But where did it all start?
The origins of the sustainable fashion movement are interlaced with those of the modern environmental movement before the 1980s. Exposing the serious and global pollution associated with the use of agricultural chemicals and the effects of industrial activity on our planet.
In the late 1980s some report had been published, showing the environmental concerns of some international brands like Patagonia and ESPRIT. The owners of those companies at that time, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, were outdoorsmen and witnessed the environment being harmed by over production and over consumption of material goods. They commissioned research into the impacts of fibers used in their companies. For Patagonia, this resulted in a life cycle assessment for four fibers, cotton, wool, nylon and polyester. For ESPRIT the focus was on cotton.
The principles of ‘green’ or ‘eco’ fashion, as put forward by these two companies, was based on the philosophy of the deep ecologists Arne Næss, Fritjof Capra…
This movement is also related on feminist understanding of human-nature relationships, interconnectedness and “ethics of care”.
They co-funded the first organic cotton conference held in 1991 in Visalia, California. And in 1992, the ESPRIT ecollection, developed by head designer Lynda Grose, was launched at retail and it was based on the Eco Audit Guide, published by the Elmwood Institute.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, the movement in sustainable fashion broadened to include many brands, like People Tree Ltd. the fair trade apparel company founded in 1991 by Safia Minney in Tokyo, Japan.
In 2019, a group of researchers formed the Union for Concerned Researchers* in Fashion to advocate for radical and co-ordinated research activity commensurate with the challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change.
The UCRF (The Union of Concerned Researchers) has recently won the North Star Award at the Green Carpet Fashion Awards, which is an organization focused on the promotion of sustainability in fashion. With much work ahead of them, UCRF believes that responses from the fashion industry regarding today’s climate crisis has been oversimplified or obstructed by the current practice of capitalist business models.
Their hope is that this award will bring light to the issues that continually plague the fashion industry.
The fashion industry has a clear opportunity to act differently, pursuing profit and growth while also creating new value and deeper wealth for society and therefore for the world economy.
- Increasing the value of local production and products;
- prolonging the lifecycle of materials;
- Increasing the value of timeless garments;
- Reducing the amount of waste and to reducing the harm to the environment;
- Educate people to practice environmentally friendly consumption by promoting the “green consumer”.
*The Union of Concerned Researchers in Fashion was formed in 2018 by (in alphabetical order) Kate Fletcher, Lynda Grose, Timo Rissanen and Mathilda Tham. … The group are researchers focusing on fashion and sustainability, whose primary aim is to engage with other researchers as well as business.