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What is sustainable fashion?

Dan Wood

Dan Wood

What is sustainable fashion. We are going to explain what sustainable fashion is, and what it means for fashion brands like Goose Studios. We’ll discuss how they are doing it, why it is important and the definition they give for it. We’ll also take a look at Greta Thunberg’s speech, one of Sam and Richard’s inspirations (and ours). Plus, we’ll look at another major inspiration for both of our brands – Patagonia.

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What is sustainable fashion?

We recently published a story regarding one of our very first partnerships, with Goose Studios. A sustainable fashion brand which makes 100% cotton clothing. We had so much to talk about when looking at the brand, that we created this story. The team delivers on sustainable fashion and is inspired by others who have been in the game for longer. Like Patagonia, a huge international outdoor clothing group. Who, via their schemes and work as a B-Corp, have given tens of millions of dollars to environmental projects worldwide. 

  • In the UK, ‘We produce 29 million tonnes of cotton. Which is the same as 29 t-shirts for everyone on earth’
  • Decades of chasing short-term profit without consideration of long-term damage have landed us in the current climate crisis
  • Fast fashion is the second biggest polluter after the oil industry
  • With today’s emissions levels, the remaining CO2 level our planet can sustain will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years
  • 61% of consumers worldwide would now be less willing to buy a company’s products if they discovered they weren’t taking their environmental responsibilities seriously

Hubbub who promote environmental awareness tells of a very positive picture, with many in the fashion sector beginning to respond to the climate crisis. However, with fast fashion remaining the second biggest polluter after the oil industry, there is much more work to do. Between Patagonia and it’s partners, ‘1% of the Planet’ members have given back more than $270 million to the environment. We are positive that brands like Goose Studios, and many of us inspired by Greta and the work of Yvon’s Patagonia, can contribute as much. Working together to develop a sustainable fashion sector. 

What is sustainable fashion? 

We recently published a story regarding one of our very first partnerships, with Goose Studios. A sustainable fashion brand which makes 100% cotton clothing. We had so much to talk about when looking at the brand, that we created an extra story. And for anyone not in the know, it answers the question – What is sustainable fashion?

To start with let’s look at Goose Studios and how it manufactures. The team not only put sustainability and ethics first but have gone on to fulfil its mission for sustainable fashion. Firstly, through 100% GOTS certified organic cotton fabrics. Secondly by only using plastic-free packaging. They are also members of the Fairwear Foundation. They see the impact of the fashion world coming from when we as consumers buy something new. They challenge their customers openly to consider if they should buy, only then, buying a t-shirt or sweat from them in confidence and out of need.  And when customers shop anywhere they hope they’ll take four words with them ‘buy less, buy better’.

Organic cotton matters

And the team would have had good reason to focus on cotton sourcing. Hubbub, a creative team who promote environmental awareness, recently asked ‘why organic cotton matters’. In the UK, We produce 29 million tonnes of cotton. Which is the same as 29 t-shirts for everyone on earth. It’s the world’s most commonly used natural fibre. People like it because it’s light, durable and breathable. Cotton is a natural fibre and doesn’t cause the same plastic pollution as some man-made fabrics. But it does come with its own issues. 

The Hubbub team, through their vlog and with friends at the Soil Association investigated current cotton production. They discuss the benefits of making the switch to organic. An FYI – The Soil Association Certification certifies both GOTS and OCS in the UK. You may spot the SA Organic symbol when buying organic clothing. This is the UK’s most recognised organic logo. It’s 70% organic food, health and beauty, fashion and textile products in the UK.’ 

In the words of the goose, with support from Tom Rodenby, what is sustainable fashion?

A personal friend of Sam’s, Goose Studios invited Tom Rodenby to be their ‘Guest of the Goose’. A series on their blog where they ask a guest blogger to give a fresh perspective on sustainability. Tom is a writer, thinker, part-time poet and a sustainability advocate. Following a video chat with Tom, the team went on to share Tom’s views and ethos on the sustainability community. . .  

“Sustainability is basically about balance. It’s about learning to respect our natural surroundings and to give as much as we take. This involves using sensible materials and developing production methods that don’t harm the environment. Being conscious of the consequences of our actions and appreciating our glorious home, Earth.

Why should people care? Well, the creation of a sustainable society would ensure that we have stable economic, social and environmental systems. Systems that we can pass on to future generations. It’s really that simple. But alas, as with many great ideas, putting it into practice has its challenges.”

In Tom’s view, what are we up against? 

