Sustainability has made it to the political agenda: world population is growing and so is consumption, but resources are not. Our survival and life as we know are at stake.
Will, however, this concern stand the test of time in a society in which the abundance of material possessions is seen as a sign of social and personal success? Can a company advise their clients to buy less?
© Monkee Genes
Patagónia, a sportswear company stemming from Chouinard Equipment, founded in 1966, has been pioneer - they have completely rethought their manufacturing process and committed to a number of innovative programmes involving suppliers, clients and society in general. In the words of founder Yvon Chouinard:
‘Doing things responsibly is a good principle, however, (…), economy will not be sustainable unless we reduce consuption’.
If at Patagónia sustainability and environmental concerns have a visible expression, there are other companies where they take on a social role, mainly in the human rights area.
“People Tree” was created by human rights activist and environmentalist Safia Minney. When she moved to Japan she realised there were not, at the time, any fairtrade shops in Tokyo. Having been, herself, a fairtrade consumer, she decided to get involved. She created her own brand, and “People Tree” became the first fairtrade ecological clothing line in Japan, having opened their first flagship store in 1998. In 2001 she decided to take a risk and invest in Europe, where she landed a corner in London’s first floor TopShop in 2006.
© American Apparel
These two companies are proof that sustainable fashion is not a market niche and that companies investing in this business model are doing well and will be able to stand their own in the global market, both economically and financially.
This is why they have paved the way for many other companies, especially in the first decade of the new millennium.
EKYOG was created by Nathalie Lebas-Vautier in 2003 and produces women’s clothing with an anti-trend attitude that aims at respecting both human beings and the environment. In 2009 Peter Thum and his wife, actress Cara Buono, created Liberty United, which transforms weapons off the commercial circuit into jewellery, taking a stand for non-violence
With stronger emphasis starting 2010, fashion brands targeting mass market have rethought their business models and launched initiatives advocating sustainable fashion.
Timberland, for instance, created Earthkeepers. Japanese brand UNIQLO helps its clients recycling their garments, passing them on to people who can’t afford them in other globe areas. In 2012, UNIQLO repurposed 3 million pieces donated by their buyers.
© H&M conscious collection
In 2013, H&M created specific lines for consumers who identify with values promoted by sustainable fashion brands such as Conscious Exclusively. Later on they launched a programme which promotes collection and recycling of any clothing item, of any brand.
The future is upon us, for sustainable fashion, it is now.