Sustainability! More than a Buzzword in Fashion? (2023)

‘Sustainable fashion’ is one of the most widely used terms in the fashion industry today.

Sustainability! A word everyone seems to be associating with their brand today. Just using 100% organic cotton or natural dyes to produce garments. Is that what the term amounts to? In today’s context, the term has been used and misused to the extent that the the true meaning and the complex processes that make up the term have become blurry. What exactly is sustainability? Do genuinely sustainable products really exist or is sustainability still nothing but a so far successful marketing technique?

It is not only about the trend of socially responsible brands with eco-friendly products or coming up with some regulatory policies but also for catering to upcoming demands of conscious consumers to adopt sustainable fashion. Us as consumers, we have evolved. We have become educated about the materials and manufacturing process, which results in a growing interest to make socially responsible choices while updating our wardrobes with a value tag.

Today, sustainability is much more than a buzzword. You don't have to choose between what's good for business and what's good for the planet. Business and environmental objectives can and should work together. That’s where “Zebra companies” come in. A zebra company is both black and white - it is both profitable and works to improve society. In this way, zebra companies are defined as having a “double bottom line.”

You’re probably familiar with unicorn companies, which are startups that have experienced exponential growth and are valued at one billion dollars or more. These startups may seem impressive, but the unicorn model offers zero consideration to sustainability and sacrifices corporate ethics. In response to the growing concern for the effects of business on the environment and society at large, zebra companies have stolen the spotlight from their predecessors.

A play in words, zebras are known to move in groups, and zebra companies are characterized as mutualistic, tending to band together to support and preserve each other.

(Video) House of Sustainability - More than a buzzword

Khara Kapas designs artisanal clothing with pure fabrics with a minimal design aesthetic.

At Canvas and Weaves, we strongly align with the zebra business model whereby we strongly focus on quality and craftsmanship, rather than rushing to grow through exponential sals and funding. We work with other sustainable brands to produce a greater synergistic product and build a strong community of likeminded conscious lifestyle enthusiasts who are educated and aware of the choices they make.

Sustainable fashion is not just about what material you use/ reuse, but also how a garment/ product is made, who made it, what resources were used to produce it, and how it was sold, and purchased while considering the impact of its existence on the environment and eventually how it will die/get reused.

As more and more consumers demand environmentally conscious products, many companies are eager to jump on the bandwagon. However, some brands have been committed to sustainability from the beginning.

Apart from International giants like Stella McCartney and Patagonia, Indian homegrown labels like Raw Mango, Khara Kapas, Jodilife and The Summer House made ethical fashion a pillar of their label way before sustainability was a hashtag or buzzword. They are candid about the immense harm fashion inflicts on the environment—it’s the second dirtiest industry on the planet after oil—and has paved the way for other eco-minded labels to follow their lead. These brands are dedicated to design and offer clothing made using fair and ethical means such as providing safe working conditions to the factory workers, working with handloom weavers and artisans to create handcrafted products, sourcing organic or recycled raw materials and up-cycling post-production and post-consumer wastes. The gradual shift from fast fashion to a sustainable and socially responsible fashion is clearly visible around the globe. New and established fashion brands alike are making strides toward sustainability through innovative business models, new fashion labels, and sustainable supply chain practices.

(Video) Sustainability Isn’t a Buzzword

Ethical Sourcing & Innovative Design Thinking

Shop layered, geometric pieces in a neutral palette!

Sourcing the right raw materials is where it all begins. With innovations in the textile industry natural fibers such as 100% organic cotton, hemp, tencel, bamboo, Khadi, etc are more readily available and an excellent resource Indian labels like Rias, JodiLife and THREE have been pioneering. While brands like The Terra Tribe and Sui opt for lightweight and durable hemp, others are turning to innovative materials such as Tencel. Founded by Rekha Datla and Shivangini Padhiyar in 2005, The Summer House work with high quality, responsibly madefabrics - with a preference for handwoven, organic and modern explorations like ECONYL regenerated nylon and ethical tencel. Tencel is a new age fibre made from sustainably harvested trees. Wood pulp is converted into fibre using a solvent that has low toxicity and is recycled in a closed-loop process, which means that 99.5% of chemicals are reused. What this translates to is minimal chemical waste being dumped into the earth and its waters.

