What makes fashion sustainable?

March 20, 2016


This is a question that I’ve asked myself a lot over the years. The more designers I come across and the more articles I read, the more the definition of ethical and sustainable fashion changes shape. Some would argue that this lack of a rigid definition hinders the ethical and sustainable fashion industry’s ability to speak with a clear and united voice, but I’d argue the opposite.

Ethical and sustainable fashion, or fashion that is made in a more environmentally friendly and socially responsible way, is adapting to today’s realities. As innovative, smart materials emerge, and new design concepts come to life, ethical and sustainable fashion brings them into its fold. It’s definition is flexible, allowing for new characteristics to take shelter under this umbrella term.

I’ve always referred to sustainable fashion as an umbrella term that includes ethical fashion. Sustainable fashion is my preferred term at large because it can allude to sustainability in several ways: sustainable from environmental, social and of course economic perspectives. In my opinion, sustainable fashion shouldn’t be unethical, otherwise I’d argue that it wasn’t socially sustainable. Clear as mud?

For the purpose of EITHER/OR, I’m currently working on writing up a short list of clear categories that fall under “sustainability,” but you can refer to this list below for your own use. I could go into more detail in each sub-category, but some terms are synonymous with others. For example, unionized workers could imply that they are paid a fair living wage.

sustainable fashion definitions


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