“Buy less. Choose well. Make it last.”
(Fabrizio Tesi, CEO of Comistra)
As every widely-used phrase, “sustainable fashion” may lead us to different interpretations.
Does it mean plastic-free packaging and natural fabrics?
Or maybe renewable energy use in the production process?
Most importantly: who is involved in creating sustainable fashion? The consumers or the producers?
Let’s start over with a definition of sustainable fashion. Then we will try to put these common doubts under the spotlight.
The term “sustainable” indicates a form of production or a product that is “it refers generally to the capacity for Earth’s biosphere and human civilization to co-exist” (Wikipedia).
In fact, the fashion industry – nr 2 industry in the world, if we look at pollution – generates some problems for the human and natural environment:
1) Resource consumption
We are literally draining all the resources of this planet to produce clothing. Fossil coal is still a widely used option, and renewable energy is often difficult to access. Plus, people are consuming an enormous amount of clothes, keeping the demand high. So, inventories in fashion warehouses remain high.
Why? Because clothing is not produced to fulfill a need. Consumers are trapped into the loop of choosing, buying, throwing-away, buying-again, wanting-new-items. That’s the fast fashion pattern.
This huge production creates, as you can imagine, a large amount of waste. Resources and materials are wasted in the production process, and more waste is produced by consumers.
Often there is no expertise or willingness to recognize many of these old clothes as possible new resources. This results in waste being thrown away, and an unimaginable waste of resources.
3) Human rights
Fashion today cannot call itself sustainable if it does not tackle the exploitation of labor and lack of respect for human rights in many parts of the world. We are especially talking about the Far East countries.
What can we do to avoid these 3 problems and support a new vision of sustainable fashion?
For producers: sustainable fashion and fashion pacts
We – fashion manufacturers – also have our own historical milestones that have reshaped the fate of the global fashion industry.
It’s August 24th, 2019, and the global news images are tragic: the Amazon rainforest is on fire.
A final, alarming warning of our exploited planet with its natural resources running out. That day a hope emerges for the fashion world, right on the eve of the G7: the Fashion Pact.
A global pact signed by 32 companies and 150 brands that plans to put sustainable fashion among the main strategic objectives for companies.
A pact that applies to suppliers, but also to distributors!
From theory to practice
With the Fashion Pact we finally have not only a theoretical but also a practical definition of sustainable fashion.
For example, we can integrate ethics and aesthetics. This means that the design of a garment must take into account its end of life, and extend it as much as possible. We talk about Ecodesign, a concept that here at Comistra we carry on from the very beginning of our company.
In addition, it is essential to use renewable raw materials, whenever possible, and renewable energy.
Finally, let’s consider the real impact of fashion on our economic and production system: today, an eco-responsible supplier tends to be choosier about working environments and suppliers that respect workers’ rights.
But to really achieve full sustainability, the commitment of producers is not enough: a cultural change is also needed from everyone, including consumers.
Eco-sustainable fashion: the consumer’s point of view
When we talk about the consumer, we talk about re-use, for sure. We also mean keeping the quantity of purchases low, preferring quality. Finally, we mean buying a second-hand garment if we want to dress more responsibly.
In addition, the consumer has the power of choice: they can choose one manufacturer over another.
Of course, in order to achieve this result, we need an effective teamwork: producers must keep the consumer updated and informed.
If we will be able to propose appropriate products to consumers, they will have a real freedom of choice, and be able to take responsibility for saving resources and realizing the dream of sustainable fashion.
“The conscious choice of consumers during the purchase will produce positive effects to all humanity” (Fabrizio Tesi).