Founded in 2018, Ura Maku is another Indian label making leaps with organic materials like Eric silk.

(Video) Sustainability in Fashion | Vogue Talks | British Vogue & Tencel

Great design is just as important as eco-friendly fabrics and processes. Apart from sourcing, at the design stage, brands are using zero-waste design techniques such as zero waste pattern cutting, draping, smocking and plaiting eliminate waste. It is about innovative design thinking to ensure minimal wastage of raw materials. Achieving a zero-waste level of production remains a dificult task, but most brands have started taking initiative by using various ways to minimize waste. The use of leftover fabrics to create trims like buttons, tassels, and embellishments, or crafting them has become common practice for designers. Kriti Tula, the designer of Delhi based emerging label Doodlage, is known as ‘The Upcycler’ (Vogue India, May 2018). She uses scraps of fabrics, industrial waste with organic cotton and sustainable materials. She uses techniques like patchwork, up-cycling small pieces of fabric and threads, which would otherwise have been rejected for her designs.

Founded in 2020, Yam is another print-centric brand using traditional techniques of weaving, embroideries, sketching, and painting. Through innovative design thinking, they make garments and accessories consciously and with zero wastage using textiles from across India, including silks from Benaras and cotton and canvas from weavers in South India.

Apart from that, the reason early adopters like Raw Mango, Khara Kapas, Akaaro andTHREE are so successful is because they don’t compromise on style. The silhouettes are sleek, the fabric choices breathable and the designs timeless. THREE uses functional, timeless, minimal designs perfect for a workday or weekend. It is about thoughtful design that transcends any one lifestyle. Jodilife is the best example for a brand that celebrates indigenous Indian textiles are the craft of blockprinting with designs that are young, bold and fun to wear. Jodi is an India-based design studio and marketplace founded in 2014 by longtime friends Gauri Verma and Karuna Laungani. Offering joyful, fashion-forward designs, work with natural, Indian textiles while championing artisanal craft techniques such as hand block printing, bandhini dyeing, and hand embroidery among others.

Shop Hand Block-Printed artisan products innatural, Indian textiles

Sustainability managers are now popular within the brands to check all the vital points to be labeled as environmentally conscious brands. Our production processes must minimize water and power consumption; our supply chains must be transparent and traceable; our retail systems need a revamp to include sustainable habits like renting/reusing clothes.

(Video) The Future Of Sustainability And Fashion In 2021

The thumb rule in sustainable fashion is a product that supports the makers and their crafts.The production and procurement of raw materials, as well as the manufacturing, is done in such a way that pays fair wages to the workers or people living on the land, provides safe working condition respecting the environment and promotes sustainable farming. Major independent Indian labels like World of Crow, Jodilife, Khara Kapas and many more explore hidden corners across India to work with artisan clusters and celebrate their skill and craftsmanship. Equal emphasis is given on fair & ethical standards regarding their working practices. Many brands today are encouraging transparency regarding artist working hours, safe working conditions, and fair wages.

With the shift in the business of fashion there is a new market for businesses such as thredUP and Rent the Runway promoting the power of sharing economy and rent instead contributing to curbing the back of closets or landfills.

There are new dimensions emerging like circular fashion business models such as rentals, resale, repair, and refurbishment. Also, dedicated platforms, for example, Depop which contribute to selling vintage clothes are showcasing the great potential for circular fashion.

According to sustainable fashion industry statistics, the market is expected to rise to $9.81 billion in 2025 and $15.17 billion in 2030 at a CAGR of 9.1 percent, due to the growing awareness of ethical fashion.

Thrift and secondhand buying are currently en vogue. Customers are now becoming conscious about their buying decisions. They are mindfully spending their money while acknowledging that clothes need not necessarily drop their qualities just because they were pre-worn. Thrift stores not only offer pre-loved clothes at cheaper rates but also opportunity to develop one’s sense of style. Singapore based brand “Swapaholic” is a clothing and accessory swap that helps declutter and refresh your closet. Other brands likeThe Fashion Pulpitand The Reoutfitter are other Singaporean brands pioneering thrift shopping.The Reoutfitter is a fashion and wardrobe styling consultant in Singapore with an emphasis on promoting circular fashion and tailored fashion.

