Enough with All the Sustainable Brands Already

A seemingly countless number of virtue-touting, “sustainable” clothing startups have emerged over the last decade, which, on its face, seems like a good thing. But a recent piece from Fashionista argues that a true, good-faith sustainability effort in 2019 shouldn’t be adding yet more clothes to an already oversaturated market.

“It’s not that starting a new label is always wrong,” author Whitney Buck writes, “it’s just that it may not be the best use of one’s creative potential, money or time if addressing the climate crisis is a serious priority.”

She goes on to say that no matter how many “small-label collections” get started, none of them will “solve the environmental problem of most clothes going to the trash.”

“If we were honest with ourselves,” she writes, “we’d admit starting a new brand of linen pants is almost certainly not the most efficient, effective way to address that.”

And she’s not alone in feeling that way. A surprising number of individuals who found commercial success in the sustainable fashion space have since abandoned the idea of changing the world through commerce, and now do some form tangential advocacy or non-profit work.

(PS, when Buck interviewed those sustainable fashion ex-pats, she asked all of them “what the sustainable fashion movement most needs to make progress,” and, predictably, “not a single one answered ‘more brands.’”)

While there is a case to be made for the further proliferation of sustainable clothing startups — they’re more eco-conscious than the average brand, I suppose — it usually doesn’t have much to do with saving the planet, like most of the mission statements would want you to believe.

In reality, the story posits, the impetus for most of these companies is an intoxicating combination of a current “reverence for entrepreneurs” and the idea that “business has increasingly framed itself as the ideal avenue for ‘doing good.’”

But as one expert noted, “even if one is most concerned with the potential social impacts of environmental devastation, it’s worth remembering that sometimes humanitarianism and entrepreneurship are actually distinct things.”

You can read more about it at Fashionista.

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  • John

    amen. I would also add that most brands use sustainability or being eco friendly, purely as a marketing tool and nothing more.