Updated: Apr 27, 2020

This is an excellent question to ask before you buy clothes and I will share with you the criteria that can determine whether your clothes are sustainable or not. My name is Ayesha, I run a sustainable fashion design business and quite often just to gauge the market I ask people: do you know what is sustainable fashion?

The first thing that comes to their minds when asked this is that it’s recycled clothes. Some think organic cotton or hand made fabrics. Others will just scratch their heads and repeat the question: “what is sustainable fashion?! Emmm.. I’m not sure”, is the answer.If your answer was the same or similar to theirs I don’t blame you. As a matter of fact that’s what I used to think too!

Needless to say, there’s a lot more to sustainable fashion than recycled clothes and eco fabrics. The concept of sustainable fashion, also know as ethical or eco fashion started getting popular late 2006. However, it’s been around for way before that!

I am sure you agree with me that our parents and grandparents were thrifty shoppers. I remember wearing fashion that was handed down from my mother almost until I was 15 years old. Maybe I wasn’t the most fashionable kid in school, but my clothes were definitely the most sustainable!

In this day and age however, with the rapid increase in changing fashion trends, everyone wants to be wearing the latest fashion style. And if we can have it at a lower cost that’s even better! Unfortunately this means that fashion can sometimes be unethical. One needs to start looking at quality not quantity.

“If you describe something as ethical, you mean that it is morally right or morally acceptable.” Collins English Dictionary

You see, the primary objective of largest portion of the fashion industry is to quickly produce a product in a cost efficient manner. Know as fast fashion. Most consumers do not know what goes behind the scenes to make this fast fashion happen. But I’m sure you’ve heard about one too many stories of laborers being exploited by one company or another.

So to get back to the question of what is sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion is about behaviour, mindset and relationships. It is not all about materials and technology. There are a number of criteria’s that we need to satisfy before labeling it sustainable, eco friendly and/or ethical.

Let’s take the example of some of my mother’s produced clothes:

Is it made to last? (Yes! They were handed down from grandma to mom to me like a precious family ring!) Is it locally made? (Yes! It can’t get any more local than home. Of course she always tweaked them to be in line with the latest fashion style) Is it ethically produced? (Yes! Apart from my mom forcing me to do the stitching sometimes ;)) Is it eco friendly? (Yes! Minimum virgin material was used. Back then clothes were built to last and styles were timeless.)

So there you have it. These are some of the points to determine if fashion is sustainable and eco friendly or not.