Innovation across the fashion supply chain does not come only from indexes and metrics. Other types of tech-based tools may have an equally or even-greater impact on sustainability; great examples are:

(Video) Sustainability at SAP – More than just a buzzword - SAP Student Day | 12.01.21

  • AI technology that lets consumers better understand clothes’ size and fit; this would reduce items’ returns, and thus, environmental impact caused by transportation.
  • AI solutions that predict trends and demand, so brands are better able to plan future designs, production and prices; these would help brands avoid over-production, with clear benefits for the environment and for a brand’s economics.
  • Marketplaces on which to buy and sell second-hand items, even if mono-brand or company-sponsored (e.g. Patagonia).
  • Marketplaces allowing brands, e-commerce and people to rent garments. This type of marketplaces, together with second-hand marketplaces, should extend the items’ lifespan and thus reduce waste.

At Canvas and Weaves, we understand that our strong knit community wants to feel great about their clothes, and that includes feeling great about how they were made with a concern of social responsibility. That’s why we make sure we work with brands are companies that love the earth, respect the artisans and produce happy clothes for you. We are rooting for zebras who value our environment and traditional craft heritage for true growth and prosperity. Who are you cheering for?


Is sustainability just a buzzword? ›

Despite the word 'sustainability' becoming a major theme during fashion weeks all over the world, many would say it has become a buzzword, and from the perspective of a climate activist, I can confirm that it feels like the word has lost all meaning.

Why is sustainability so important in fashion? ›

Sustainable clothing uses biodegradable components from natural or recycled fibers. These materials grow with no pesticide or fertilizer use, consume less energy and water, and employ no chemical treatment, thus reducing the overall carbon footprint of these brands.

Is sustainability a buzzword or real concern? ›

“Sustainability” is one of the most frequently heard buzzwords when talking about our future development, regardless of whether we are talking about the future of our society, businesses, nature or the planet itself.

What is sustainable fashion answer? ›

Sustainable fashion (also known as eco-fashion) is a term describing products, processes, activities, and people (policymakers, brands, consumers) that aim to achieve a carbon-neutral fashion industry built on equality, social justice, animal welfare, and ecological integrity.

What is 1 example of sustainability? ›

Clean water and sanitation: Such as learning to avoid wasting water. Climate action: Acting now to stop global warming. Life below water: Avoiding the use of plastic bags to keep the oceans clean. Life on land: Planting trees to help protect the environment.

What are three 3 terms used to describe sustainability? ›

The idea of sustainability is often broken down into three pillars: economic, environmental, and social—also known informally as profits, planet, and people.

How is fashion more sustainable? ›

Recycled and upcycled materials — such as fabrics made from second-hand clothing. Bio-based materials — such as cotton grown without pesticides or chemicals. Conventional materials that are naturally biodegradable — such as wool or silk.

Do people care about sustainable fashion? ›

Approximately 65% of fashion consumers care about the environment, but only some regularly prioritize sustainability in their shopping.

How sustainable is the fashion industry? ›

The fashion industry is responsible for the production of up to 10% of the global carbon dioxide output and accounts for one-fifth of the 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (via Bloomberg).

Why is sustainability a big problem? ›

Scarcity can lead to price rises, hardship and conflict. It also leads to increased efforts to find new resources, often with further or different consequences. Our increasing and inefficient use of resources has knock-on effects including climate change, loss of biodiversity, pollution, poor health and poverty.

What is the main concern of sustainability? ›

Sustainability means meeting our own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In addition to natural resources, we also need social and economic resources. Sustainability is not just environmental- ism.

Why should we worry about sustainability? ›

Sustainable actions help make a real difference in society. Being committed to sustainability will reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of toxins released into the environment, making it safe. When we focus on sustainability, the entire world benefits and gets to live in clean, more healthy living conditions.

What does sustainability mean to you in fashion? ›

Sustainability in the fashion industry means promoting the well-being of people, communities, and the environment. The fashion industry — in company with other big energy consumers like agriculture and fuel — is in dire need of a thoughtful redesign.

What is one word for sustainable fashion? ›

Ethical fashion

Ethical and sustainable fashion are often used interchangeably. For some, ethical fashion focuses more on the social impact of the fashion industry and what is “morally right”.

