Eco-sustainable fashion: reality or marketing strategy?

It may surprise you, but sustainable fashion is in. However, not all companies that sell us the idea of a sustainable product meet the conditions to be considered as such. As consumers, we are increasingly aware of the need to protect the environment. Over the last few decades a global movement has arisen to demand eco-sustainable products. This has generated great pressure in sectors such as the textile industry, putting in check large textile groups who are only worried about their voracity for profits and the need to sell more and more every day.

This is how the concept of greenwashing was born. It consists of using marketing strategies that, in a deceptive way, try to persuade us that they are respectful of the environment, when in reality they invest more money in their advertising than in ecological, ethical and sustainable practices. In other words, they use your concern for taking care of the planet to clean up their image and increase sales. To do this, among other things, they use ambiguous language, images related to nature and colours such as green or blue that refer to ecology.

If your concern for preserving natural resources is genuine, it is important to know how to differentiate between a sustainable fashion brand and a brand that is not really committed to the values you care about, but to a marketing strategy. This brings us to the big question... How do you know if a brand is making sustainable clothes?

1.- Production

What is the social and environmental impact in one country or another?

If we look at the clothing labels sold by large textile groups such as Inditex, H&M or Primark, we see that the pieces are usually made in China, India, Vietnam or other Asian countries. This is also the case with more exclusive brands such as Armani or Hugo Boss. What does this mean in terms of sustainability?

On the one hand there is the human factor. The relocation of large-scale production can generate very delicate situations on a social level, such as the creation of slave labour. The conditions under which female employees in the fashion industry in Southeast Asia work, in most cases, are very hard. The labour laws of these countries do not guarantee decent working conditions and prefer to bow to the demands of large international companies in order to further their economic interests. It is true that there are companies that produce in these countries in an ethical and transparent manner, but in most instances this is not the case.  These are also places where environmental laws are usually much more lax, with the ecological footprint that this entails in terms of pollution.

Our recommendation: always look carefully at the labels or the origin of each garment you buy! Do they detail where their production processes take place?

2.- Raw materials

Have you checked what materials your favourite garment is made of?

Sustainable clothing is manufactured using natural fabrics such as organic cotton, hemp fibre or unbleached wool. Besides being good for the environment, they are also good for your skin. Also materials like recycled polyester, which allow to give a new life to the tons of plastic that are discarded every year, are used in eco-sustainable fashion. In Spain, one of the pioneering brands in using recycled materials in Spain was Ecoalf.

Another key aspect in the manufacture of clothes is dyeing. The dyeing process is one of the most polluting in textile production, as it consumes large amounts of water and mostly uses chemicals that are toxic to both health and the environment. Unsustainable industrial dyeing processes consume around 150 litres of water to process 1 kg of fabric. In addition, their wastewater is highly polluting. 

For a clothing brand to be considered sustainable, it must use low-aggressive and biodegradable pigments. But it's not just a question of what dyes it uses, but also the processes it uses to give its garments their colour. Dyeing the raw fabric roll has a much lower ecological impact because it consumes less water, while dyeing the garments one by one, although it is cheaper at the production level, has a very high cost for the planet.

3.- Transport

Reducing distances is essential to reduce CO2 emissions

What's the point of making a T-shirt from organic materials, using environmentally friendly processes, if it then has to travel thousands of miles to reach its buyer? Well, in terms of sustainability, of very little, since the CO2 footprint caused by importing clothes made in India, Pakistan or any other distant country is very high for the environment.

That is why it is important to trust brands that bet on local manufacturing, on a small scale and close to the designer, such as Xiro Eco. Of course, we at Filantrop also believe in proximity and manufacture our garments in Spain and Portugal. 

4.- Packaging

Are all those plastics, labels, hangers and cartons really worth anything?

I'm sure that more than once you have bought a product that was individually packed, inside a cardboard box, with the box wrapped in cellophane paper... And so, until completing several layers of packaging, as if it were a matryoshka of disposable materials.

An eco-sustainable fashion brand does exactly the opposite. It uses the minimum necessary packaging and ensures that it is made from recycled or reusable materials. All those cartons and plastics that end up in the garbage as soon as you unwrap the garment are dispensable and do not add value to the product. If we want to contribute to leave a better world to future generations, we must bet on minimalism. Especially when it comes to packaging. 

5.- Style and quality

The unbridled pace of textile consumption has a great cost for the environment

Oscar Wilde said that "fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we are forced to change it every six months". Although at Filantrop we love fashion, we think this phrase fits perfectly with the concept of fast fashion or quick throw away fashion, which we oppose.

Irrational and unsustainable consumerism is promoted by the big fast fashion chains that release two or more collections every year. They want their garments to stop being fast fashion in order to increase sales. Their garments also tend to go quickly from the catwalk to the garbage because they are produced with cheap synthetic fabrics that are meant to last a short time. According to a report by Asociación Ibérica de Reciclaje Textil in 2017, in Spain, each person buys an average of 34 garments and throws away between 12 and 14 kilos of clothes a year.

If we really care about the environment, we must stop thinking of clothes as disposable products and invest in sustainable fashion brands that offer long-lasting quality garments. Basic, timeless designs do not go out of fashion. 

At Filantrop we use ecological materials and manufacture our garments in a socially equitable manner.   We have eco-sustainable seals such as the GOTS certificate (Global Organic Textile Standard) which certifies that our garments are made using natural dyes, recycled materials and organic cotton.

We want our clothes to fit you as well as your principles.