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  • Isha King

So, is This Brand Sustainable or Not? How Do I Know?

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

I was having a conversation with a friend of mine a few weeks ago about greenwashing and how hard it is for the average person to shop sustainably. Towards the end of the conversation, she asked if I knew of any fashion brands that had real sustainability practices that are worth buying from.

Lady, you already know I do. I rattled off my go-to list of suggestions for newcomers to sustainable fashion, and my friend followed up with:

“So, how am I supposed to know if a brand is actually sustainable or not?”

First and foremost, it’s important to understand what sustainability really means in the fashion industry because in all honesty, it doesn’t mean too much on its own anymore. By nature, fashion is an industry based in rapid consumption and is inherently un-sustainable. If you’re going to go out looking for brands that are taking ethical initiatives that you want to support, you first need to home in on what exactly that means for you. Are you shopping because you care about animal welfare? Are you trying to be a better environmentalist? Are you trying to ensure that your garments come from living-wage facilities? Are you trying to do it all?

It’s important to answer these questions for yourself first, because there are a lot of brands out there that cover some – but not all – of these.

There are also areas where these agendas conflict with each other (ex. plastic-based vegan leather is the obvious choice from an animal welfare perspective but can also be significantly more environmentally harmful in the long run, not to mention bad for your health and the health of garment workers - google polyurethane if you don’t believe me).

If you’re not sure where you stand, documentaries like The True Cost and Riverblue will give you some insight and might strike a chord.

Once you know where you stand philosophically, start by digging around on your favourite brands’ websites. Take a look at their ‘about’ or ‘corporate social responsibility’ pages and read. Be critical – are they giving you specifics, numbers, and traceable statistics? Or are they rattling off some pre-scripted blurb that doesn’t really mean anything?

There are also an increasing number of tools out there that are designed to help you with this process.

The Good on You brand rating system is a great place to start because it offers accessible explanations and critical, well-rounded assessments of fashion and accessory brands.

If your brand isn’t on there,

write to them and suggest it! Getting engaged with sustainable fashion on Instagram is also particularly helpful when it comes to identifying brands to avoid and current events. Follow Fashion Revolution, EcoAge, and Remake Our World to start.

Most importantly, remember that as a fashion consumer you can’t be perfect, and you shouldn’t expect yourself to be. Take the time to reflect on your fashion purchases and do a little more research before clicking the ‘buy’ button. Try to buy things that you’ll love for a long time – or better yet, try to fall back in love with the things you already have.

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