Is sustainable fashion really sustainable? ›

Is Sustainable Fashion Completely Sustainable? If we're honest with you, what we call sustainable fashion right now is not actually, technically, truly sustainable. All fashion creates greenhouse gas emissions during manufacture and shipping. Less than 1% of clothing is recycled into new clothing.

What is sustainability in simple words? ›

Sustainability consists of fulfilling the needs of current generations without compromising the needs of future generations, while ensuring a balance between economic growth, environmental care and social well-being.

What are the benefits of sustainability? ›

Socially, sustainable practices can help strengthen community bonds, improve quality of life and provide hope for a better future. Environmentally, sustainable practices can help protect natural resources, mitigate and adapt to climate change and promote biodiversity.

What are the 5 factors of sustainability? ›

There are six factors of sustainability: climate change, environment, innovation, technology, people, and ethics.

How do you achieve sustainability? ›

  1. Think twice before shopping.
  2. Make sure your big purchases have big environmental benefits.
  3. Go #PlasticFree.
  4. Boycott products that endanger wildlife.
  5. Pay attention to labels.
  6. Be water wise.
  7. Drive less, drive green.
  8. Green your home.

Why is sustainable fashion difficult? ›

Furthermore, a lack of education and awareness about the impact of fast fashion on the environment and society may make it difficult for Indian youngsters to understand the benefits of sustainable fashion and see it as a viable alternative to fast fashion.

What are the goals of sustainable fashion brands? ›

The objective of sustainable fashion is to make consumers aware of the use and production of clothing, complying with criteria of environmental and social sustainability.

Is sustainable fashion becoming more popular? ›

Sustainable and ethical fashion has experienced rapid growth in recent years, and the rate of growth is projected to accelerate in the future. The average annual growth rate of the ethical fashion market is 8.3%. This could grow to 9.7% a year by 2030.

How sustainable is slow fashion? ›

Slow fashion promotes ethical production methods that prioritize the fair treatment of workers and the use of sustainable materials and processes. Higher Quality: Slow fashion prioritizes quality over quantity. This means that garments are made to last, and are often made from high-quality materials.

How fast is sustainable fashion growing? ›

The sustainable fashion industry is projected to grow at a CAGR of 9.1% from 2021 to 2028.

What are 3 things that contribute to sustainability? ›

The figure at the top of this page suggests that there are three pillars of sustainability – economic viability, environmental protection and social equity.

When did sustainability become an issue? ›

Sustainable development is the idea that human societies must live and meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The “official” definition of sustainable development was developed for the first time in the Brundtland Report in 1987.

What would happen without sustainability? ›

If we don't learn to live sustainably, some of the effects will be: More landfills popping up everywhere. More animals going extinct due to deforestation and pollution. An increase in respiratory diseases.

Why is sustainability important for everyone? ›

Sustainability is critical to maintaining our quality of life, the diversity of life on earth, and the health of earth's resource-rich ecosystems. Sustainable environmental practices improve water and air quality, reduce landfills, and increase renewable energy sources in the long term.

Who is responsible for sustainable fashion? ›

Through the Alliance, the UN commits to changing the path of fashion, reducing its negative environmental and social impacts; and turning fashion into a driver of the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Where did sustainable fashion come from? ›

Sustainable fashion was first introduced into contemporary culture by the hippies, who prefer locally-grown, handmade, and pesticide-free products. Second-hand clothing was also worn by hippies, rejecting the mass production culture that dominated America from the 1950s.

What is the difference between responsible fashion and sustainable fashion? ›

Many people consider that ethical fashion is a bit different from sustainable fashion. Ethical fashion focuses more on social responsibility in the fashion industry. Sustainable fashion aims to solve environmental issues.

Is sustainable fashion ethical fashion? ›

Ethical and sustainable fashion are generally used interchangeably. However, for some, 'ethical fashion' focuses more on what is 'morally right' about the treatment of everyone who inhabits this planet we call home—humans and animals alike.

Is sustainability a hot topic? ›

Verdict. Sustainability is a topic that has seen a lot of mileage, as well as targets created, revised, reviewed, and re-advertised. The general consensus from both global governments and industries, is that wore work has to be done – and there is no time to sit back and wait to see what comes next.