“Decades of chasing short-term profit without consideration of long-term damage have landed us in the current climate crisis. The costs of this mindset have been devastating; deforestation, labour exploitation, plastic pollution, air pollution, extreme weather patterns, melting of the ice caps, extinction of wildlife, the list goes on. The scary thing is that even now when the planet is flashing red with the warning self-destruction imminent, there is no sign of this attitude fizzling out. An accurate depiction of current business attitudes below:” 

Captain Jack - Pirates of the Caribbean meme

“We are now in a position where we need to rapidly change the way we do things (with some scientists saying we have 11 years until irreversible climate change damage). Despite this, politicians and business leaders around the world refuse to acknowledge the urgency of the situation and believe other things (money, war, etc) are more important.

Crazy, I know. Sometimes it feels like I’m living in a bad simulation…

Anyway, we have to stay positive (that’s one of the unwritten rules of the sustainable community). And we have good reason to be! The climate strikes organised by school students across the globe have invigorated new life into the debate and I get the feeling that change is afoot.”

By reading this you’ve taken the first step towards sustainability – acknowledgement 

“As you are reading this, that means you’ve already taken the first step, acknowledgement. You realise that we all have to make changes in our personal lives. Yes, governments and conglomerates will have to get their act together, but we, as individuals, also have a responsibility to do what we can. Sam and I were talking about how we should view ourselves as part of a whole, as part of the web of humanity, and not just humanity but for life. I am reminded of the wonderful poem by John Donne.”

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

So, beyond reading poetry, what practical steps can you take? Here are a few bullet points to stick by…

Buy better quality, Less frequently 

“ Fast fashion is the second biggest polluter after the oil industry. Be conscious of what you buy. Choose your style and supplier carefully. There are plenty of sustainable brands out there that make stuff so cool that it transcends the fashion seasons. Once you have it, make it last. Take care of your clothes and they will take care of you.”

 

Be wary of giants 

“ Yes, I’m talking about Amazon and friends. Do you really need to import salt from a blessed spring in the heart of the Atlas Mountains? Or order consumable products that you could easily get from a local shop? We’re all a little lethargic in this culture of convenience, but that bit of extra effort will do a world of good. (Pun intended). Take the time to head outside and support local businesses where possible. Knowing that your money is going back into your community instead of the bank account of a billionaire honestly makes you feel good.”

 

Use your voice 

“Finally, go forth and spread the sustainability gospel. Share this post. Shout from the rooftops about your new Goose Studios gear and deck your Instagram with all that sustainable good stuff. Talk to your friends. Vocalise your passion. Join the conversation in any way, but importantly, be patient with people, change isn’t easy… but it is inevitable.” 

One of the inspirations for Goose Studios / other emerging sustainable fashion brands

As Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech once encapsulated a national voice on civil rights once upon a time. For many environmentalists, Greta Thunberg encapsulated an international voice, on climate change, sustainability and indeed, sustainable fashion. Through the blog, Goose studios have covered a variety of topics, with Greta Thunberg’s speech at the UN covered. The team recognises the words directed at politicians and big business owners. That ‘we are on the brink of global climate catastrophe. That if those seem people continued to put their own power and profit before their moral responsibility to every living thing on the planet. Then the world will know who to blame.

Part of the transcript: 

“ For more than 30 years, science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you’re doing enough when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight. You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.

The popular idea of cutting our emissions in half in 10 years only gives us a 50% chance of staying below 1.5 degrees [Celsius], and the risk of setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond human control. Fifty percent may be acceptable to you. But those numbers do not include tipping points, most feedback loops, additional warming hidden by toxic air pollution or the aspects of equity and climate justice. They also rely on my generation sucking hundreds of billions of tons of your CO2 out of the air with technologies that barely exist.

So a 50% risk is simply not acceptable to us — we who have to live with the consequences. To have a 67% chance of staying below a 1.5 degrees global temperature rise – the best odds given by the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] – the world had 420 gigatons of CO2 left to emit back on Jan. 1st, 2018. Today that figure is already down to less than 350 gigatons. How dare you pretend that this can be solved with just ‘business as usual’ and some technical solutions? With today’s emissions levels, that remaining CO2 budget will be entirely gone within less than 8 1/2 years.” 

Yvon Chouinard - Let my people go surfing - Full credit to Amazon

Patagonia – An inspiration for Goose Studios and many involved in sustainable fashion 

Long before Goose Studios and many other brands were engaged in sustainable fashion, there was a forefather – Patagonia. Patagonia is one of the largest and most successful outdoor clothing brands in the world. Even now, whilst delivering international sales of more than $200m a year (as of 2015) Patagonia is an awesome societal changemaker. An example of how a business owner, Yvon Chouinard, could use a business to spread a belief system. To make a better world for audiences around the world. 

