A piece of clothing touches many hands and travels hundreds of miles before making its way into a closet – from growing the fiber, to spinning the yarn, to creating the fabric, to dying the fabric, to sewing the piece, to packing the order. The environmental and social impact of clothing is driven by decisions at every one of these stages. While brands are starting to integrate sustainability practices, many are only addressing and communicating actions against select stages (e.g., paying fair wages to seamstresses yet having no visibility into the working conditions at the farm, using organic cotton yet having no control over the chemicals used when dyeing the fabric). Ultimately, this creates a lack of transparency around the true environmental and social impact of a purchase.
To truly commit to sustainability, brands need to be responsible for providing transparency at every stage of the supply chain.
Focusing on ‘how clothing is made’ is not enough. At the end of the day, every new piece of clothing consumes resources, no matter how it is made. Brands today operate business models that rely on rapidly increasing consumption, leading them to make more product than ever before. With a focus on more product, more often, there is little incentive for brands to think about the purpose behind each piece they create. How often will their consumer wear it? How long will it last? Instead, to get their consumer to endlessly buy more, brands flood the market with constant ‘newness’. Ultimately, this results in closets filled with clothing that consumers get rid of after only a few wears.
To truly commit to sustainability, brands need to be responsible for putting products in the market that consumers will love to wear year after year, not just a few times.