ABNSJan (1 of 1)

Photo: Blake Reynolds

To kick off the fashion revolution here at Conscious, we gave you 5 points as to why sustainability has to move up the priority list. Seeing how the production of clothing needs to become more transparent and ethical, the next step would be to ask – how? Our team at A Boy Named Sue is working with visionary designers who are determined to turn the dirty business of fashion upside down. Whether it’s through eco-friendly fabrics or sustaining a dying craft, here’s what to be mindful of before purchasing any garments.

Get to know the materials you’re wearing against the skin. Did you know that cotton plants consume nearly $2.6 billion worth of pesticides per year and are extremely water-dependent? 100% organically produced cotton, however, helps to maintain a balanced biodiversity. By choosing certified eco fabrics instead of conventional “cash crops”, consumers can help farmers in developing countries to convert to agriculture that’s good for the planet. On top of household staples – wool, linen, cashmere – the industry has seen the emergence of new alternatives such as Tencel (wood pulp), Modal (cellulose from beech trees) or RPER that uses recycled plastic bottles, with a smaller environmental footprint.

There isn’t a single perfect solution when it comes to sustainable textiles and practices employed. It is important to question the origin of your fiber: where was it grown, how and who picked it. Unfortunately, the complexity of supply chains makes it difficult to trace the origin of materials. As a consumer you have the right to demand more transparency from the big companies.

Bad news. The vibrant red shirt in your wardrobe is probably made with synthetic dyes. During the coloring process, 80% of the dye is retained in the fabric and the rest is simply flushed out. When garment factories discharge formaldehyde, chlorine and heavy metals into the water system, the effects on the environment are disastrous. From Mexico to China, factories across the world can be found to be dumping millions of tons of dye effluent into rivers destroying the fish and its ecosystem while garment workers are at higher risk of developing tumors and cancer.

To make matters worse, the finished products still contain harmful toxins, which have been linked to cancer. Natural dyes, on the contrary, are derived from animal or plant material without any chemical treatment. But here’s the downside – they are less permanent and require extra amount of mordants to make the pigment stay on the fabric. The realistic solution to current toxic dyes should  be a combination of a more responsible cleaner synthetic dye production (closed loop system), together with the sustainable development of natural dyes.

Remanufacturing, recycling and reusing are ideal concepts to make the fashion industry less wasteful. Raw materials that would otherwise end up in landfills can be revamped into new garments without affecting their quality or appearance. Up-cycling is especially important when remodeling leather, as 90% of tannery workers in Bangladesh (production capital at large) suffer from some kind of disease because of chemical exposure. Contemporary designers have debunked the myth that brand new clothes made of excess fabric and vintage pieces means you’ll be channeling Woodstock. Take a look at The Sway’s biker jackets that are handmade using reclaimed leather. Rebels with a green cause, just like us.

Learn more about A Boy Named Sue
Connect via Facebook and Twitter

At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity. You can read more stories like this when Subscribe.

Editorial Collaborator: Samantha Wong and Tania Reinert-Shchelkanovtseva of A Boy Named Sue join Conscious to share about “Why Sustainable Fashion Matters” here on consciousmagazine.co. Check out their interview and featurehere. This article was co-written by Samantha Wong, Tania Reinert-Shchelkanovtseva, and Kadri Kouts.