Fashionably Striking, Sartorially Sustainable


The clothing industry is the second largest polluter in the world. This jawdropping fact jawdroppingly came from one of the clothing industry leader--Eileen Fisher, an American clothing designer and founder of a women’s clothing line named after her. As one of the alpha female of her industry, it’s quite surprising that she declared it by herself that her works are part of the second largest polluter in the world, second only to oil. It’s like pointing your hand to yourself that actually you are the villain. But the truth must be told, so that the solution could soon be found.

(Via :

Fisher herself was honoured by Riverkeeper (a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection of Hudson River along with its tributaries, as well as New York City’s watersheds) for her effort in tackling the environmental causes, especially in the fashion sector. Her company use organic cotton for 70% of their cotton use, and they also started a recycling program--the customers donate their ‘gently used’ Eileen Fisher products in return for a $5 gift certificate per article. After that, the donated stuffs are resold, and the income goes to the fund business grants and leadership programs for women. This way Fisher and her company could oppressed their products’ impact on environment, preventing more of their unused product from littering the world while also doing charity one step at a time.

But before we go further, let’s get back to the basic enigma : which part of the clothing industry could possibly make this sector so harmful it become runner-up to the chemical-crowded oil industry in this polluting race? How could it pollute this planet? Unlike oil, clothes are not associated with black smokes, mined land, and hazardous waste; but if we look closer to the long and complicated production process of clothing industry we’ll find that there are some threats lurking behind the clean, sophisticated results.


(Via : &

The production process of clothing is not only material supply - designing - sewing - packaging - delivery. There’s also the processing of the raw materials, manufacturing the textile, clothing construction, and eventually the disposal of the garment. Not to mention in this global era ‘delivery’ of the stuff could mean global shipping, and distributing it to retailers. And nowadays we’re so used to fast fashion which is not only cheap but also rapidly circulating everywhere, so obviously the carbon print of the process has a tremendous impact to our planet. Meanwhile, there are also pesticides used in cotton farming, toxic dyes used in fabric manufacturing(which eventually dumped into nearest water bodies), and that great amount of unused clothing. Cotton, world’s most use natural fiber, also known as the ‘thirstiest plant’ as it consumes a fair share of water in order to be grow properly.

Well, it’s really a big mess.

Fortunately, just like anyone who encounter some threats, people in fashion and clothing industry take their step to--at least--minimalize the impact that their industry made to the environment. One of the effort is to develop this concept called Sustainable Fashion (Eco Fashion).

(Via :

Sustainable fashion first came into the public foray in late 80s-early 90s when some well-known company such as ESPRIT and Patagonia brought ‘sustainability’ to their business. ‘Sustainability’ here is the goal to create a system that can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility. There are some factors to consider the sustainability of a fashion product : the renewability and the source of the fiber, the process of how a raw fiber is turned into a textile (this is usually one of the most hazardous step in garment-making), the working condition of the people producing the materials, and its total carbon footprint.

(Via :

Those two companies initiated the first organic cotton conference held in 1991 in California, while doing their own thing separately : ESPRIT developed an ecollection in 1992 which comprised the use of organic cotton, recycled wool, naturally processed wool, ‘low impact’ dyes, and naturally colored cotton; while Patagonia use organic cotton and recycle their polyester.

In early 2000s, more and more companies joined this sustainable movement. While the primary focus of the ‘sustainable fashion’ remained on improving the impacts of products through fiber & fabric processing and material provenance, the owners of ESPRIT and Patagonia at that time were early to notice that consumption is the root of unsustainability. ESPRIT even placed an ad to make plea for responsible consumption. We can start to feel that fear of unsustainability now, as apparel shopping had become a normal pastimes nowadays, or maybe even a weekly routine. The rapid development of internet had pumped this consumerism spirit to the max, bombarding people with endless option of sartorial goodness, persuading them to ‘stay updated with the current hype’ through never-ending waves of purchasing it almost impulsive. People often shop new clothes from the convenience of their homes, raising the demand of fast fashion itself. It is particularly worrying because the whole process of creating all those clothes will necessarily accelerate carbon emissions and global warming, plus in the end there will be a massive amounts of unused ‘out of date’ clothes--plus the new clothes’ packagings waste.

(Via :

Then Slow Fashion emerges. Considered as the polar opposite of Fast Fashion, it develops a garment with a cultural and emotional connection to its wearer, aiming that people will keep the piece longer since they are culturally/emotionally connected to that particular article. The term ‘slow’ refers to the entire process of a piece of clothing, and it suggests that slow fashion products should all be sustainable from the aspects of its production, manufacture, and the final process. And, one more thing, to leave carbon footprint as little as possible.

But the eco-consciousness comes with a price, like, a literal price. Slow fashion stuffs tend to be more pricey than those cheap fast fashion pieces which use conventional processing methods. Eventhough its high price balanced with its quality and versatility, some people will still prefer to get more in quantity instead of value, that’s why the demand of fast fashion still more superior.

The organic cotton farmers also faced with the upfront risk of having a less-pesticidized crops, not to mention they also have to compete with the scale of corporate farms.

It’s totally a classic struggle in almost every new environmental efforts. Whether people say that this new thing is too trivial, useless, not too impactful, or that there are better things to do beside this. But no invention is perfect from the first place, so obviously it need many improvements here and there. Then it became like a fresh breath of air when there are forums such as Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2012 which gathered more than 1000 key stakeholders of the industry to discuss the importance of making the fashion industry sustainable. On the same year, the Sustainable Apparel Coalition launched Higg Index, a self-assesment standard designed to measure and promote sustainable supply chains in the apparel and footwear industries. The emergence of forums and institutions like those 2 above became such a great womb to manifest ideas from around the world to find more solution of this issue.

Now that the people inside the industry had already trying to do something good for the planet, what could the rest of us do to support this movement? Is it only to buy, buy, and buy more ‘sustainable products’?

(Via :

Of course not. We could start collecting our good-conditioned preloved clothes and donate it to the orphanage, or maybe selling it via your online thrift store. Or we can give a DIY ‘retouch’ to our old stuffs, making it refreshingly new to wear again. And yes, we could also save up to spend some more eco-conscious product next time we want to go shopping. Anyway, clothing choice is purely based on one’s taste, so it is totally understandable that we will still need that conventional-processed clothing because the sustainable one do not provide our desirable stuff.

Ugh, the effort! Can’t we just buy anything without having to consider some things?

...hey, ever heard that sayings, that “beauty is pain”? Well this is not necessarily ‘pain’, but the effort will be really worthy in the end. And it feels good to do good, and while we feel good, we’ll look good.


Written by Nadia Maya Ardiani

Older Post Newer Post