Sustainable Fashion: What is greenwashing?

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 second Q&A column answering the questions you, our readers, sent in. This monthly column on FashioNZ is aimed to help you and us learn more about sustainable fashion as we know there’s lots of confusion and lots of questions on this subject.

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 next five answers from Vanessa.

I have heard the term greenwashing mentioned a lot when it comes to sustainable/ethical fashion but how do you actually find out whether or not a brand is telling the truth about their practices? I have seen the ethical fashion report the past few years but not sure how reliable that information is? – Anna R
Over the last few years awareness of sustainable practices has grown with consumers, and many brands have seen this as an opportunity to use sustainability as a PR/Marketing stunt to help grow their profits, rather than taking actual steps to improve their businesses impact. Unfortunately, because of the lack of certifications or regulations in this area, it has made ‘greenwashing’ easy for many companies to get away with. One of the best things you can do is spend some time and research your favourite brands, look on their website, social media pages etc and dig into how and what they are doing. Research is your best friend here, and if you are still unsure, email the brand directly. Always be weary of vague claims with no evidence – i.e. using terms such as ‘eco-friendly’ with no proof of how or what they are doing to be ‘eco-friendly’.

I am sorted for my favourite clothing brands (love Kowtow) but having trouble finding shoes that are ethical other than sneakers like Allbirds or Veja. Do you have any recommendations on nice shoes (like heels) that are from a brand that I can buy in a store or online here in NZ? – Casey B
Footwear is one of the hardest products when it comes to sustainable practices. Shoes can contain upwards of 75 different materials and components, so there are many parts and people to consider when designing a sustainable shoe, as well as ensuring every part of your supply chain is adhering to ethical standards.

One of my favourite local designers for fun footwear is Kathryn Wilson. They are starting on their sustainability journey, and work incredibly closely with their supply chain to ensure ethical practices are upheld.

For overseas brands – Rothy’s, Nisolo, Everlane, RAFA, Veerah would be some of my favourites.

Who are your go-to Instagram accounts for sustainable fashion content? – Rosie B
Some of my favourite Instagram accounts are: @fash_rev_newzealand and @fash_rev , @ecoage , @mrspress , @thesustainablefashionforum , @fashinnovation.nyc , @consciousfashion , @ethicallykate

It seems like there are lots of certifications out there for fashion like GOTS, FairTrade and B Corp, which ones are the main ones to look out for when trying to shop ethically and sustainably for clothes and what does it mean for brands to have attained them? – Karena L
You are right, there are a variety of certifications out there, which can make it very daunting for consumers. They are however necessary, as they aim to provide reliability over claims made by fashion companies. Each certification has their own set of criteria, and some of the certifications are made specifically for certain types of fabrics and materials – i.e. GOTS is for Organic textiles, Recycled Content Standard (RCS) is for materials using recycled materials etc.

There is no ‘one’ certification to look out for, as it does depend on the fabric and product you are looking at, but if you are after more specific information on the certifications, Fashionista have published this article diving into each certification in more detail.

How do you feel about secondhand shopping as a way of being more sustainable and what do you think the place for it will be in future? Do you think it will overtake buying new clothes eventually? – Kiri M
Secondhand clothing is definitely a more sustainable choice, as the garments already exist, so no further materials need to be extracted, emissions caused by production and logistics are removed, and unethical factory practices are avoided.

In research conducted by resale website ThredUp the resale market is due to grow by 39% in the next five years, and they have even predicted that it will overtake fast-fashion!

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