Sustainable Fashion – What it really means.

What does Sustainable Fashion REALLY mean?


Sustainable fashion is definitely having its moment right now, and as consumers, we are more environmentally conscious than ever before. That’s according to a recent industry report, which found 50% of us prefer to buy from retailers who are trying to reduce their impact on the environment. But what does sustainable fashion really mean? And can the fashion industry ever truly become sustainable?

Renowned fashion journalist and author Tamsin Blanchard and Cara Smyth of the Fair Fashion Centre recently came together to discuss the state of the global garment industry. Here are their thoughts on how to look beyond the buzzwords, and how we can become responsible consumers.

Sustainable fashion has more than one meaning

Environmentally friendly clothing might conjure up images of burlap sacks and baggy clothes, but Cara argues that sustainable fashion now means so much more: “I think ‘sustainable’ as a word sort of still feels like a bucket of problems and ugly product, which is not the case.” In reality, sustainable fashion has become an umbrella term that covers a wide range of environmentally, socially, and ethically conscious processes.

This means there is a lot of new vocabulary to learn – for example, what is the difference between slow fashion and ethical fashion? What does greenwashing mean? Luckily, there are plenty of resources available to brush up on the most common terms, such as this handy infographic. (SEE BELOW)

Sustainable fashion is about thinking outside the box

It’s obvious that the fashion industry lives on making and selling more products. ‘Sustainable fashion’ sounds like an oxymoron, but this means brands and designers are finding innovative solutions and making better choices instead. Tamsin says: “Were in an industry where we make money out of selling things so you cant really ever be sustainable, but you can make better choices.” We’re seeing sweeping changes across the board, as high street and luxury brands alike are making changes to their business practices. Just this week, 32 fashion companies – with names including Gucci, Chanel, H&M, and Zara – signed a G7 pact to combat greenhouse gases and prioritise sustainability in the industry. These are just some of the actions being taken to support a more sustainable fashion industry,without having to compromise the core business model.

Sustainable fashion is a collaborative process.

As we are becoming increasingly aware of our fashion footprint, clothing companies are also taking note and transforming their business models to match. Tamsin says: “Theres been a lot of shifts in the way we think and interact with our clothes that has forced a sustainable conversation…” This shift works both ways, as changing business practices and policies are also encouraging us to rethink our shopping habits. Cara has an optimistic vision for fashion in the future, where every item of clothing is sustainable by default: “…sustainable fashion should be and will be every single piece thats made.” Ultimately, open and honest communication is the way forward if the fashion industry is to become more sustainable, and it is up to us as consumers to drive that conversation forward. To find out more about Tamsin and Cara’s insights search ‘Harvey Nichols Sunday School’ on your preferred streaming platform.


Please see our quick guide for Sustainable Fashion.


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