Patagonia was a pioneer in the use of organic cotton. Using recycled plastic bottles to make its “fleece” garments. For Sam and Richard, who founded Goose Studios, they both got inspired back in 2016 when reading a book. That book, ‘Let My people go surfing: The education of a reluctant businessman’ by Patagonia’s founder, Yvon Chouinard. As did our CEO, Ric Porteus, who has purchased from Patagonia and been inspired by Yvon for many years.

From the book pages to the sustainable fashion industry 

‘As the book’s subtitle, “the education of a reluctant businessman”  suggests, Chouinard never sought to be the head of a multi-million-dollar company. He says he only first started making mountaineering equipment and then the clothing associated with it because he wanted access to better stuff. But, having found himself in this role, he has seen the opportunity it provides to, if not to change the world, then at least change some people’s perceptions of it. He spends part of the year testing the goods and coming up with new ideas through indulging his passions for climbing, surfing, fly-fishing, canoeing and being outdoors. 

The book makes clear the free-wheeling image he has largely belied a lot of hard effort on getting the products as good as possible. Through a focus on “clean design” and quality while ensuring top-notch customer service. It has not all been plain sailing. Patagonia learned about the perils of growth in a hard way. The economic recession of the early 1990s forced an organisation that prides itself on looking after its employees through baby care, a subsidised canteen, flexi-time and the like to retrench through laying off staff. The day in question was “the single darkest” in the company’s history, Chouinard writes.’ 

Those dark days are very much behind the brand. On top of manufacturing sustainable fashion items, the team donates 1% of sales to environmental and related causes, helping create ‘1% for the planet’. Between it and other partners, 1% of the Planet members have given back more than $270 million to the environment.’ Not only that, but the brand is an established and award-winning B-Corp. 

Image of Pattagoina, outdoor apparel, certified as a B-Corp in December 2011. Quote - We are in business to save our home planet.

Patagonia – A B-Corp engaged in sustainable fashion and environmental awareness 

A well-known and favourite fashion brand for outdoor activists. The team at Patagonia officially became a B-Corp in 2011. The team regularly does good by the environment, promoting a ‘recycled collection’ wherein 68% of the fabrics used in one of its seasons were made with recycled materials. The team has been connected with grassroots groups to find solutions to the environmental crisis for nearly 40 years. They have a dedicated on-going campaign called ‘Patagonia Action works’, with over $100 million given to its grantees since 1985. 

The team went further with founder Yvon Chouinard co-establishing 1% of the planet, with North Face founder Douglas Tompkins. The organisation deals with sustainability and the environment, offering a global network of businesses, non-profits and individuals working as a membership to implement sustainable environmental projects. Over $270 million has been given back to the environment via the partnership, supporting non-profits like the Wildlife Conservation Society. 

Each year, the B-Corp certifiers recognise and honour members who have strived best to achieve the strongest score and impact around the world. They were recognised for being the best contributor in the ‘best for environment’ category for 6 years, and a changemaker and community leader 3 years on the bounce. And the best B-Corp in the world, for another 3 years on the bounce. Not only that, but the UN awarded them ‘Champions of the Earth’ for their entrepreneurial vision. A phenomenal recognition and reward, for a phenomenal outdoor fashion brand.

It is only the beginning for B-corps and brands delivering on sustainable fashion 

At One Tribe we are a positive environmental brand. Which simply means, we’ll tell you the honest facts regarding climate change and the current mass extinction going on but we are quite positive about a lot of things. We and many others are seeing an incredible change in the way that many businesses think about and act on environmentalism. And more importantly, there is a huge groundswell as consumers rethink their lifestyles, really thinking about what they buy, and from whom. 

“61% of consumers worldwide would now be less willing to buy a company’s products if they discovered they weren’t taking their environmental responsibilities seriously.”

And 62% of C-Suite business leaders surveyed during the World Circular Economy Forum 2020 said they are planning to deliver circular business models. Which is a fancy way of saying – We’ll consider what happens when the consumer finishes with the product. Like recycling, how the product is disposed of, how it is manufactured in the first place, and how resources were used to make it. Really inspiring figures by Isabel Fernandez, and ING’s report on 2020 learning from consumers! 

And that’s just one example from a sea of possible good works we happened upon whilst putting together stories for the tribe. There is a lot of work to be done in the fashion industry, which is considered the second biggest polluting industry in the world, after the oil sector. However, with a bit more thought by all of us, perhaps we can ‘use our voice. Buying better quality, less frequently.’ Thank you to the great blogging work of Goose Studios, and the inspiring story, to make this and other stories possible. And if you need a bit more info regarding climate action, check out our climate action area.

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