Sustainable fashion isn’t exactly a new thing. Nowadays almost every major fashion brand that wants to succeed in the fashion industry has at least one “sustainable fashion item” in every collection. Some even have a whole line dedicated to sustainable fashion.
But even though sustainability seems to be the new black on the fashion stage, it can be difficult to figure out what exactly this fluffy term covers. Because people are often pointing to different things.
Some claim that it is all about the sustainable materials and the use of eco-friendly textiles that needs to be the first priority. Others highlight ethical fashion as the most important fact. Others again point to the fact that recycling should be a top priority.
So I can easily understand if you are a little confused. I was too. With all these people pointing to different factors as the most important thing in sustainable fashion, it can be quite difficult to figure out who to trust and what is true.
The 7 types of sustainability in fashion
But in reality, they may all be right. Because sustainability in fashion isn’t just about one thing or one goal. There exist multiple types of sustainability in fashion, and probably more than the seven ones I have listed in this article.
But these seven types of sustainability in fashion are most likely the ones you will come across most often. These are the types of sustainability in the fashion industry that are the easiest to incorporate in your everyday life. They are all pretty simple, and you are probably already doing some of them. Like buying vintage clothes.
But some of them might be new to you, and could take your sustainable fashion game to the next level. So keep on reading to get to the bottom of all of the seven types of sustainability in fashion.
List of the 7 Types of Sustainability in Fashion
1. Rent, Swap and Lease
Maybe you’ve heard about the amazing concept where you rent a designer bag. But did you also know that renting a designer bag, beautiful dresses or fashionable items isn’t just something that’s possible in the movies?
Concept stores are showing up everywhere allowing you to rent the most amazing evening gown for a night – an easy way to keep your promise to yourself about not buying anything in the next month and still get a new outfit for that wedding or a big birthday.
You can also rent designer bags, or even just a regular outfit or a nice sweater. This way you don’t have to buy anything new, but still, feel like you are updating your closet.
If renting clothes isn’t available for you – don’t feel sad. You have a much more fun alternative. Swapping clothes with your besties or family. Have you ever fallen completely in love with one of your friend’s pieces of clothes? I certainly have. And now it’s hanging in my closet.
Not because I took it from her closet, but because we planned a “swap clothes day”. It turned out she didn’t like the shirt anymore, but instead, she loved a dress I was getting tired of. So we swapped all the clothes we didn’t want anymore and got a whole new wardrobe – without spending a dollar.
2. Vintage & Second-hand
If you are going to buy new clothes then what about buying old clothes instead? Or pre-loved items as I like to call them. Some of my favorite items are from vintage stores and second-hand shops around the world.
Vintage clothes are just so much more unique and I promise you won’t end up dressed in the same outfit as someone else at the party if you bought it at a second-hand store.
Basically, buying vintage clothing doesn’t have a single downside. And the fact that you are helping protect the planet and changing the fashion industry only makes it even better!
3. Fair & Ethical
One of the three pillars in sustainable fashion is social development, so naturally fair and ethical fashion has an important role to play when we talk about the different types of sustainability in fashion.
Fair and ethical fashion is basically about choosing to buy clothes that have been made in a fair ethical way. This includes fair working conditions and wages in every part of the supply chain.
Transparency also plays a role here – because we want to be absolutely sure the people who have made your clothes were treated fairly. We don’t want to be deluded by unimportant graphs and statistics that in the end doesn’t tell us about how the fashion company actually treats their workers.
This is one of the types of sustainability in fashion that is very important to be aware of. Because this is about other human beings and the way they are treated. Have you ever heard the saying “fast fashion isn’t cheap – someone somewhere is paying for it”? And this is exactly what we are trying to change with ethical fashion and Fairtrade clothes.
Help promote ethical fashion and Fairtrade clothes
No one should be harmed just so others can buy a pair of ridiculously cheap jeans. Fashion can exist without inhuman working conditions. We just have to change the way we do fashion. And you can make a choice to.
When you make a purchase from a brand make sure to check their ethical fashion policy – how are they treating their workers? If it doesn’t say anything about it on their website they probably don’t care a lot about it. So try to support brands that actually care about their workers through the whole supply chain and pay their workers a fair living wage.
