The fashion industry has long been known to be a major contributor of waste and global pollution. With the emergence of new technologies and an increasing consumer demand for earth-conscious practices, we’re seeing major shifts that are cultivating a stylish and eco-friendlier future. Here are 3 ways fashion is becoming more sustainable:
1 - Supply Chain Transparency
Technology has revolutionized the possibilities to accessing and sharing information, with greater visibility behind-the-scenes than ever before. It has improved transparency in all industries, and in particular the apparel industry. We’re able to see the effect that fashion has on people and the planet - from the sources of raw materials to the final product. Too many times we’ve seen companies exposed for not paying their garment workers or their hazardous work conditions. Whether it’s good or bad news, company operations can become shared knowledge to the public. Inappropriate (and often unethical) behaviour, such as abuses to labor or human rights, are no longer acceptable and often result in consumer demanded change that hopefully leads to corrective actions. This growing accountability pressure for greater transparency is crucial to making it an industry reform.
2 - Sustainable Textile Alternatives
We’re seeing so many plant-based alternatives to traditional animal leather like those made from pineapple and mushroom.
Piñatex, a leather made from pineapple leaves, may be one of the best known and widely used leather alternatives. Made from the byproduct from the harvest of pineapples, this fabric leverages materials that are often discarded or burned. Made by London-based company “Ananas Anam Ltd”, they create materials with the entire lifecycle in mind. Piñatex can be used to create luxury goods without harming the planet. It is inspired by the cradle to cradle design and based on circular economy principles.
MuSkin, developed by Grado Zero, is a vegan and plant-based leather like material made from extracting a fungus, or mushroom, known as Phellinus ellipsoideus. With the addition of eco-friendly waxes, the result is a suede-like fabric waterproof and durable enough to be created into products made traditionally from animal-based leathers.
With nearly half of the world’s clothing composed of polyester and estimates that this will double by 2030, this is one material in need of major sustainable innovation and action. Polyester is made from polyethylene terephthalate (PET) - the most commonly used plastic across the globe. The rise in demand for polyester consumption in clothing may be highest in athleisure since these products call for stretchier and more resistant performance . However, polyester or PET is far from a sustainable textile option - being composed of plastic (which is petrochemical based and derived from fossil fuels), it will sit in landfills for hundreds of years .
As an alternative, recycled polyester (rPET) is created by melting down existing plastic, like post-industrial and post-consumer plastic materials, and re-spinning them into new polyester fibers. This gives a new life to non-biodegradable materials, like plastic bottles and containers, that would otherwise end up in landfills or pollute our oceans. The quality of rPET can be comparable to virgin polyester but requires less resources to make. Production requires 59% less energy and lessens our dependence and extraction of petroleum like crude oil and natural gas.
Although there are limitations to recycling plastic - with quality degenerating every time = - and microplastics that are still released by plastic fibers during regular laundry cycles (eco-tip: try using a Guppy bag when laundering synthetic materials to avoid releasing microplastics into water streams - https://us.guppyfriend.com/), the benefits of reusing what we already have still reduces our environmental impact.
Biodegradable stretch denim
Stretch denim is traditionally made from weaving cotton around petrol-based elastomers, creating the stretchiness we’re familiar with in jeans. Since these elastomers are composed of synthetic material, they do not biodegrade and result in the estimated 300 million pairs of jeans that fill up landfills each year. However, Candiani Denim’s “Covera” technology is the world’s first biodegradable alternative - an eco-friendly stretch denim. Instead of synthetic elastomers, Covera weaves organic cotton around thread made from natural rubber. And although it costs 25% more than conventional stretch denim, it is 40% stretchier.
Recently, Covera stretch denim was used in Stella McCartney’s Fall-Winter 20-21 collection. By replacing common synthetic and petrol-based elastomers, the biodegradable denim is free from plastics and micro-plastics.
Regenerative Farming Practices
Regenerative farming means farming principles and policies that aim to improve soil health by restoring the soil organic matter in order to preserve the healthy soil we need for farming, pastures and forests. On the contrary, soil destruction (decarbonization, erosion, desertification and chemical pollution) causes a loss of fertile soil and biodiversity which pose as a major threat to our survival.
Key techniques used in regenerative farming include:
Crop rotation: Strategic planting of crops to cultivate more diverse nutrients in the soil.
Cover crops: Keeping the soil covered at all times to protect it from wind and water erosion.
Plant diversity: Growing a variety of plants results in more varied, rich and nutrient-filled soil.
Low- or no-till practices: Limit physical disturbances to the soil to maintain its structure and prevent the release of large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere.
Plant photosynthesis: Transforms CO2 from the air with the sun’s energy, water and soil into useful carbon that plants use to grow their leaves, stems and roots. The carbon in the soil is known as “soil organic carbon” and is the main component of soil organic matter, providing the soil with more structure and the ability to store more water.
We’re a big fan of regenerative farming practices. Our organic pima cotton is cultivated from a farm in Peru that plants with Mother Earth in mind. Learn more about why we love regenerative farming practices in this feature by Vogue.
The rise of sustainable technologies have advanced innovative solutions in creating quality, healthy and style-driven pieces that are good for the earth too. While business accountability, alternative materials and better farming culture are major improvements to the fashion industry, it doesn’t stop here. At KENT, we’re committed to incorporating high sustainable standards and developing new processes across our entire supply chain and product lifecycle - from sourcing raw materials and production to packaging and end of life compostability of our briefs. Learn more about our super natural standards here.