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Sustainability in the Fashion Industry

At Supernatural we pride ourselves on carrying sustainable brands and running a sustainable business. We use eco-friendly toilet paper, have outfitted our store with vintage furniture and art, repurposed piping for fixtures, & we recycle all that we can. Carlie, our founder, stays away from fast fashion and picks out brands and designers that align with her own vision of sustainability.  

Fast fashion brands have a long history of executing poor sustainable practices and it is one of the worst industries for pollution. Every step of the production of clothing can be harmful to the earth. Copenhagen Fashion Summit reported that 92 million tons of textiles waste is dumped in landfills each year. The fashion industry is also the second-largest consumer of water, producing 20% wastewater from dyes that are not organic. It takes around 1,800 gallons of water to grow enough cotton to produce just one pair of blue jeans, and 42 gallons of water to stone wash that same pair of blue jeans. Greenhouse gas emissions are also a problem facing the fashion industry,  because most of our clothes are shipped to us by boat or plane. Fast fashion actually emits more gases than the aviation industry. Micro fibers are also a huge problem, killing marine animals each year. This happens when we wash our clothing, the synthetic microfibers found in our clothes are pulled out of our clothes and into our water supply. The average American throws away 81 pounds of clothing per year. China, which produces 50% of the worlds textiles, has also put a ban on importing 24 different kinds of recycled materials, including textiles. As it stands now, it is extremely difficult to recycle certain garments as they are weaved with synthetic materials, and they must be separated.  

This creates a problem for the lingerie industry, the very nature of bras and underwear mean they are made from nylon, polyester, Spandex, etc. But synthetic doesn’t always mean “bad!" There is a lot of pluses to having synthetic fabrics in your bras and underwear. Synthetic fabrics last longer than your natural ones, and they keep their shape much longer. They also shrink and wrinkle less. The durability of buying synthetic means you won’t be replacing your garments as frequently. However, just because lingerie is made from synthetics doesn’t mean it will last until the end of time, it must also be high quality, too! Here are a few tips for spotting high quality:

  1. How does the fabric feel when you touch it? High quality blends will feel soft to the touch. 
  2. What does the hardware look like? Is it metal or plastic? Be sure to look at the hook and eye closures, strap adjusters and closures. Many times, if hardware has the company's logo on it, this is an indicator of high quality. 
  3. Does the lace or print match up? This is a good indicator of quality. 
  4. How's the sewing and seams of the garment? Raw fabric edges, loose threads and fabrics that pucker are a sign of poor quality. Tight or regular stitching is a sign of good quality. 

A list of brands that contribute to sustainability. 

  1. Yolke: Yolke is just starting off on the sustainability path, but their goal is to be 100% sustainable in a few years time as they are adding new sustainable fabrics each season.  They have a recycling program where you can get $40 off your next Yolke purchase when you send in your old one. Flax, from which linen is made, is one of the oldest continuously cultivated plants in the world. The fabric's ability to absorb water and conduct heat make it ideal for hot climates. When grown in its ideal geographical zone as their specifically sourced linen is, the cultivation of flax produces no waste. All parts of the plant are used with the long and short fibers being made into textiles. After the plants have been harvested, the root remnants fertilize and clean the soil, thereby improving the productivity of soil for 6 to 7 years. Growing flax does not require irrigation, fertilizers, herbicides nor pesticides, and therefore does not pollute rivers or groundwater. 
  2. Swedish Stockings: Probably one of our most committed brands to sustainability, Swedish Stockings has made fascinating innovations in hosiery. Their mission is to change and influence the entire hosiery industry. Nylon yarn, which is currently used to produce most modern pantyhose, is created from an environmentally harmful petroleum-based manufacturing process that leads to damaging carbon emissions. Furthermore, modern pantyhose aren't made to last. These harmful practices in the fashion industry are all too common. They create their pantyhose from both pre and post-consumer nylon waste. The production process is a lot less harmful to the environment than traditional nylon production and they are consistently looking for innovative and cleaner ways to produce - conserving or reusing water, decreasing emissions, reducing and recycling waste. They also have a recycling program where thousands of stockings have been recycled. 
  3. Opaak: Designed in Germany, Opaak is developed in close collaboration with experienced suppliers, pattern cutters, and manufacturers from the luxury segment. The Opaak collection is produced with a luxury manufacturer in Romania, following EU legislation regarding ethical, social and environmental standards. Paying special care to operate eco-friendly and through ethically sustainable supply chains, Opaak sources all of its materials and services from European partners. Ranging from regenerative and recycled materials to GOTS-certified organic cotton, Opaak continually researches innovations within the sustainable material industry too strike a balance for a sustainable product offering with uncompromised design and quality.

Brands need to be responsible for their use of water, fabric waste, use of synthetic fabrics that the earth can’t break down. They have a long way to go, large companies produce 70% of the worlds pollution, where private citizens produce about 30%. Here are some steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint. 

  1. Shop from local shops. Local shops often carry smaller brands, or brands that align with their own sustainable vision. Local artisans or makers, and thrift stores are also excellent sources of style.
  2. Cut down on washing your clothes, not everything needs to be washed every time it's worn. 
  3. Buy organic fabrics or natural fabrics such as linen, silk, cotton, rayon, hemp, wool or bamboo. 
  4. Buy less, take better care of the things you already have. Find a good tailor and shoe repair person, you will be supporting small businesses!

Sources: 

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2017/jul/10/100-fossil-fuel-companies-investors-responsible-71-global-emissions-cdp-study-climate-change

http://www.greenpeace.org/eastasia/press/releases/toxics/2017/Chinas-ban-on-imports-of-24-types-of-waste-is-a-wake-up-call-to-the-world---Greenpeace/

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/youre-likely-going-to-throw-away-81-pounds-of-clothing-this-year_n_57572bc8e4b08f74f6c069d3

https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/fashion/environment-costs-fast-fashion-pollution-waste-sustainability-a8139386.html

In Intimate Detail by Cora Harrington