If you’re someone who loves clothing and fashion, chances are you’ve thought about starting your own fashion company before. But if that’s something you’ve started more seriously looking at lately, you should take a look at sustainable fashion.
The fashion industry is a huge contributor to the environmental crisis. But with a little research and care, you could make sure your fashion company works to solve the problem, not contribute to it. Read on to discover how to start a sustainable fashion company.
Why Sustainable Fashion Matters
Before we dive into all the how-to of sustainable fashion, let’s take a look at why sustainable fashion matters. By now, unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you know how important it is that we take bold action towards stopping climate change. We have only eleven years left to prevent irreversible damage to our earth.
But what role does the fashion industry play in preventing climate change? The fashion industry emits more carbon each year than international flights do. And between throwing away clothes made with non-biodegradable resources and the pollutants that leech into water sources during manufacturing processes, the fashion industry is a huge contributor to pollution.
Decide on Your Sustainability Goals
The first thing you need to do when planning a sustainable fashion brand is to decide on your specific sustainability goals. There are dozens of different ways to build a sustainable brand, and you need to decide which of them you’re going to tackle first. You also need measurable goals so you can determine if you need to adjust your business plan to meet those goals.
Decide on your goals for sustainable manufacturing and materials, checking places like Eco & Earth for ideas. Do you want to make an impact with how your clothing is delivered? Or do you want to commit to using natural dyes that won’t harm the environment or keeping your manufacturing plant’s carbon footprint to a net-zero?
One of the issues you can look at with your fashion company is making sure laborers are paid fair wages. A lot of clothing is mass-produced in factories overseas where children work long hours in dangerous conditions for pennies a day. This results in t-shirts that cost us $3, but the human rights toll is astronomical.
If you want to make sure your brand pays fair wages, make sure your clothes are being manufactured locally or that the company you use pays fair wages. Look for manufacturing plants that advertise fair trade work. The fair trade movement works to make sure artisans and laborers are fairly paid for their work.
Safe Working Conditions
You may also want to take a look at the working conditions in your manufacturing plant. It may not seem like it, but textile manufacturing can be very dangerous work. Dyeing processes use toxic chemicals that must be handled with care, and there’s a lot of heavy machinery involved in creating fabric and preparing them for sewing.
Look for a manufacturing plant that focuses on safe working conditions for their employees. Ask about their child labor laws and their overtime policies. Also ask what steps they take to make sure their employees are safe and what their compensation policies are if an employee is injured.
Environmental Impact of Manufacturing
As we mentioned, clothing manufacturing can have a gigantic environmental impact. Not only do those large machines tend to put out a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the dyeing process can result in dangerous runoff. And materials like polyester and other synthetic fabrics can create a lot of dangerous emissions.
Focus on using natural fibers from sustainable sources – once again, making sure that the farmers or ranchers who are providing the materials are fairly compensated and have safe working conditions. Then try to work with a factory that aims to have a net-zero carbon footprint. Make sure they dyes they’re using are natural and that they have systems in place to keep these dyes from leaching into local water sources.
Environmental Impact of Disposal
About 26 billion pounds of clothing ends up in landfills every year in the United States alone. In the case of synthetic fabrics, that clothing may not break down for many years and can leech toxic substances into the surrounding soil. Even natural materials can have a difficult time breaking down in the airless environment of a landfill.
Using natural materials is a good first step to making sure your brand is sustainable after disposal. But look for ways to reduce the amount of your clothing that winds up in a landfill. Provide upcycling options or set up a program where customers can send their old clothing back to you for repair or recycling.
The packaging is another aspect to keep in mind when it comes to sustainable fashion. It is necessary to provide sturdy wrapping materials to protect a product, but single-use plastic materials are not the answer. Attractive packaging is great for business, but you can take it to the next level by using environmentally-friendly paper mailers made from recycled materials. You can have them customized according to your brand with a variety of size options to accommodate many kinds of products.
Setting up a Successful Brand Launch
Of course, all these ideas about sustainability will only work if you have a solid business that can keep them going. So you need to make sure you build a good sustainable brand, too. Start by defining a target customer, and base all your marketing efforts off of that profile.
Work with a branding expert to help you create a brand for your business. Create a beautiful and functional website and set up social media marketing to drive traffic back to that site. When you get ready to launch your brand, set up an event for the launch so you start spreading word of mouth about your new company, giving it the best chance at success.
Start Your Own Fashion Company
Starting your own fashion company is a major endeavor, and starting one that’s sustainable is even more of a challenge. But we need more sustainable companies if we’re going to survive the next century as a species. Look at every level of your manufacturing and distribution process and make sure you’re doing everything you can to support sustainable, ethical practices.
If you’d like to find more inspiration to change the game, check out the rest of our website. We have content covering everything from finances and social media to happiness and lifestyle. Check out the rest of our business articles for more ideas on how to make your company a success.