Is sustainability an oxymoron? ›

Unfortunately, “sustainable development,” as advocated by most natural, social, and environmental scientists, is an oxymoron.

What are the 5 C's of sustainability? ›

To achieve this vision, we have crafted the 2030 5C SD Strategy, by which our strategic priorities, known as the “the 5Cs”: Clean, Community, Culture, Care and Corporate Governance will point the way for the Group's sustainable future toward 2030 and beyond.

What are the 4 C's of sustainability? ›

Segera finds that balance between conservation, community, culture and commerce, and puts the environment at the heart of the development.

Is sustainability a growing trend? ›

Sustainability has been top of mind for both food and beverage processors and consumers for many years. In 2023, sustainability will continue to be at the forefront of industry trends and innovations.

Is sustainability becoming more popular? ›

When consumers are asked if they care about buying environmentally and ethically sustainable products, they overwhelmingly answer yes: in a 2020 McKinsey US consumer sentiment survey, more than 60 percent of respondents said they'd pay more for a product with sustainable packaging.

What are 3 issues that impact sustainability? ›

The list of issues surrounding our environment go on, but there are three major ones that affect the majority of them overall: global warming and climate change; water pollution and ocean acidification; and loss of biodiversity.

What is the opposite of sustainability? ›

unsuitable, untenable, unendurable, unfeasible, brief, fleeting, implausible, temporary, unviable, unworkable.

Is sustainability an ethical issue? ›

One may argue that sustainability in itself is an ethical discipline, but that can often be refuted with the fact that not all ethical values are considered when coming up with solutions to grand challenges like climate change, world hunger, unequal access to education, and much, much more.

Is sustainability an illusion? ›

The idea of replacing dependency on aid with a one-time investment that leads to long-run sustainability is certainly ideologically attractive. Yet anecdotal evidence suggests that financial sustainability has often been an illusion, and sometimes a costly one.

What are the 7 areas of sustainability? ›


Infrastructure Imperatives, Carbon Management, Green Energy, Circular Economy, Environment Conservation, Water Conservation and Energy Efficiency.

What are the six roots of sustainability? ›

They are the ecological/carrying capacity root, the resources/environment root, the biosphere root, the critique of technology root, the no growth/slow growth root, and the ecodevelopment root.

What are the 8 pillars of sustainability? ›

The foundation of a sustainable community revolves around eight major pillars: economy, health, nature, built environment, energy, community, social equity, and transportation.

What are the four pillars of sustainable design? ›

The term sustainability is broadly used to indicate programs, initiatives and actions aimed at the preservation of a particular resource. However, it actually refers to four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environmental – known as the four pillars of sustainability.

What are the 3 main concepts of a sustainability paradigm? ›

The figure at the top of this page suggests that there are three pillars of sustainability – economic viability, environmental protection and social equity.

What are the 4 Rs in sustainable design? ›

We have long made it a priority to develop manufacturing methods and vehicles that have less impact on the environment. This 360-degree approach is based on what is popularly known as the four R's: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover.


1. Sustainability in 4 minutes | Sustainable Explainable
(Sustainable Earth)
2. BSH Webinar: Sustainability -- Not Just a Buzzword!
(Foundations, Inc.)
3. Timelessness & Fashion: THE SUSTAINABILITY HOAX
(Anya Danielle)
4. What is the future of fashion and can it be sustainable? I Hubbub Investigates
5. Beyond the Buzzword: ‘Sustainability’ meets Artisanship
6. What is this Buzz Word Sustainability?
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Ms. Lucile Johns

Last Updated: 02/25/2023

Views: 5801

Rating: 4 / 5 (41 voted)

Reviews: 80% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Ms. Lucile Johns

Birthday: 1999-11-16

Address: Suite 237 56046 Walsh Coves, West Enid, VT 46557

Phone: +59115435987187

Job: Education Supervisor

Hobby: Genealogy, Stone skipping, Skydiving, Nordic skating, Couponing, Coloring, Gardening

Introduction: My name is Ms. Lucile Johns, I am a successful, friendly, friendly, homely, adventurous, handsome, delightful person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.