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 third 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 otherwise you can also use the form below. Thank you to everyone who has submitted a question already, we’re excited to publish the next five answers from Vanessa.
As a size 18-20 woman I find the options in plus size clothing that are sustainable or ethical are quite limited, do you have any thoughts on this and also know of any brands that are great in this area? – Emily S
Although plus-sized brands are taking a bit longer than others to start their sustainability journey, there are some great options out there who have embedded sustainable practices and inclusivity into their work. Some of my favourites are activewear brands Girlfriend and Hine Collection. Universal Standard do great denim and basics. Lost and Led Astray makes plus size clothing right here in New Zealand. Also try second hand clothing stores such as Curated Curves or try to buy good quality pieces that will last you many seasons.
I’ve heard that vegan leather is actually more harmful than normal leather because it uses a lot of chemicals to process it and isn’t actually that good for the environment. Do you know if that is true and if there are vegan leathers that are environmentally friendly? – Michael B
Some vegan leathers – such as PU leathers – are made from oil (a non-renewable resource), plus chemicals are added to give the fabric its softness and ‘leather look’. The fabric doesn’t last very long before chipping, and when they breakdown can cause microplastics. There are some fantastic companies working on some innovative leather alternatives made using bio-based raw materials. Pinatex is one of the most common vegan leathers, made from the discarded leaves of pineapple’s. There is also new developments being made from cactus, grapes and orange peels.
I saw on a brand’s website that they use plant dyes instead of normal dyes for their clothes and I’m wondering if plant dyes last as long as normal ones and if they’re actually sustainable? – Kim A
Plant dyes were the traditional way of dyeing clothes up until 40 years ago, and although limited in colours, it can be a more sustainable alternative to synthetic dyes. Not only can synthetic dyes be toxic to garment workers, but if not managed correctly in production, the dyes can end up in the local waterways of some of the most vulnerable communities. In terms of longevity, some plant based dyes (such as indigo) can be very long lasting, where other plant dyes can wash out slightly. It will depend on the processes used in manufacturing, but you would need to be open to the possibility they could fade.
With the world such a mess in this current global crisis it sounds like things have gotten worse for the garment workers overseas, do you know what’s being done to help the situation and how we can help them? – Layla W
Unfortunately due to the global pandemic, many brands globally have cancelled, delayed and pushed out orders with factories, and since retail traffic has also been down, orders for future months have also decreased, leaving many garment workers without work. There are a few global campaigns that are working with brands to help collaborate with local governments and financial institutions to help implement social welfare etc in the communities, to help those most affected. The most common campaign at the moment is the ILO Call to Action. Tearfund are also working with brands in NZ to commit to their ‘Six commitments’ to show support of garment workers at this time.
The words ‘circular economy’ come up on my social feed every so often about fashion but I’m confused what they mean as every definition I saw was quite different, what do they actually mean in a fashion context? – Eva M
There are many aspects to a circular economy, but the key to a circular economy in a fashion sense, is keeping materials in use for as long as possible, and reducing waste. Garments designed using circular economy principles are designed to be recyclable or safely biodegradable at the end of its life. Garment recycling is very complex, and still a long way off being commercially viable here in New Zealand, so new business models such as renting and resale will help to keep garments in use for longer. Buying good quality pieces that you can wear for many seasons will help to reduce the amount of garment waste being created.