How sustainable are your favourite brands?

News, blog and backgrounds about the sustainability scores of brands

Green Fashion comes to Amsterdam

Amsterdam Fashion Week takes place from January 25-29, and fashionistas are scrambling for the last tickets to the hottest shows. But there’s one show that’s grabbing attention among ethical-fashion watchers: it’s the Green Fashion Competition, which aims to spot talented entrepreneurs who are trying to build up a fashion house while safeguarding global biodiversity. Eight finalists have already been chosen, and during Amsterdam Fashion Week, they will each get the chance to showcase three outfits on the catwalk.

Since we are focused primarily on researching large consumer brands (this is a tough choice we had to make out of capacity considerations), these responsible brands are not in our database. Yet we want to take this opportunity to put them in the spotlight – ultimately, it is these brands that perform well on sustainability issues. Lucky for you, all you need to do is head to their websites to snap up their wares.

Sustainable brands at Mint Fair, Modefabriek 2012

We’re pretty used to the fashion industry being scrutinised for its labor conditions – but we don’t often think of biodiversity when we’re picking out a new pair of jeans. According to the competition’s organisers, that needs to change. In its own words:

“Mankind’s consumption of raw materials and modern production techniques are having an extremely destructive effect on the world’s biodiversity. Examples of this are the unaccountable amounts of water wasted in many production techniques, the chemicals used in dyes and other treatments that pollute the environment, and the extent to which large scale agriculture (eg cotton fields) destroys habitats.”

How can a fashion house safeguard biodiversity?
The competition focuses on a range of biodiversity-sensitive issues, including the kinds of materials that the clothes are woven from, and the kinds of chemical processes involved. This rather neatly reflects the kinds of questions we use to make our own rankings  (we check brand’s policies and performances against a list of targeted questions – the more right answers, the higher up our rankings a brand can ascend).

An important proportion of the ecology questions in our rankings center on what are known as ‘preferred materials’. For example, regular cotton is out (cotton is the most chemically intensive fiber to produce) – but organic cotton is in. And it’s not all about being natural and organic – we’re also more than happy to see clothes made out of nylon, as long as it has been made from recycled plastic products, such as old water bottles and used tires. Check out the full list of preferred materials in our manual.

Great for the little guys – how are the bigger companies doing?
The competition’s tag-line is “Sewing the seeds for the future of fashion”, and it wants its winners to gain a permanent place within the industry. That’s why the cash prize also comes with coaching and networking opportunities. But it’s going to take some time before these small studios can revolutionize the industry. So shouldn’t the multi-million-dollar fashion houses that dominate the industry already be doing something? Well, some of them are. In our recent fashion report, we revealed an increase in the number of fashion brands with a policy for better chemical processes. The number of brands that use environmentally preferred materials has also clearly increased. But there’s still a long way to go. Only 2% of the fashion brands in our database score 4 out of 4 in this area. And a disappointing 86% of them don’t score any points at all.

For an overview of the Green Fashion Competition’s finalists, see the website.

During the annual Modefabriek this past weekend there was also plenty of attention for sustainable fashion at the Mint Fair. It was a bright spot in a RAI full of (pretty much unsustainable) commerce. Look at the website of the Modefabriek for more information about Min, as well as an overview of the sustainable fashion brands that were found here.


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