Sustainable Fashion: What does it mean?

Vanessa Thompson interview

Vanessa Thompson from Unravelled Consultants answers your questions on sustainable fashion. Image supplied.

During Fashion Revolution Week 2020 we introduced you to sustainable fashion expert Vanessa Thompson from Unravelled Consultants and this week we have her first Q&A column answering the questions you, our readers, sent in. This is the first in what will be a monthly column on FashioNZ as we know there’s lots of confusion and lots of questions on this subject and we want to help you learn about it as we continue to learn to.

If you have a question for Vanessa please email it to us at [email protected] and we’ll forward them on to her. Thank you to everyone who submitted a question already, we’re excited to publish the first four answers from Vanessa.

It seems like everyone and every brand has a different definition of what sustainable fashion is but what does it mean to you as someone who works in it? – Lily A
You are right, there are so many definitions out there, that it can be very confusing for customers. To me, ‘sustainable fashion’ refers to garments and accessories that are made with the people and the planet in mind, so we do not compromise the world for future generations. Everyone has different values, so it is important to support brands and companies that align with your values.

I’m from a generation where everyone home-sewed growing up and shop bought clothes were expensive now it seems to be the other way round. I’m not really sure how to shop ethically/sustainably but I would like to be more conscious of it, where do I find that information from fashion labels and what do I look for when out shopping? – Julie M
Since the introduction of cheaper fashion clothing, we have lost the value and connection to how our clothes are made, and the makers who create them, and we see them as disposable.

When you do need something new for your closet, but want to support companies that meet your values, you need to do your research. The first place to start is their website. If they are a responsible company, they will be talking about it on their website, and what they are doing in this space. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to brands directly and ask them what they are doing to support their workers, or what lower impact materials they are using. The more that customers demand better practices, the more that brands will need to sit up and listen.

For a quick guide there is an app and website called GoodOnYou who rate brands on their ethical and sustainable practices – however your own research is still the most beneficial.

If you could make one change in the fashion industry to make it better, what would that be? – Miriam D
I have so much hope for the fashion industry, and there are so many companies now embedding sustainable practices into their operations. However, my dream would be for every fashion company to start on their sustainability journey, and take responsibility for the impact their products have on the environment, and the people in their supply chain. Even making small changes can have a huge impact.

How would you define ‘Slow fashion’ compared to ‘Fast fashion’ and what’s the difference between ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ fashion? – Tanya R
There are so many conflicting definitions out there, and these will mean different things to different people.

To me ‘slow fashion’ refers to the style and quality of the garment itself – being made with a timeless aesthetic and not driven by trends.

‘Fast Fashion’ originally referred to how quickly brands could get trends from the catwalk into the stores. However, it has now developed into how quickly stock is turned around in store – so how fast a style will sell out and be replaced with a new style/trend, driving over-consumption.

‘Ethical Fashion’ to me refers to how the clothing was made, and whether ethics were upheld when producing this garment, supporting the people and the communities down the supply chain.

‘Sustainable Fashion’ refers to an industry where garments and accessories are made with the people and the planet in mind, so we do not compromise the world for future generations.

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