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How the Fashion Industry Can Become More Sustainable 

Published on July 17, 2022

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Sustainable fashion concept vector illustration

Employing more than 75 million people globally and valued at over $2.5 trillion, the fashion industry is objectively massive. However, it’s also massively harmful to the environment: fashion production accounts for a whopping 10% of global carbon emissions, and 85% of materials end up in landfills each year — which ends up being about 21 billion tons. With stats like these, you’d think the fashion industry would be scrambling to change its ways an. Sadly, the opposite is true: as a huge sector of the worldwide economy, the fashion industry has been historically slow to change and embrace new practices as a means of becoming more sustainable.

Fashion brands still overproduce by roughly 30-40% each year, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down. According to Statista, the fashion industry is slated to reach a $672.71 billion valuation by 2023, so we can expect to see even more growth in the coming years. With the threat of climate change looming, it’s more important than ever that the fashion industry becomes more sustainable.

3 Ways the Fashion Industry Can Become More Sustainable

Here are just three ways the industry can adopt a more climate-friendly approach:

1. Produce Less Frequently 

Cutting blue fabric on the table full of tailoring tools.
Photo by rh2010/Adobe Stock.

To cut emissions and reduce the amount of waste produced by the industry each year, big-name fashion brands could produce new items less frequently. As we’ve already noted, the industry still overproduces by roughly 30-40% each year, so big brands can afford to slow down and create new items less often. Most clothing stores follow the trends coming from popular designers and fashion houses, so by taking this route, fashion industry leaders will create a positive ripple effect across the sector.

2. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Fashion Designer Stylish Showroom Concept
Photo by Rawpixel.com/Adobe Stock.

One of the best ways to be more sustainable when it comes to fashion is by reusing, repurposing or upcycling the items you already have. The most sustainable option is to avoid buying new items altogether, and the fashion industry can do this in their own way, too. Designers and fashion houses can adopt more sustainable habits by reusing materials they already have on-hand, or by making use of recycled materials. Some big-name brands like Urban Outfitters and Free People have opted to re-sell vintage clothing, which is a smart option since trends are cyclical and tend to come back in style over the years.

3. The Fashion Industry Could Use More Sustainable Materials

Woman dressmaker stands in the factory with cloth in hands.
Photo by standret/Adobe Stock.

If recycling or repurposing old items isn’t an option, designers can opt for more sustainable materials like organic cotton, organic hemp, linen or bamboo.

There are also newer, innovative materials designed for sustainability the fashion industry could use, like Tencel, a cellulose fabric, which requires less energy and water to produce than cotton, and offers anti-bacterial and moisture-wicking properties, making it a great option for athleisure.

Another example is Qmonos: a synthetic spider silk made from microbes and spider silk genes by Japanese startup Spiber. The fabric is flexible, lightweight and five times stronger than steel, but it’s also completely biodegradable and ethically produced, making it a sustainable option for the fashion industry that could help to usher in a new eco-friendly future.

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Lead graphic by Visual Generation/Adobe Stock.

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The Author
Mackenzie Patterson is a Toronto-based writer and journalist. She enjoys long walks, iced coffee on tap, and discovering all the latest and greatest health and wellness trends.