Activists would like us to know Sustainability is still important

It’s more than just a word.

words by: Natasha Marsh
Feb 24, 2020

If it’s taken you a while to grasp the dark realities of our climate, allow last month’s Study Hall panel to give you a necessary refresh.

Study Hall is an annual conference by Slow Factory, founded by Celine Semaan and hosted by Climate Positivity at Scale. Panelists included celebrity activists Yara Shahidi, Tina Knowles, Little Miss Flint and more. Their discussion covered everything from the problems in our current climate, a working definition of sustainability, what individuals can do, and brands that are leading the conversation. Below we listed some of the main points.


Sustainability is more than just a word.

Yes, sustainability revives clothing that would have otherwise been discarded, but it is so much more. It deals with the entire supply chain from selecting materials, to the labor and factories used to produce, to the afterlife of the garment. Unless all aspects are ethical, the brand cannot claim to be sustainable. 


Invest in natural textiles.

According to the Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, the majority of carbon emissions released occur in the material phase the creation of raw fibers, manufacturing, and dyeing of yarns. If we could switch from such textiles to natural textiles we would be in a much better position. Many sustainable designers are looking to seaweed-based textiles. Seaweed naturally regenerates its abundance, requiring minimal water or land to grow in. This could potentially be a lengthy process but we will keep the hope. 


Don’t fall for what’s trending.

A number of brands today are adding sustainable initiatives to their brand DNA. However, are they actually practicing what they preach? Hiliary Taymour, designer of Collina Strada, argues that, “the problem is larger corporations are slapping sustainable labels on everything and there is no one regulating it. The consumer is being lied to and people can’t tell the difference”. Many designers are urging governments to put laws into place around sustainability. This would cause less confusion for the consumer and only put authentic eco-friendly brands on display. 


Waste-led design.

With so many brands going ethical, I can’t help but think – isn’t overconsumption what got us here in the first place? So why is there a surge in new clothing brands? Study Hall’s Celine Seeman shared that they “don’t want to shame people out of buying or making clothes, we want innovative, sustainable solutions to production that intersect design and science”.  The hope is to get emerging and established designers thinking about the end-of-life process of a garment prior to production, this will provide sustainable alternatives to competitive consumption. 


We need more activists.

If you don’t like what’s going on, speak about it at your job, at home, and in all your circles. Let’s continue to send signals to the big leaders of this industry and create change from the ground up. You never know, a single decision on one product by a huge company can change the way land is used or how thousands of workers are treated. 


Challenges of making a profit in a sustainable world.

Most brands resist going green in fear of losing money. There is a lot more time, energy, research, and specialized skills that go into working with repurposed fabrics. Choosing to produce at an ethically based factory with natural textiles is far more expensive than manufacturing in a low-cost factory in China or India. Similarly, establishing a price point and then justifying that price to the consumer can be difficult in this fast fashion environment. Choosing to be sustainable can be challenging but knowing it can reduce your carbon footprint makes it worth it. 


The industry has been criticized for not doing enough, but organizations like Slow Factory are really trying to make a change – and they hope you will, too.