Monday, May 18, 2009

A Loss or Gain?: Going Green in the Fashion Industry Part Deux

The going green movement continues with handbag designer, Anya Hindmarch who has created environmentally-friendly handbags. Clothing designer Rogan Gregory is known for using free trade cotton and organic dyes in his clothing for his work with Loomstate, which uses 100% organic cotton and Edun, which exists to develop free trade and sustainability in Africa. The going green movement not only benefits the physical vegetation and water resources of the earth but also the people living in it. Companies such as, Fair Indigo and Swati Argade are also taking part in apparel manufacturing in various countries in Africa as well as India and Peru. Taking part in fair trade assists the development of valuable working skills for individuals that may not have the opportunity to work otherwise and benefits the economy of these developing nations. However, there is a downfall to fair trade, including government and law restrictions and regulations with each individual country and the long distance shipping of the products produced in those countries. The longer the distance a product has to travel, the higher the amount of carbon emissions it produces. This also applies to the popular trend of eco-boutiques, which reduce the energy and money used when building or renovating a brick and mortar store. They are also easy to startup and convenient for business owners that may want to work at home, for example Los Angeles based eco-boutique, Avita sells clothing, accessories and shoes that are sustainable to the environment.This concept provides a quick and easy way for consumers to gain access to environmentally-friendly products however the shipping of the product poses an environmental threat when the products are travelling via airplanes and trucks which emit large amounts of air pollution. Fair trade and eco-boutiques have significant benefits to the environment and their have been actions taken to reduce the amount of carbon emissions for fair trade such as, manufacturing the products from start to finish in the given country.

Manufacturing environmentally friendly products can become a very time-consuming process because companies will have to investigate different ways to produce the same products. Many companies that do not have the resources or knowledge in manufacturing environmentally-friendly products will often need to form partner ships with other companies. For example, the company that produces Wrangler Jeans has partnered up with Avondale Mills to produce the eco-friendly Earth Wash collection. In order to achieve the right look and finish for the jeans, the company went through an extensive trial and error period in which dyes did not come out the correct colour due to dyes stuffs reacting differently than they would to the materials that are normally used. The time consuming and expensive process led to the Earth Wash collection which makes up for 85% of Wrangler Jeans, Rugged Line and at retail costs $29-$35. Although producing the Earth Wash jeans collections took more time than it would to produce the average pair of denim jeans, Wrangler and other companies know that in the long run it will pay off to go green. With 25% of consumers that purposely purchase products sensitive to the environment and 3% of that group willing to purchase environmentally safe products if they are equally fashionable and affordable, going green is an excellent marketing ploy for it not only benefits the desires of the consumers but it is also is a huge long term benefit to the environment.

Paying the price to go green includes the financial cost of researching, partnerships and trial and error for the company as well as the cost of time and in the apparel industry, time is money. However, taking the extra time to include environmentally safe products and processes in manufacturing a garment makes a bigger influence in the future. It makes the difference between a wealthy world today and an environmentally healthy world tomorrow. Although many companies use environmentally-friendly labels in order to be perceived as being environmentally friendly, for example fast fashion retailer, Forever 21 and the natural fibre, bamboo in their apparel products, which although requires little water and no pesticides to grow, it requires harsh chemicals and large amounts of energy to turn the stiff fibre into yarns that can be easily woven, there are still countless clothing and textile companies that have a genuine focus on producing environmentally friendly products and benefitting the environment. For example, the American Textile Manufacturers Institute which has established an “Environment Excellence” program that will set up environment goals and targets for textile mills. The apparel industry has a social responsibility to market products that are safe for consumers and the environment that we all live in. The green movement should set a new standard for how the apparel industry operates because paying the price today will pay off tomorrow.

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