You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone above the age of 10 that hasn’t heard about climate change. Equally, you’d struggle to find environmentalists not doing everything they can to promote awareness and develop solutions. The fashion industry, known to send more than half of fast fashion products to landfills, is one of the leading industries contributing to waste and yielding to climate change. Zero waste fashion brands, or brands participating in slow fashion, are here to provide an alternative to style without the waste and pollution.
What is a zero waste fashion brand?
Much like sustainability, there are zero regulations surrounding zero waste standards and definitions. However, unlike sustainability, where designers and marketing teams get away with slapping on the title to impress a consumer (aka, greenwashing), zero waste fashion designers are dedicated to making this movement stick. Their mission is simple: eliminate textile waste from idea to production by reusing materials to their full capacity. Translation: no byproduct, nothing to send to landfill, and reuse, reuse, reuse.
Energy, water, resources, and labor goes into each garment, accessory, or shoe made. By taking a more zero waste approach, the energy, water, and resources have already been utilized to make the products. Reusing materials creates a longer lifespan and better avoids landfills.
How can a brand become zero waste?
There are many characteristics of a zero waste fashion brand. They could not produce textile waste, responsibly dispose of textile waste, and inhibit circular practices to avoid deadstock. Some zero waste products are made from eco-friendly materials, and others are from deadstock material — focusing more on how items are produced and sourced. There are two main ways that classify a brand to be zero waste: design and source.
Zero waste design: Designers can go to school or take classes to learn ways to cut their patterns that result in reduced to no textile waste.
Zero waste production: The practice of reusing excess fabric for a new creation. This is the most common way zero waste brands go about their collections. They simply take the remaining leftover fabric and create smaller accessories or leather goods. They can also use deadstock, or the leftover fabric discarded from big garment factories. And finally, brands can exercise zero waste production practices through packaging with the use of recycled or compostable polybag mailers, upcycled cloth bags, and recycled or biodegradable paper boxes and bags.
How can you help as a consumer?
As great as it is to have more and more zero waste fashion brands hit the scene, we, as consumers, still play a large part in waste. Below are a couple ways you can stand in the gap of the zero waste movement.
- Purchase clothing and accessories secondhand (thrift stores, consignment shops, online retailers).
- Read up on brands that are zero waste.
- Take only what you need.
- Donate old clothes instead of discarding.
If you’re looking to learn more about sustainability, read up on the different terms.
Photo via Vogue