Let’s talk about sustainable fashion
Written by Betty Busby of Auntie Betty Illustration
The future health of our planet depends on us changing how we do things that damage the environment. Ideally, changes need to be made by all: manufacturers, retailers and consumers. We simply cannot depend on just one sector making all the changes.
In this blog, I will cover how the garment trade can change and what we, as consumers, can do to help the environment and make more ethical choices.
It is simplistic to think that if manufacturers only produced ethically and environmentally friendly garments, the entire problem would be solved. The truth is consumers and retailers also have a part to play in the life cycle of products.
Let us start with the Manufacturers
Manufacturers do need to be more mindful of pollution produced during the manufacturing process. Synthetic fibres (which are PLASTIC, derived from crude oil, natural gas or coal) were created because they dried more quickly, creased less, and most importantly, were cheaper to produce than natural fibres.
Many manufacturers now research and produce plant-based plastics too; however, pollution during the creation process is often still a problem for both the environment and for the health of the workers involved in the manufacturing of these textiles.
In addition, synthetic garments are unhealthy to wear, as they do not breathe, preventing the skin from staying healthy. When worn, micro- or nano-plastics slough from the garment and can be ingested or inhaled, affecting various aspects of our health, and have been linked to some cancers. As a former sewing machinist, I remember my skin becoming itchy, and developing breathing and upper respiratory symptoms while sewing some synthetic fabrics. READ MORE HERE »
Nano-plastics have even been detected in the placenta of unborn babies. READ MORE HERE »
During washing, nano-particles break down into wastewater and are washed into rivers, streams and the ocean. Scientists are finding microscopic plastic fragments in the digestive tracts of many marine creatures, some of whom, humans eat. It could take up to 1,000 years for some of these plastics to decompose.
Natural fibre crops are often grown using synthetic fertilisers, which cause environmental pollution and sadly, natural fibre textile production is also often not pollution free. While plant-based and healthier to wear fibres like viscose and bamboo, some manufacturers have yet to adopt responsible production methods and sustainable wood sourcing practises, which are harming our environment, so it's important for you to find out its source chain when making a decision that's right for you.
Ideally, garments need to be created from natural fibres (cotton, linen, silk, wool, etc) and farmed organically. Growers claim organic farming costs more. It is possible to process and manufacture them causing minimal pollution; however, the consumer will pay more for these products. Natural fibre textiles are often easier to sew than some synthetic fabrics, but they require ironing. Natural fibre garments are healthier to wear as they breathe, allowing the skin to be ventilated, reducing skin rashes, etc. They are cooler in hot weather and can be warm and keep the skin dry in cold, damp weather. They are also longer lasting.
There is also a place for recycled natural fibres and synthetic fibres. While synthetics are not healthy, there are times and places when they are necessary. Synthetic fibres can be weather and wind-proof, and since we no longer wear furs in cold, harsh climates, garments manufactured from recycled synthetic fibres are helpful.
One of the biggest retail issues is the disposal of unsold garments. This is where consumers have a role to play. In New Zealand, regardless of whether a surplus garment (left on the rack at the end of the season) is brand new, or second-hand, most are collected and shipped to third-world nations, where they are dumped in giant landfills. Most garments are synthetic, therefore plastic, and fill these toxic mountains of waste. These landfills catch fire and the smoke and gases exuded by these oil, coal and gas-based products are causing high rates of cancer and other illnesses among residents who live near the landfills.
Below is a link about fashion waste.
- Read it if you donate your garments to charity and think you are doing a good thing.
- Read it if you just throw away unwanted garments and forget they ever existed (and guess what, they still do!)
- Read it if you care about the end of the life of your garments.
- READ HERE »
Consumers can research and support responsible and ethical manufacturers. Tearfund has produced a helpful guide for shoppers. READ HERE »
The fast fashion industry has a lot to answer for. Fashion is cheap and easily accessible. We can buy a new garment, wear it once or twice, ‘donate it to charity’, replace it very cheaply and forget it ever existed. Unfortunately, however, that garment very likely DOES still exist and perhaps is littering a landfill, not clothing someone less fortunate than ourselves.
