Conscious, sustainable, eco-friendly, ethic, organic, and so on. Those are the terms many big retailers sprinkle with around their sustainable (capsule) collections. However, most brands don’t try hard enough, according to experts. What should brands do in order to create a more sustainable environment and to make a true impact?
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Many things are wrong with our current fashion system. The pandemic has emphasized this even more in 2020. It has shown how everything is linked and made us aware of the side effects of excess buying. But how does greenwashing play a role in this story? Fashion’s beliefs about sustainability are finally questioned. When a brand uses organic cotton or Tencel, it doesn’t imply the brand is sustainable. Sustainability is multidisciplinary and touches both people and our planet.
Sustainability is multidisciplinary and touches both people and our planet
With the Black-Lives-Matter movements, it became way harder for brands to hide behind hollow claims about integrity and inclusiveness. These days, there has been a shift in what brands say and what they show. Simply putting out a statement isn’t enough; people need action. For many companies this led to a shift in CEOs; Refinery 29, Reformation and The Wing were among them. Social justice and the environment have never been more important than they are now. There clearly is a paradigm shift happening; we’re moving from flashy campaigns to demonstrations of what is done. Real change versus greenwashing has become more clear and many companies are under fire. Take for example sustainable capsule collections; just launching a single collection made from sustainable materials isn’t enough. Customers demand long term action. What does the capsule collection imply for the future? Does it mark the start of using more sustainable materials? And what about the factory labour conditions? Just launching a one-off collection including flashy campaign isn’t enough.
Accountability is a good thing, but brands shouldn’t rely on critical consumers for doing things the right way. For systematic change, policy change is necessary. Until now, supply chains have been so complicated that brands often don’t know where they sourced their materials from. Companies with many shareholders have other priorities as well. However, they have to change direction if they want to survive. In the near future though, change will most likely come from smaller and independent designers. Until then, voting with your wallet is a powerful move.