What is sustainable fashion?

What does sustainable fashion really mean? What is the difference between Eco-friendly fashion, Green fashion, and Ethical fashion and how does it relate to greenwashing? In this article, we break down the concepts you need to be aware of to make informed shopping decisions

Sustainable fashion – what is it?
Sustainable fashion is used to describe clothing and accessories that have been manufactured in as sustainable a manner as possible - at all levels, both from an environmental perspective and a socio-economic perspective. It includes everything from raw material production to manufacturing, from transport to reuse and recycling. Sustainable fashion also aims at more long-term solutions, with a focus on creating a long-term sustainable fashion industry on all levels. The term sustainable fashion is often used for marketing purposes to create an image that the company or brand in question is environmentally friendly, climate-smart, or 'green'. However, the fact that something is marketed as 'sustainable' does not mean that this is the case. For something to be truly sustainable, concrete evidence is required - which is often lacking. This moves us along to the terms "Eco-friendly fashion" and "Green fashion" which are actually synonyms for sustainable fashion. However, these two concepts are considered to be strongly related to greenwashing, as they are often used without being backed up by concrete evidence. Navigating within the sustainable part of the fashion world is difficult, above all because there aren't really any direct definitions for any of the terms above. There is still uncertainty in the industry about what can and cannot be called sustainable, which puts consumers in a difficult position.

Ethical fashion
The same applies to "Ethical fashion". There are, however, somewhat divided opinions about what ethical fashion actually means and while some believe that it is about reducing the impact on people and the environment, others believe that the focus is on social responsibility and justice. But to make some distinction, ethical fashion can primarily be described as clothes and accessories that have been produced with as much emphasis on fair working conditions as with regard to animals and nature. This also needs to be substantiated with concrete evidence so as not to fall under greenwashing.

Requirements for durability
If we are going to try to define what companies and brands can do to prove that they are actually sustainable, it is mainly about these three things:
1. The effort to meet the demand to avoid overproducing and contributing to clothing waste.
2. To manufacture clothing and accessories with long durability.
3. That it is possible to trace the origin and materials of the clothes to ensure that they were produced under decent conditions and from organic materials.

Sustainability on a consumer level
Sustainable fashion is also about the consumers, with a focus on creating a more sustainable consumption climate - at a consumer level. It is about a changed attitude towards the fashion industry, buying behavior, and increased awareness and reflection in the buying process itself. You as a consumer have the opportunity to take an active part in the pursuit of a more sustainable fashion industry, including by being critical of how companies and brands use common greenwashing concepts in advertising campaigns, on social media, and in stores.

Read more:
How to get a more sustainable wardrobe