If I had to be honest, I have always been scared of high-end designers’ garnets. Especially, if they claimed that garnets are meant for their sustainable, ecological collection that is supposed to not only look good and wearable, but also be recyclable. I have always found them impossible to wear and, to be honest, a little out of fashion. Yet I used to catch myself thinking that it is probably something what has got to do with corporate social responsibility, something that companies have to do yet don’t really feel like, or something that is generally done to seem better in their customers’ eyes.
For centuries, companies did not really care about the materials they are using, whereas nowadays the pressure in fashion industry is immense. At the same moment when the garnet has to be fashionable and comfortable to wear, it is also expected that it’s been produced from recycled materials (or is recyclable) and does not contain animalistic materials, otherwise the company will continuously be attacked by PETA, which is gaining more and more influence in 21st century. Comparing what used to be a norm, nowadays isn’t, and therefore I catch myself still being a little surprised that eco fashion is becoming more and more popular amongst companies and consumer. Not to mention a fact that among the fashion weeks that are taking place in four fashion capitals of the world: New York, London, Milan and Paris, an Eco Fashion Week, held in Vancouver, Canada, is becoming more and more important. One could notice that by simply paying a little more attention to what the largest clothing companies do: Topshop has recently partnered with the worlds leading animal rights organization PETA in order to keep wildlife out of their wardrobe and H&M, a Swedish clothing company, is launching its new Conscious Collection – another of the company’s moves towards more sustainable fashion.
Eco-friendly, green and sustainable
Probably everyone would agree that words “green”, “ecological”, “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” have become the buzzwords these days. Knowing that human beings have got the direct impact on Earth and, consequently, on our own well-being, it has been tried to change one of the worlds leading industries – fashion industry – in order to teach companies to produce harmless garnets and to teach consumers to become ethical consumers. Ethical consumerism means an intentional buying, of products and services that a customer supports and believes in. Such intentional support of ethical companies would reduce the exploitation of humans (workers), animals (materials) and natural environment.
I believe not only me, but majority of customers do not know the real meaning of the mentioned buzzwords. There is a sharp distinction between “eco-friendly“, “green” and “sustainable“. Whereas a product that is recycled (or can be recycled) means that it is eco-friendly, it does not deliberately have to be “green”. Let’s take 100% recycled paper towels as an example. While creating the paper towels from recycled materials would be considered an eco-friendly option, paper towels are in no way green. For the “greener” option it would be rather suggested to use a reusable cloth.
It is said that sustainable products reduce the impact of the environment by using responsibly-sourced products) either completely renewable or sustainably harvested). A sustainable product in Denmark, for example, would not deliberaly perceived to be sustainable in US, since materials, manufacturing process, shipping and powering has to be taken into considerations. Therefore, even though product is sustainable in Denmark (e.g. made out of recycled materials), it will not be perceived to be sustainable in US since it will use a lot of fuel by shipping the product to the US.
I remember our Marketing lecturer telling us that greenwashing (i.e. a form of falsehood in which PR shapes the activities of the companies in order to promote the perception that an organization’s aims and policies are environmentally friendly) is “the core activity of a great majority of organizations”. I guess there are no doubts that with greenwashing companies manage to get loyal customers who bring profits. Unfortunately, such customers believe in something false, supporting activities of companies that might be opposite of their values and purchasing preferences… Therefore, a clever user has to be… well, clever enough to be able to distinguish between the spurious PR practices and companies that do engage in environmentally friendly activities.
Yet customers in Denmark may feel a little safer when it comes to greenwashing. According to Guardian.co.uk, “Danish fashion businesses may have an advantage when it comes to corporate sustainability because they operate in a national business environment where sustainability requirements are more stringent than in many other European countries.”
So… What shall we do?
Is sustainable fashion a trend or a new way of producing fashion? According to Vogue magazine, sustainable fashion has definitely become a new trend. Since companies are offering a wide range of sustainable, eco-friendly garnets and consumers are becoming aware of their direct impact on nature, it’s the time for fashion designers to think green. Even sustainability experts in politics now seem to realize that sustainable fashion is worldchangeing.
Meanwhile, consumers should be aware of what are their purchasing and what their options are. For those that want to live more eco-friendly, choosing between green and sustainable can be a delicate balancing act, therefore make sure you are not trapped into greenwashing PR, and make sure you do your research before buying. Yet all what’s natural and good for the nature, can’t be bad in any for us, right?