Fashion comes clean

photo of woman near clothes
Photo by Burst on

Fashion industry is responsible for as much pollution as oil industry. It employs thousands of people in deplorable conditions, often risking their lives to deliver the latest trends to the developed world.

As consumers are ever more conscious of the human and environmental cost of what they wear, these brands want to prove that we can do better, in all areas, from production to shipping.

Fashion consumes 98 million tons of nonrenewable resources annually. Fashion employs garment workers paid as little as $ 0.35 per hour to work in extremely hazardous conditions. Factories producing viscose, a synthetic textile used in blouses, skirts and suits are regularly accused of water and air pollution with chemicals.

What can fashion brands do to align with the values of their increasingly “woke” customers?

Rent the Runway – buy no clothes

What better way to limit the disastrous impact of fashion on the world than to… stop producing fashion altogether? Rent the Runway is a service for fashion-conscious people willing to join the “rental revolution”. It sports thousands of designer clothes that are there for rental, not for buying. “Smaller footprint” is one of the site’s top selling points.

Smaller footprint is one of the main reasons you would choose to rent rather than to buy

In a very smart move, Rent the Runway partnered with a hotel chain for a clothes delivery service. Rather than traveling with a bag full of clothes you can have your favourite styles waiting for you in your hotel room… without the guilty feeling of increasing your carbon footprint.

Vestiaire collective – buy again

For those who’d still rather buy than rent, the most environment-friendly option is to buy again. Vestiaire collective makes it possible to sell superfluous designer products cluttering our closets and to buy thousands of curated, pre-owned goods.

While dealing in second-hand products, it maintains a luxury, exclusive touch – a sign that buying pre-owned products is becoming socially acceptable for ethical reasons. The Real Real or Vide Dressing are other examples of the same trend.

Patagonia – repair and reuse

While remaining in the “buy new clothes” business, Patagonia makes a real effort to ensure long life for the clothes they produce. One of the most visible actions is their Worn Wear program.

Patagonia’s mission is to extend the life of their products

On one hand, Patagonia encourages selling pre-owned Patagonia goods – either in-store or by posting them.

On the other hand, they organize road shows during which they meet their customers and repair their clothes!

Most of all, they commit to producing high quality product that can last for years, as “keeping clothing in use just nine extra months can reduce the related carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%.”

Rothy’s – recycle

Somewhat less radical but equally noteworthy is the concept of ethically sourcing raw materials.  The upper parts of Rothy’s shoes are woven from plastic water bottles thus giving a second life to the notorious polluter.

Rothy’s efforts to use recycled materials go a long way – even the blue ribbon used to seal the packaging is obtained from recycling.

Talking about the packaging, as an ecommerce pure player, Rothy’s are aware of the carbon footprint generated by shipping products. Their packaging is stripped to a bare minimum and “fully biodegradable.”


Allbirds, also competing in the SSS (“sustainable shoes on Shopify”) category, takes a similar approach. While the shoes themselves are produced from natural, ethically sourced materials, laces are made from recycled plastic bottles and packaging – from recycled cardboard.

Guilt-free fashion

The most sustainable approach to fashion would arguably be to

  1. always wear the same clothes
  2. only wear self-knitted sweaters from the wool coming from one’s own sheep

As these are either complex to put in place or socially unacceptable, it’s good to see fashion brands waking up to the threat they have become to the world. Renting, re-using, repairing and recycling can visibly reduce our carbon footprint… while still making us look fabulous!

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