Consumers hold the power. If we are willing to boycott fast fashion, and instead support SLOW fashion, we can prevent A LOT of pollution.
What is slow fashion?
Slow fashion is a growing ethical fashion industry movement consisting of garments produced in small runs by an individual designer, garment creator, mum-and-pop business, etc. They may cost a little more, as they are often ethically produced (not in sweatshops but by respected, well-paid and equipped sewing machinists and cutters) and made from better quality fabrics, often natural fibres. Slow fashion appeals to individuals, not the masses. We have been conditioned by advertising to believe that we need to discard last season’s fashions and replace them with new clothes; however, we can choose to buy clothes that are less trendy, but which we can wear for many years. Style lasts forever – fashion does not. We have some natural fibre garments that are still attractive and in good condition after decades of wear.
Be prepared to pay more for slow fashion items. They cost more to produce but are far better quality, often of timeless design and will last for years to come. In the long run, purchasing good-quality clothing can be a cost-effective investment.
Did you know that doodlewear is a slow fashion platform that strives for ethical solutions?
- All doodlewear artists are fairly paid. Their artworks are respected and protected.
- To print these amazing products, doodlewear works closely with a quality New Zealand family-owned and operated printing company.
- doodlewear art prints are DTG printed in New Zealand with water-based pigment inks that are Okeo-Tex Eco-Pass certified and CPSIA compliant. Our Printer's also recycle them with Brother New Zealand's ink recycling program.
- doodlewear's garments and tote bags are from trusted New Zealand brand AS Colour and they produce their garments internationally. According to their website, they have an experienced ethical sourcing specialist and do source responsibly, with an A- grade in the 2019 Ethical Fashion Report. AS Colour believes in transparency, and that “good workplace standards, decent health and safety requirements, fair pay and conditions, and care for the environment are important elements in business success.” More information about their production can be found here. They have a high level of supplier traceability, which you can read about here.
- Most of doodlewear's garments are 100% cotton. Some of the t-shirts are even made from organic cotton. LEARN MORE »
- A product is only printed when a customer purchases it, so there is very minimal product waste.
- doodlewear ships their products in recycled plastic packaging called Pollastic, which is made from 100% Ocean bound plastic. Once used, it can be recycled with soft plastic recycling schemes.
- doodlewear uses minimal packaging to reduce waste.
- doodlewear's aims to sell art garments that you love so much that you will wear them until they are in tatters and because the garments are cotton, they are long-lasting and can go to landfill where they will biodegrade.
- doodlewear is constantly striving for more sustainable and ethical products and processes.
- LEARN MORE HERE »
As a doodlewear artist, I aim to buy natural fibre clothes (organic where possible). Even my synthetic garments (which I now replace with natural fibre items) are worn and worn and worn until they fall to pieces. I repair my clothes (very creatively, so they look amazing) and everything I wear is given a second and third life until it truly reaches the end of its life.
Did you know?
- We do not need tons of clothes.
- We need a few great-looking, good-quality pieces that mix and match well with our other garments.
- We need clothes that are healthy to wear and healthy for the planet.
- We need clothes that represent our personalities and what is important to us.
- We need guilt-free clothes.
- We need to support small, ethical businesses, not gigantic, international brands.
doodlewear and other slow fashion businesses create this kind of clothing. You are about to embark on a fabulous journey of discovery – the slow fashion industry
Where you can support:
- Local small business
- Ethical fashion
- Healthy garment production
- Efforts to restore earth.
Betty Busby - Auntie Betty Illustration
Betty Busby (of Auntie Betty Illustration) is a wildlife conservation artist. She started in the fashion industry, but after multiple career changes, now tutors children and adults with learning disabilities, teaches drawing and watercolour painting to adults and through her watercolour paintings and embroideries, shares her passion for conservation awareness of wildlife and plants, environmental protection and sustainable living.
Betty is fascinated by New Zealand's unique wildlife and loves the beautiful, rich colours of native creatures and plants and creates wildlife artworks of endangered and rare species from around the world, especially lesser-known species which need more publicity.