Fashion Revolution week has begun ( April 18-24th). In a nutshell, it's a campaign that's asking consumers, designers, manufacturers, and brands, "Who Made My Clothes?" Starting a dialogue with people can lead to us making informed choices that affect our lives and the lives of others. In addition to a focus on ethical production, the campaign is also asking about the supply chain. The sustainability of textiles? The manufacturing process? Is it harmful to the environment? There are so many components to creating a garment that it can be overwhelming to sift through all the information. I get overwhelmed at times and still consider myself a student when it comes to sustainability.
I decided that this week, I really wanted to think about water. You know that thing that keeps us alive! Living in Southern California, we hear a lot about water conservation and how we can do things as individuals to conserve water. But what about manufacturing? Specifically, what about apparel manufacturing?
Textile manufacturing uses more water than any other industry, except agriculture. It's also a high contributor to polluting the water supply. Dyeing fabric requires a lot of water and there are a lot of chemicals that can contaminate the water supply if its not taken care of properly. Places like India, China, and Bangladesh are at higher risk due to scarcity of water and poor environmental standards. Here is an article that discusses these issues in depth.
Cultivating plants for textile manufacturing is another facet of the water issue. Cotton requires more water to grow than hemp. By default, hemp also does not need pesticides to grow. Organic cotton, grown without pesticides is another option to combat water pollution. Modals and Lyocell/ Tencel are other alternatives to cotton, they use 10-20 times less water that cotton. These fabrics are created from synthesized cellulose fibers. There are degrees of sustainability when it comes to these textiles. Rayon being the least eco friendly and modals and tencel being a better alternative. Here's an excellent article that breaks it down.
As a business owner and also a proponent of sustainable design, I always want to set goals for Echo and Air. There are things I am proud of like making things locally and ethically. It is empowering to know that we are paying our sewers and cutters on time and they have the freedom to dictate their price.
Another thing, I am really proud of is our printing process. We use recycled polyester for most of our printed garments. Using far less water and energy, digital printing is more efficient and ecological than screen printing or rotary printing. The margin of error is also much smaller in terms of textile waste or damages.
The Mysterium Dress in our new digital print
There is always room to grow and improve the sustainability of our business. Ultimately, I want to solve a problem and make a positive impact. Each collection, we introduce more sustainable textiles, whether they are locally knitted, or made from eco-friendly fibers, or both. I always want to do better and be more conscious. It is an ongoing goal for each collection.
Dyeing, luckily sticking to a neutral palette, we don't have to dye fabric too often. However, a goal I want to set is using low impact dye options and seeing what is available to us. I feel it's an area we can improve.
I know this is long, so if you have read the whole thing, you're awesome! We are always open to questions, suggestions, or even something that you are doing in regards to sustainability. Email us: email@example.com
Here are a few more websites that we have been exploring this week:
Envru (cotton textile recycling technology company based in Seattle)
More information on the Global Water Problem in regards to textiles
Film about the Impacts of Fast Fashion, True Cost
Podcast on Women in Sustainable Design- Spirit of 608
Beautiful Crane in Malibu, California (he needs water, too!)