Greta Thunberg has become one of the most recognisable climate activists in the world, calling on world leaders to help us build a more sustainable future. She was recently interviewed by Vogue Scandinavia where she shared a powerful message on how companies that are trying to portray themselves as ‘Sustainable’, ‘Ethical’, “Green”, “Carbon Neutral” is almost never anything more than "Greenwashing".
While we agree with this in part, we wanted to spend some time unpacking what sustainable fashion truly means and how we make that shift towards it, as a follow up to our previous article on shifting the dial from Fast Fashion to Sustainable Fashion..
To attain sustainable fashion, one truly has 3 broad levers to get there:
> Manufacturing Process - what goes into making your garments?
> Shipping - how your garments get to you?
> People - what working conditions are the people behind your garments given?
The global fashion industry is responsible for 10% of carbon emissions and consumes 93 Billion cubic meters of water per year - enough to sustain the needs of 5 million people (Worldbank, 2019). While we understand it’s hard to switch something this large overnight, it’s encouraging to see established brands opting for more sustainable fabrics such as recycled nylon and 100% certified organic cotton that consume far less resources to be made.
As a young brand, we’re extremely well positioned to start with sustainability at the core of everything we do. We partnered with Aquafil last year, to use their Econyl yarn that goes into creating our garments. Econyl regenerated nylon is made from abandoned fishing nets, fabric scraps and other ocean waste. While it has the same properties as virgin nylon and can be recycled infinitely, it reduces the global warming impact by 90% compared to the nylon created from oil.
While the demand and supply equation is heavily tipped in the favour of fast fashion today, the more awareness and transparency we create, the more people understand how their consumption patterns impact our environment. As people demand more from their favourite brands, the brand will have no choice but to shift the dial to more sustainably manufactured garments.
When understanding the implications of each of our garment purchases, there’s a good chance the garment has traveled the world at some point, in some form. The image below walks us through the typical lifecycle of a garment from start to finish/being recycled.
Ships transport about 90% of global trade today and account for 3% of our CO2 emissions (Vox, 2015). They emit 10 grams of CO2 for every metric ton of cargo transported over 1 kilometer, which is one fiftieth of what an aeroplane would emit to accomplish the same (Vox, 2015).
Now does that mean your garments purchased from a fast fashion store down the street would have a lower carbon footprint than a garment created by a sustainable brand from across the world that you just express shipped, given the carbon emissions it takes to reach you? No, on the contrary, while fast fashion brands try to bring you the latest styles right when you want them and take them off when you no longer need them, it comes at a cost of quicker production cycles. Which results in a lot of wastage and cost cutting initiatives needed to source the cheapest labour from around the world for each stage of its manufacturing process, increasing the impact on the environment and people that make them (Goodonyou, 2021).
As a young brand, there isn’t much we can control with our upstream shipping today, but we choose to align with the partners and suppliers that share a similar ethos on sustainability. However, what we can control is our downstream shipping to our customers. We’ve partnered with DHL express and their GoGreen initiative for all our international customer shipments, which ensures these shipments are carbon neutral. DHL calculates the CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions during the handling and transport of all of our shipments from our doorstep to our customers doorstep and offsets these emissions by purchasing carbon credits from recognised climate protection projects aimed at reducing CO2 in our atmosphere, such as hydro and wind power generation projects.
While the way garments are manufactured and shipped are a key aspect of sustainable fashion, the people that make them and the conditions under which they’re made are equally important. The fashion revolution movement began in memory of the 2013 Rana plaza tragedy in Dhaka, Bangladesh where 1,134 people were killed due to hazardous working conditions, where the building they were working in collapsed despite clear warnings (Fashionrevolution). While one could argue the fashion brands that manufactured their garments in the facility couldn’t be held responsible for the actions of the building owner, fast fashion brands continue to choose unregulated manufacturing setups, opting for affordability over safe working conditions for the people that create their garments (Goodonyou, 2021).
Ensuring the people who created our garments were safe and given a good working environment was extremely important for our mission with GYPSY 108. After months of searching we finally found the perfect setup in Bali, Indonesia. They paid their employees well over the minimum wages, offered full medical cover for them and their families, pension insurance, fresh cooked meals everyday and working standards on par with western countries.
What Can We Do About This?
While this might not make for an easy read and we don’t claim to be perfect by any means, unless we start creating more transparency around what happens behind the scenes, we will never make progress in shifting towards sustainable fashion. We’ve got a long journey ahead towards making a true impact with sustainable fashion, we continue to learn everyday and share our journey with our beautiful community, that has helped us reach where we are today.
We’d love to encourage you to test these 3 key levers with your favourite brands on your next purchase. With the most important focus being to measure progress, as opposed to perfection and the steps they’re taking to get there. The only way we will truly make an impact is by coming together and holding each other accountable as individuals and brands, to build a more sustainable future for all of us.