The term sustainable fashion is thrown around a lot. Many fast fashion brands are now bringing out an ‘eco’, ‘conscious’ or ‘sustainable’ range made from recycled fabrics – but what does this all mean? are they actually sustainable? In short… no, especially when coming from a fast fashion brand.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion has been defined as clothing that is “manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects” (Dr Brismar, Green Strategy), thus recycled materials do not make an item sustainable. If the clothes are made in a sweatshop or the garment workers are not paid a living wage, it is not sustainable. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t an issue only felt by developing countries. A 2015 study conducted by Dr Nikolaus Hammer of The Centre for Sustainable Work and Employment Futures, within the University of Leicester, found that garment workers in Leicester, making clothes for popular UK fast fashion brands, were being paid £3 an hour (less than half the minimum wage for over 21’s) and working in unsafe conditions. Investigations taken place in 2021 found that the situation had not changed. Anonymous interviews with the garment workers found that for the factories to pass inspections, the workers were paid minimum wage on their pay slips but were made to take cash out and pay the factory back. This level of corruption is rife in the fashion industry - for something to be sustainable, it needs to be sustainable throughout the whole supply chain and garment workers exploitation needs to stop.
When you really think about it, how can a pair of leggings that cost £15 be sustainable? Especially when you consider this price includes the costs of material, labour, shipping and of course, profit. The low price point must come from somewhere and generally is it because garment workers are exploited.
There is a lot of greenwashing out there – fast fashion brands making a range out of recycled fabrics stating how they are saving the planet, but the reality is the items are made in a sweatshop. Human rights aside, there is also the environmental side of the fashion industry. Most of our clothes are made in countries with less stringent environmental regulations so, for example, the toxic wastewater from chemical dyes is released into the natural environment. There is also the added carbon footprint of having items shipped from across the world - I will go into further details on this topic on a separate blog!
How to look out for greenwashing
Looing out for greenwashing does take a little time but is easy to spot when you know how. Go onto the website of the brand you are investigating and check whether they have any information on how and where the garments are made. If there is no information, there is usually a reason for that. Are they releasing new styles every week, but also have one eco range? They are greenwashing you and are just another fast fashion brand. Good On You is a great tool – they have rated most big fashion brands.
At KAMI we pride ourselves on being transparent throughout every step of the supply chain – no greenwashing here! Our garments are produced sustainably and ethically in Europe by workers paid a living wage. Our material suppliers are Blue Sign certified meaning the fabric is created with the highest environmental standards for textiles. The factory we use to manufacture our clothes is run on 100% renewable energy and have even banned the use of plastic cups! They have a strict code for workplace ethics - promoting a healthy lifestyle and physical activity for all employees.
The above factors contribute towards the price of our products. All workers throughout our supply chain are paid fairly. We source our material and manufacture everything in Europe to keep our carbon footprint down and have all items shipped from the factory to us, and from us to you in 100% plastic-free packaging.
We are passionate about sustainability and ethics and believe in supply chain transparency. If you have any further questions about or brand, ask below or send us an email and we would be happy to help!