4. Recycle, upcycle & redesign
Recycling and upcycling are probably words you’ve come across if you have the slightest interest in sustainability. But if not, that is totally okay too.
Recycling is basically about collecting and using materials that would otherwise have been thrown away as trash and making them into new items. An example could be plastic bottles.
Most people know that our oceans are overflowed with plastic, but fashion brands are starting to collect the plastic and recycle them, creating new items such as swimwear or sunglasses.
Upcycling on the other hand is not about breaking down the materials and turning into something completely different. It is about materials or items that get “re-purposed” by refashioning them. Like if you have a hole in your jeans, but instead of throwing them out, you make them into a new pair of shorts.
Recycling and upcycling are of course some of the most prominent types of sustainability in fashion because it allows us to use the materials already exiting. This means we don’t have to use more of the earth’s resources to produce a new item, but instead we are able to re-use what has already been produced.
5. High quality and evergreen designs
Buying high-quality clothes and evergreen designs are other types of sustainability in fashion. This type of sustainability is all about investing in high-quality clothes, that will last season after season.
By investing in evergreen designs of high-quality materials you build a wardrobe on styles you can mix and match again and again and prevent yourself from jumping on the quick trend train and instead spend your money on real quality clothes.
This includes quitting fast fashion brands and items that are unbelievably cheap. Because these types of clothes will probably break before the next trend hits you. And then you have to buy new cheap clothes again – and again.
Investing in quality pieces will also make you think twice before you click on the “go-to check out button” because of course, it will cost more than the 5 dollars t-shirt. But I promise you, you will love your evergreen designs so much more. And in the long run, you will save more money, because you only invest in clothes a few times a year instead of multiple times a month.
This is one of the types of sustainability in fashion you probably won’t come across every week or incorporate in your daily life. But it is a way to make sure, the person who made your clothes was paid a fair wage and worked under reasonable conditions.
By ordering custom-made clothes, you also have the chance to choose exactly how the end result should look like and you will likely get a piece of clothes you will love in the years to come. By ordering custom-made clothes you are not only choosing to buy a piece of clothes that will last year after year, but you are also choosing not to support fast fashion.
All these things combined make custom-made clothes a sustainable choice. If you choose to buy a custom-made item, I guarantee you also will feel a bit more important, because after all how many people walk around in clothes made specifically for them? I bet you would feel quite unique!
7. Green and certificated
If you want some guidelines that are easy to follow, then look for sustainable certificates when shopping. Of course, it is not as simple as that, but it is a good way to start.
But if you are buying clothes from green brands who have sustainable certificates look out for greenwashing. Some brands only claim they are supporting the slow fashion movement because they know they can sell more clothes this way.
This is one of those types of sustainable fashion, where you have to be on your toes and make sure the brand is actually living up to the promises they make. This is where transparency comes in.
A truly sustainable fashion brand while definitely have a transparent company website and strategy, so you are able to see exactly how they make their clothes.
It can be difficult to identify whether or not a brand is truly sustainable, but certifications are always a great help. You just have to do a little research on what exactly each of the band’s certificates means.
But what is slow fashion then?
Now that we’ve gotten closer to understanding what exactly sustainable fashion is all about and what types of sustainable fashion you might come across, other questions may arise.
Questions like “but is slow fashion the same as sustainable fashion?”, “Are there any other kinds of eco-friendly fashion trends I should keep an eye out for?”
The answers to those questions are both yes and no. Sustainable fashion has a tendency to be used as an umbrella term. So often everything that is remotely eco-friendly or ethical in the fashion industry is referred to as sustainable.
But that means we are missing some of the nuances. It is always important to learn more about the terms related to sustainable fashion – like slow fashion.
Slow fashion supports clothes made out of high sustainable quality materials, clothes that are being recycled, proper working conditions for everyone involved, and everything that makes clothes leave a less negative impact on the earth. Sounds a lot like sustainable fashion right?
But of course, there is more to it then just so. To find out more about slow fashion check out our step by step guide to understanding slow fashion here.
I hope you liked the article and remember to leave a comment down below if you have any questions or things you want to add to the list!