7 Sustainability Trends for Conscious Consumers in 2021
Based on a recent survey conducted by the U.S. Cotton Trust Protocol in 2020, COVID-19 has impacted the apparel industry in a positive way.
Consumers are increasingly demanding more sustainable practices and accountability from their favourite fashion retailers and 49% of brands felt that if they didn't meet their sustainability commitments, demand from their customers would drop. While this is certainly good news, there is still lots to do, from decolonising fashion, to increased inclusivity and certifications to combat greenwashing.
As we look towards the upcoming year, certain trends have emerged that are going to redefine our concepts of slow fashion, so we’ve curated a list of seven topics you will most likely hear more of in 2021.
1. Regenerative Farming
It’s likely you may have heard of the term regenerative farming which is often used in an agricultural context but it also applies to the farming of natural fibres used to make clothing such as cotton, bamboo or flax (linen). It is essentially a new, innovative way of harvesting raw materials or crops that doesn’t harm the soil or leads to desertification, but rather it regenerates it!
It’s probably the single most important solution to combat climate change because soil, not oil, holds the future for humanity.
One teaspoon of soil contains more microorganisms than there are people on this planet and healthy soil sequesters carbon from the atmosphere - a critical process we learned about in school when we were kids: photosynthesis. It is a solution to not just delay global warming, but to reverse it (yes, we can reverse climate change!).
In the context of regenerative farming, the word sustainable feels like a dinosaur now. Through this new technology, we don’t just do less harm, or reduce our impact, but we can actually give back and regenerate the planet’s health. If you wanted to find out more about the process and how healthy soils combat climate change, I recommend the Netflix documentary Kiss The Ground which informs and sparks hope (a rare find these days!).
2. Transparency and Accountability
The lexicon of sustainable fashion can be a really vague and terms like 'sustainable' could mean pretty much anything as they leave a whole lot of room for guess work, and open up the possibility for greenwashing. To illustrate, lots of brands say their goods are handmade or produced by artisans, but does that mean they were paid a living wage? What about local sourcing: how vast of an area counts as ‘local’? And what exactly constitutes an artisan, as opposed to a skilled worker?
Therefore, certifications are critical to ensure you, the end consumer, get what you actually buy. Here are a handful to watch out for:
- Global Organic Cotton Standard (GOTS): a global standard that verifies that organic status of a material, like organic cotton or linen, and also ensures their workers and facilities are looked after.
- Oeko-Tex: arguably the best known of all the Ethical Fashion Certifications. It tells you the textiles your wearing doesn’t contain toxic chemicals – this is especially important for children’s clothing and sleepwear.
- Cradle 2 Cradle: this certification focuses on the organic health of a garment’s material; its recyclability, renewable energy use, water efficiency quality, and the social responsibility behind its production.
- Fashion Revolution: not yet a certificate, but a movement of 'Who made my clothes' to ensure fair wages to all employees, and that all production stages are fully traceable and transparent.
- Carbon Neutral: More and more businesses are choosing to become carbon neutral, which means they offset all the emissions associated with the sourcing, production and shipping of their products.
3. Decolonisation of Fashion
“To decolonize the fashion industry is to address wealth inequality. The fashion industry cannot operate without the high-skilled labour of garment workers, yet CEOs make millions off the backs of those that earn the least. It’s not capitalists who create capital, it’s the labour behind the label.” Aditi Mayer, American Journalist.
At its core, colonial practice is about using extraction and exploitation of resources – from the natural environment, to labor – as the means for exponential financial gain. And when we look at how capitalism operates today, it’s colonial in nature as well. The fashion industry is a prime example.
Like many global industries that rely on production in the Global South for consumption by the Global North, the fashion industry is rooted in an unequal exchange. The unequal exchange is often the exchange of manufactured products, produced at shockingly low prices due to labor that costs near nothing, to be sold at higher margins in the Global North – which often means heading to the countries that are still reeling from the impacts of colonisation, making them an especially vulnerable workforce.
Therefore, the sustainable fashion movement must centre BIPOC voices as leading actors – communities that have nearly always been historically sustainable, despite the colonial hangover their cultures have experienced. More companies need to explore the idea of degrowth and how success can look like without any impact on the planet and our most vulnerable people.
The foundation of fast fashion is speed, at the expense of quality, the environment, and garment workers’ rights. Therefore, we must follow the rules of slow fashion and buy less and buy better, which brings us to the next trend: circular fashion.
4. Circular Fashion
"Buy less, choose well, make it last" – Vivienne Westwood.
The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world. Circular fashion, is anything designed to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use. Circular design stems from a passion for engineering a way for fashion to be self-sustaining instead of constantly depleting our limited resources.
If fashion is considered regenerative and restorative, then your favourite clothes will never end up as a waste. It focuses on life cycle and longevity, which includes designing out pollution and waste.
Circular fashion looks to disrupt the linear trajectory of fast-fashion by keeping clothing and materials in use. Our current model for consumption is 'take-make-dispose' while a circular model considers the reusability of products and materials - by advocating thrifting, recycling and buying secondhand. There is a growing awareness of the urgent need to get away from the 'throwing away society' and to move towards a more circular economy.
5. Increased Diversity and Inclusivity
This is not a fad! Diversity and inclusivity will grow in the fashion industry but maybe not as fast as we would be hoping for.
Models remain a point of controversy and fascination both within the fashion arena and beyond. Trends may come and go, but the debates and discussions rage on, understandably since the fashion industry has historically had a poor record when it comes to booking models that don't meet a type.
However, change is happening. From gender-neutral underwear, to easy-dressing ranges for physically disabled children and ensuring that all sizes are the same price, brands are moving on the issue of diversity and increasingly create a world where you have the freedom to do you!
As TomboyX would say "We fit you because fitting in was never the problem”.
6. The rise of the capsule
Capsule wardrobes will become "a thing" as slow fashion and organic baby clothes are gaining momentum.
A capsule wardrobe cleanses your closet from unwanted, outgrown or stand-alone pieces that you or your child don't wear any longer. A minimalist wardrobe takes your capsule wardrobe to the next level by significantly reducing the quantity of items you need.
The idea is to simplify your life, not just for yourself, but also for your kids. Once you have defined your mindful capsule collection, it will be so much easier to dress your kids in the morning, saving you time and tears. Read more on how to create a capsule wardrobe in three simple steps.
7. Shop Small and Shop Local
It all comes down to the village.
Covid19 has driven awareness for this topic as we've witnesses local businesses doing it tough. But did you know that small-scale, locally owned businesses create communities that are more prosperous, connected, and generally better-off across a wide range of metrics? When we buy from independent, locally owned businesses, rather than national chains or global giants like Amazon, a significantly greater portion of our money is then cycled back through our local economy – to make purchases from our friends’ businesses, to aid our neighbours in need, and to support our local farms – ultimately strengthening the base of our whole community.
Locally owned businesses in turn can then make more local purchases requiring less transportation and contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.
Indie & Isaac is a small business, owned and run by a mother of a two year old. We promote the circular economy through offering ethically made, and sustainably-sourced baby and kids fashion that is new or pre-loved, and offer conscious parents an option to sell back their clothing and toys to keep more waste out of landfill. It is our firm belief that together we can disrupt the fast fashion industry and do better as a community, for our children and the planet.
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