While clothing is becoming unrealistically cheap and ever-so quick to produce and reach the hands of a consumer, it almost seems too good to be true. However, with rising environmental awareness, popular brands with household names in the fashion industry have struggled to hide the true price of fashion; the detrimental and irreversible effects on our planet.
Fashion is the second leading pollutant and responsible for over 10% of global greenhouse emissions. More so in the past, to many consumers, the dark and environmentally degrading journey behind the garments hanging in their closets are swept under the rug. But with the question of ethical fashion becoming widespread in the media, many small businesses have turned to sustainable fashion. Not only does it promote the growing environmental movement, but it has also evolved into a selling point for many climate-conscious consumers. As an entrepreneur, here are several ways you can become a part of the transforming future of fashion:
The Art of Reusing and Repurposing
If the fashion industry follows its current trajectory, which has been fueled by centuries of unsustainable practices, its share of the carbon budget could jump to 26% by 2050. It is no secret that our planet cannot sustain the environmental damage and the industry will eventually need to evolve to survive. Change starts from reusing and repurposing. One of the primary ways of reusing is through developing a secondary marketplace for your business. While this concept may seem unfamiliar, current fashion trends and increased climate consciousness have influenced the demand for thrifting. Numerous brands that have a secondary marketplace where consumers can purchase preloved or reworked clothing have experienced a drastic increase in sales. In fact, the market for second-hand clothing is growing 24 times faster than the market for first-hand clothing. This is a fantastic business opportunity for budding entrepreneurs who also want to be socially responsible leaders.
A company that leads by example is Patagonia. In 2017, they created a website called “Worn Wear.” Their supply chain is simple: Consumers can recycle a piece of clothing purchased earlier in return for store credits. Patagonia then sanitizes and repairs these clothes so that customers shopping on their second-hand marketplace can continue to purchase top quality items, but at a lower price.
While not all of these garments can be repaired, Patagonia doesn’t dispose of the textiles. Unlike many fast fashion companies that overlook sustainability, Patagonia has turned this into an innovative opportunity. In 2019, Patagonia released a clothing line called Recrafted that upcycles and reworks textiles that would otherwise end up in landfills. Due to their innovative initiatives, numerous media outlets featured and praised them in their articles. As an entrepreneur, you must not see sustainability as an additional cost, but rather a unique selling proposition that can propel you higher than your competitors.
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Wasteful packaging is Going Out of Style
If there is one trend that must die in the fashion industry, it has to be the single-use plastics culture. Companies, especially eCommerce brands, tend to rely on the use of plastic packaging for everything. The reason is simple: it’s cheap, easy to get your hands on, and easy to dispose of. However, no one can deny the damage of single-use plastics to the environment.
Fortunately, more and more brands have alternated to using reusable bags and eco-friendly packaging, recognizing that they cannot afford the price of plastic pollution on our planet. Cardboard and paper packaging has become increasingly popular, as well as biodegradable plastic bags made from organic materials. While these materials do less harm than the chemical-filled plastics, some companies have taken a step further: the use of reusable bags. While this may seem costly, it serves a great opportunity for entrepreneurs. It’s no secret and well-known brands such as Lululemon, Stella Mccartney, and Burberry have taken advantage of it: reusable bags serve as effective marketing for your brand when done right.
In an era of technological advancement, new innovations have begun to reshape the definition of sustainable fashion. Sand Cloud is a mission-driven apparel brand that suggests what the future of fashion may look like. Sand Cloud pulls plastic bottles from the ocean and recycles them to create the fabric that goes into manufacturing clothing. Algalife is another company that has developed natural pigment for textiles, extracted from microorganisms. Their innovation not only replaces the toxic chemical dyes used by fast fashion brands but also creates less water waste and utilizes only biodegradable resources and renewable energy. This is the revolution the fashion industry needs.
When starting a fashion brand, ethical fashion should be considered a bare necessity. Although it has become the norm to encourage consumers to make environmentally-conscious purchases, as an entrepreneur, you have the power to change the fashion industry from within. In an era of accelerating technology, where secondary marketplaces are becoming customary, and when more than ever before, the environment must become a priority, entrepreneurs of today have a new opportunity: to not only revolutionize the fashion world but to save our planet along with it.