How fashion brands are approaching sustainability

Sustainability is a new trend, as consumers aim to create a better environment for future generations. But innovative businesses are now quickly realising that deploying an eco-conscious tangential change in their material sourcing is what the consumers of 2019 want.

Retailers should begin to source materials that aren’t completely damaging. Other factors include the working conditions of the people producing the materials, the materials total carbon footprint as well as what happens to it once it’s discarded by its owner. Other means of late come in the form of upcycling, which refers to the creative re-use of clothing into newer materials. This could be anywhere from turning old jumpers into cushion covers or simply turning dresses into crop tops.

An insight to the problem

Fast fashion is likely the biggest problem the sector is facing. It’s a contemporary term used by retailers to express the rapid process of the mass-production of clothes in order to keep up with the latest trends at a much lower cost.

It’s the scenes in the background of this fashion movement that have angered the environmentalists among us and rightly so – with researchers believing that throwaway disposable clothing such as the types fast fashion churns out, is contributing more towards climate change than that of air and sea travel. How can anyone justify paying £3 for a t shirt?

Making change

Retailers are beginning to acknowledge the problem and put fixtures in place to reduce their impact. Despite Burberry burning all their unwanted stock a few years ago, they did announce towards the end of last year that going forward, not only would they be stopping this practice, they would also be stopping the use of real fur. 

H&M announced last year that they aim to use only recycled materials by 2030 and by 2040 it wants to be 100% climate positive. Of course, it’s one thing making a bold statement but it’s another to follow up on it by implementing changes straight away. As the world’s second largest clothing retailer, they currently source 35% of materials from recycled or sustainably sourced materials, although their goal is in years to come, they still have a long way to go in order to achieve it.

People buy clothes because they like the aesthetics of them, and going green shouldn’t mean beige, “oatmeal-coloured fashion that are oversized or lacking in any sort of luxury” as Stella McCartney puts it, it’s a nod in the direction of the way fashion brands are being experimental when it comes to how they continuously mould their strategies.


It’s undeniable that the retail sector is having a significant impact on the environment, but there is a common goal to reduce the carbon footprint. Through sustainable cotton initiatives that lower water consumption, and monitoring energy and chemical use, the future looks bright.

Believe it or not, since 2012, purchasing clothing has only increased by 10%. Although this may seem low, fashion brands are releasing more collections than ever before. Not only are we buying more, the rate at which they’re getting discarded is also increasing.

What does the future hold?

People are understanding the impact fashion is having on the environment. Although vintage shops have been around for some time, the collection of certain brands such as Ralph Lauren and Fred Perry have gained somewhat of a cult following amongst Generation Z. The celebration and attraction to such brands has allowed huge amounts of clothes to find homes instead of being thrown away by disinterested owners, which begs the question are branded, higher-quality clothes and uniforms built for longevity and second owners rather than the fast-fashion clothing of today.

This article was researched by JSD, who are retailers of pilot uniforms.


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