion relies on workers who are paid equitably for their work in working conditions that meet particular standards.
Sustainable Fashion Certifications
Transparency and certification help companies prove they are truly ethical and not just saying they are. One example is Fair Trade, which ensures that exporters are paid reasonable work wages. Other essential certifications include the Global Organic Textile Standard, or GOTS, and OEKO-Tex 100. In addition, companies can certify that their materials are sold as deadstock or recycled.
GOTS has exacting standards on what officially qualifies as organic materials. It places restrictions on what must occur in every stage of production, from fabric acquisition to consumer purchase. If something is GOTS certified, it can be certain to practice sustainable practices all throughout its chain.
How Does Paskho Make Fashion Sustainable?
Paskho was born with sustainable practices in mind. There’s a lot to see and explore in the world at large. If we don’t have respect for it or respect for ourselves, things will depreciate. We want people to be able to travel the world with ease and to have something worth traveling to.
The majority of our fabrics are vegan, and nearly half are recycled materials. When we don’t use the previous fabrics, we utilize ethically sourced, cruelty-free wool.
We also try to reuse textiles to prevent them from ending up in landfills and their microplastics entering the environment. Sustainable fabrics require less water and don’t contribute as much to the ongoing climate change crisis.
The production process is created to be sustainable in both environmental action and social justice. Paskho believes in sourcing our labor in America to guarantee our garment workers a living wage.
We center production in unjustly treated communities as well as Indian reservations. We do this to combat a job system and production process which has long taken advantage of such communities.
Fair Labor Association and bluesign®
We also seek out certifications and ethical partnerships to ensure we are meeting the highest standards we can. One of these is bluesign® fabrics. These fabrics use less water and 900 fewer toxic chemicals compared to traditional textiles.
We are also proud to be a member of the Fair Labor Association. This worker-first organization is dedicated to improved labor conditions, fair wages, and more.
Paskho is just one company, but we are a company with a mission. The quality of our travel apparel and our standards in creating it speaks for themselves. We hope, one day, that our ethical approach to fashion will become an industry standard and not a special exception.
The Future of Fashion
The future of the world lies in sustainability. Through sustainable clothing, renewable energy, and more, we can protect the world's natural resources.
Every choice we make reflects back on the world at large, creating a ripple effect. Where one leader begins to shed light on a wrong that must be righted, others will follow.
Earlier, we discussed Upton Sinclair and The Jungle. When the novelist and journalist revealed unsafe conditions, it attracted a federal response. The result is the strict food safety measures we see in grocery stores and restaurants across the nation. Why, then, can’t fashion companies do the same?
The t-shirt is the garment on which the next generation of fashion ethics will be born. This requires a united stand against unethical practices where everyone can contribute.
Brands can act by taking the sustainable measures we’ve listed above. Retailers can try to carry apparel produced by brands that dedicate themselves to improving the environment. When buying new clothing, you can make a difference by buying from ethical companies.
Paskho, now and forever, is dedicated to sustainable fashion. We are always aiming to improve and incorporate sustainable new practices. We hope, with the situation explained, that you are too.