Sustainable Streetwear Brands - Harbingers of a Green Earth

by Societal Store on April 28, 2020

Clothing which is good both for individuals and for the planet comes under the category of ethical streetwear, or “eco streetwear”. For a long time these clothes were thought to be lacking in style, but not anymore. In fact, the sustainable streetwear brands which make use of environment friendly resources to create clothes are changing the way companies make the cloths we wear.

The term “sustainable” has turned into a buzzword for a number of clothing brands. If you are looking for this sustainable streetwear, remember to not mistake a company’s claims about environmental friendliness as the ultimate truth. Only one unique collection of environmentally conscious clothes may give the brand a sustainable look, but they would usually not reflect the entire company.    

Is there a certification for sustainable streetwear brands?

While fashion, by definition, is ever changing, to be truly sustainable, consumers would not buy anything new at all. As such, you will not find any official certification on what helps build a sustainable brand. What you will find on the internet is information on what to look out for when buying clothes as well as the impact of your purchase. In fact, the need for sustainable fashion prompted the UN to organize a conference on sustainable fashion at the start of February 2019.

Here are a few conclusion points from the above conference:

  • Don’t use new fabrics- Currently just 13.6% of clothes and shoes thrown away in the US end up being recycled – while the average American throws away 37kg of clothes every year. Globally just 12% of the material used for clothing ends up being recycled. However, advances in textile production have made it possible to ‘upcycle’ fabrics. This can be achieved both as a brand and as a consumer as the market now has a number of upcycled and recycled materials to work with. Indeed, most of the recycled polyester being used now by leading fashion brands in fact comes from bottles rather than old clothing.  
  • Sustainability is still not diverse- Global solutions are required for sustainability, and these solutions have to incorporate diverse cultures around the planet. Brand partnerships have to keep in mind what the public wants, and then create it for them.
  • Remember the planet- If you were brutal, you’ll probably manage to fill a bin-bag or two with clothes you no longer want or need. But what then?
      For much of the youth, it is difficult to think beyond their ZIP codes. Therefore, it is a good idea to bring in the kids as well here, because both we all need to work together to help save our planet.
    • Bring in technology- While real fur is bad for an animal, fake fur is harmful for the environment. Therefore, the use of technology was suggested in order to come up with a middle path. What the industry really needs is a material-efficient solution.
    • Nature may have the solution already- Most times, we do not realize that deriving inspiration from nature tends to harm it more than improve anything. Nature may already have suitable solutions, such as merino wool, a biodegradable and renewable natural fiber. Designer Philip Lim is very famous for his work on this fiber.

    Streetwear has been in a league of its own since its origin. It has always been a mixture of different types of casual wear such as baseball caps, sneakers, t-shirts, and jeans. Today, a number of luxury streetwear bands have also started making their presence felt. Brands like Gucci, Burberry, and Hobie have realized over time that this is the best way to engage with young audiences, who form a predominant segment of the buying population.

    Impact of fashion products on the planet

    Unfortunately, the need for sustainable streetwear has cropped up due to wastes from tremendous production of garments, which can be seen both on land and in the oceans. This has been further compounded by Instagram trends and weekly product drops. 

    Fashion items are clearly mass produced products, and they contribute to a variety of environmental issues in the world. As an example, renowned consultancy firm McKinsey states that roughly three-fifths of all clothes end up either on landfill sites or in incinerators within a few years of manufacture.

    What should brands do for sustainability?

    1. Brands should become transparent about their supply chain practices. This includes giving information on where materials are being sourced from, how the workers are being paid, factories being used, and more.
    2. They should not simply coerce customers to buy into sustainability, but explain reasons behind it
    3. They must show what their companies are doing to reduce the environmental impact
    4. Companies should not publish general statements about reducing carbon footprint, but back them up with factual evidence about setting real goals. One company which has done this is the sneaker company Veja. The details of their supply chain are given in the project section of their website.

    Other than brands, it is also important for individuals to start considering themselves as citizens instead of consumers. This will certainly make people more mindful of the impact of their purchases.  Responsibility is not just on one side of the coin, but on both sides. Collective responsibility can be taken by purchasing from streetwear brands which are clearly help the planet become a better place. Understanding such brands can certainly take time, but it is the willingness to change which carries greater weightage.

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