Talk of sustainability and eco-friendliness has increased of late in the fashion industry. Many brands, inside and outside of Africa, are embracing the concept of sustainable and eco-friendly fashion which has led to an increase in sustainable and eco-friendly fashion brands all over the world.
While a good majority of fashion entrepreneurs have heard of this concepts and understand it, some have not quite gotten there yet.
What’s is Sustainable and Eco-Freindly Fashion?
While both terms are often used interchangeably by many people in the fashion industry, they are not quite the same.
Eco-friendly fashion means that the products you use to create your fashion items are not harmful to the planet in any way. This includes everything ranging from the production process of the fabrics you use to the packaging.
Sustainable fashion, on the other hand, has a broader scope. It represents the wider scope of issues and activities which, according to the United Nations, do not compromise the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
The focus of sustainable fashion is on the future. It means the items you use in your fashion brand are generating environmental, social and economic benefits, while not using up too many resources or causing pollution.
Sustainable fashion is said to have 3 pillars; people, planet and profit. For fashion businesses, this means ensuring the wealth and health of employees and minimizing or reversing environmental impacts of the brand should be as important an making profit.
Many fashion brands prefer to use the word “sustainable” as opposed to “eco-friendly”. This is because no product can be produced without having a form of negative impact on the environment in terms of water usage, product waste and energy.
Sustainable fashion also involves using recycled clothes to make new ones.
Which materials are Sustainable and Eco-Friendly?
In clothes making, there are two types of textile fibres that can be used; natural and synthetic.
Natural fibres are those gotten from nature. They can either come from from plants e.g. cotton and linen or from animals e.g. silk and wool.
Synthetic fibers are made from artificial fibres.
Plant Based Fibres:
1. Cotton: This is the most commonly used material for clothing items. It can be grown organically without pesticides thereby curbing pollution but the cotton plant requires a lot of water to grow.
It is soft, comfortable, durable and breathable thereby making it a go to choice for many fashion brands.
2. Linen: Linen, also known as flax, is gotten from fibres that naturally grow as part of the flax plant. It is a plant that grows worldwide and has an easy and sustainable production process.
It is much more durable than cotton and is breathable, the fabric is also suitable for hot weather as it is a light fabric.
3. Hemp: It is a renewable resource which grows more quickly and easily than trees. It is considered one of the most sustainable textiles for fabrics and has been around for about 10,000 years. It grows easily, even in soil that isn’t very rich in nutrients.
It is much more stronger than cotton, durable, breathable and UV resistant. It grows fast and is easy to recycle.
4. Bamboo: Bamboo is a very fast growing plant as it can grow up to 4 feet per day. Bamboo is usually grown organically and requires no irrigation or fertilizers.
Outfits made from bamboo are softer than the softest cotton and have a natural sheen, like silk. They drape naturally like silk or satin but are more durable than both.
Animal Based Fibres:
1. Wool: Wool is majorly gotten from sheep. It is gotten when the sheep are sheared.
It is strong, breathable, water and fire resistant and good for any climate.
2. Silk: Silk is made from the cocoon of silkworms. It is an animal protein that is produced by insects like sillworms, bees, beetles, silverfish and may flies to build their cocoons and webs.
It is strong, versatile, comfortable, good for any climate and is completely biodegradable. Silk can also be recycled.
3. Cashmere: This material comes from goats living in Asia, originating in the indian region Kashmir. It is gotten from the wool that the goats shed after the winter season.
4. Angora: This wool is gotten from cutting off the hairs of angora rabbits. The fabric is incredibly soft and comfortable.
Why do Fashion Brands Need To Practice Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Fashion?
Sustainable and Eco-Friendly fashion is the future of the fashion industry. With the global pandemic that has hit the fashion industry hard, many fashion brands are pushing towards slow fashion, which is a part of what sustainable fashion is.
Sustainable fashion is not only good for us and the environment, it also takes into consideration generations yet unborn. If we do not want to completely pollute our environment and if we want to leave enough resources behind for the future generation, it is important everyone starts turning towards sustainability and eco-friendliness.
Which African Brands Practice Sustainable and Eco-Friendly Fashion?
In Nigeria, and all over Africa, sustainable fashion brands are springing up, here’s a list of some of them; Ahluwalia Studio, BukiAkomolafe, Lisa Folawiyo, Mayamiko, SoleRebels, Studio 189, Osei-Duro, Olooh Concepts, Reform Studio, Quazi Design, Artesan, Alëdjo and Suave Kenya.