The word sustainable or sustainability has been overused in recent years. From greenwashers to brands who want an easy recognition without making “an effort”. Believe me, I myself have been tired of this word and felt like it has no meaning at all. But I came to realize that it has and we shouldn’t be tired of it.
Sustainability [ suh-stey-nuh-bil-i-tee ] - in terms of environment, it is an ability to continue growth for a long period of time causing little or no damage to our planet.
When I hear people saying that nothing is, and can’t ever be made 100% sustainable, and therefore sustainability cannot be achieved.I do not agree. I call it “an easy way out.” It is only an excuse for not wanting to progress and find the solutions for a better future. Being a sustainable brand doesn’t mean you use organic cotton or recycled materials. It is much more than that. It is a process. It is learning and studying every day, following innovations that you can implement within your business model, searching for better alternatives to what you already have in place. Also, it is about discussing better solutions with your suppliers, not bending to the rules of the materials you choose (only because you cannot find one of the right shade), cooperating with companies and innovators outside the fashion industry and the last but certainly not least, educating your customers.
“Believe me, I myself have been tired of this word and felt like it has no meaning at all. But I came to realise that it has and we shouldn’t be tired of it. “
I believe we can together find a system where we can continue doing what we love for the next generations to follow. It’s unfair to tell the generations of young designers out there that they cannot follow their passion, because we are in a time of climate crisis thanks to those who produced and consumed unsustainably. What we need to do is to find a solution to how they can follow their dreams. Show them that there are ways and business models that work.
People argue that if you produce a garment, that garment has a negative impact, due to resources that have been taken “from” our planet and therefore nothing can be sustainable. Well, I say if you can take the resource without any damage (emissions etc.) and then return it back to nature in a different, but useful form, then I say yes, you can be a sustainable business.
“It’s unfair to tell the generations of young designers out there that they cannot follow their passion, because we are in a time of climate crisis thanks to those who produced and consumed unsustainably.”
We need to support and push for innovations, not only in the fashion industry, but globally. We need innovations in the green sector of our economy. As a fashion industry, we must stop using the materials produced from fossil fuels and concentrate on innovations in terms of recycling polyester. In this, we need the support of the big players out there. Small brands do not have much power over this. The only way for us is to not be producing from these materials and search for better alternatives (plant based materials such as hemp or linen).
Secondly, we need the help from the government. I believe we need some kind of a system, where the brands that are working towards sustainability and greener & fair future, have an advantage over the ones who don't. For example, bigger taxes for those not off-setting their emission or for using virgin polyester fibre.
Lastly, we need to start a discussion. There are a lot of brands using the word sustainable in their marketing without actually “being” sustainable, they are often being questioned and called greenwashers. I’m not saying that all of the brands use the word incorrectly, but instead of criticizing and claiming they are wrong, we should listen and discuss their reasons and what steps they take towards a better future. We are in a desperate need of a discussion & cooperation.
What we at ADVA do to achieve a more sustainable business model and what other small (as well as large) brands can do:
- We produce from materials that support regenerative agriculture or are made from waste - to support “circularity”.
- We use only single fibre materials; some of them can be composted and all of them are biodegradable.
- Our garments are produced locally.
- We personally know each of our seamstresses and they work under ethical & fair conditions.
- We run on green renewable energy.
- We plant trees for every product we sell.
- We offset our carbon footprint, as well as our digital footprint.
- We use technology, so our sampling process is a waste free one.
- We use QR codes to educate the customers about where their clothes come from (product traceability).
- We share information about the origins of the fibres we use, and about our suppliers.
- We offer a repair service so we can prolong the life of the products.
- We have a take back service; our garments do not end up on landfills but are disposed of or recycled properly.
These are only a couple of suggestions that all brands, small or large, can do. We have implemented those in the period of the four years ADVA has been around.
Finding a solution to create a sustainable business model is a crucial one. I believe that if we work together we can manage it. Sustainable future is possible, but we need to work for it. Let’s reclaim the importance of word sustainability together; let’s forget about marketing for a little while and actually work together. Let’s show the following generations that there is a way of doing fashion business without the need of destroying either our planet or human beings.
P.S. I do recommend everyone who has lost hope of the future to read a book written by Bill Gates “How to avoid a climate disaster.” His positive view on innovations, and on tackling the climate crisis is very catching. It will get you back on the track, if you have lost your “faith.”
Photo credits: Kamila Shibalova