Fashion for the environmentally friendly products flashed with a new power. Many producers understood that their fashionable clothes should not only look beautiful, but should also be safe for environment, and for a human body. Naturally, it is much more difficult to make clothes from the natural materials, as such a process is complicated. Moreover, the natural materials cost ten times more than artificial ones and, therefore, the product will become more expensive, but safe. It is not only about the product’s safety, but also about the preservation of environment. The label “Eco” confirms the ecological purity of all the elements used during the process of manufacturing clothes.

Eco-Chic: The Fashion Paradox

In the 1960s, the brands started transferring their mass production to the Asian countries. It helped to make the price policies flexible and more available. It proceeded for some time, and the movement “for ecology” became ethical. Nowadays, a lot of modern brands follow this tendency and produce new collections from eco materials. The concept “eco-fashion” means the use of eco-friendly raw materials and technologies in clothing production. Owing to their efforts, the principle of Fair Trade, which means a fair attitude towards all participants of the production process, gains popularity in America and Europe (Scaturro 2008). The given essay discusses the eco-fashion, the relationship between fashion and environmental awareness of the consumers, pushing the fashion industry to accommodate the environment concerns of the 21th century.

Sustainable Fashion and Relationship between Fashion and Environmental Awareness

If earlier only politicians took care of fair trade and ecological goods, nowadays, manufacturers and buyers of clothes try to apply eco-friendly methods of production and demonstrate social responsibility. The tendency towards eco-friendly products or sustainable fashion extended on the world of fashion, as well. Today, more and more fashion designers create the “correct” and “eco-friendly” clothes. The motives, promoting such a shift, are not entirely altruistic. Consumers demand the goods they buy to be made in a way that does not cause damage to the environment or to workers producing these goods. Often, they are ready to pay more for the “ecological” products or goods relating to the category of “fair trade” (Adolphson 2004).

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The Ethical Fashion Forum is a community of those, who are not indifferent to the future of ethical fashion. Eco-brands, designers, suppliers, consultants, producers and non-profit organizations united for the solution of the common problems of ecological responsibility. The Ethical Fashion Forum includes the designers-innovators and multibrand shops, the production of which can be bought via the Internet or during trips to Europe. All of them observe the principles of the sustainable production to a greater or lesser extent (Ethical Fashion Forum 2014).

The joint efforts of the representatives of the industry and the authorities led to the growth of the coalitions in the United States and Great Britain. These coalitions pursue the aim to estimate the influence of the fashion industry on the planet and to carry out search for the socially responsible methods in its reduction with a simultaneous growth of the profitability of fashion companies. The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, located in the USA, unites the brands of the fashion industry, non-profit organizations and environment protection agencies. Such brands as H&M and Wal-Mart are among the founders of the coalition. The activities of the organization are aimed at the creation of an index for the measurement and assessment of compliance to the requirements of socially and ecologically responsible production in a segment of the fashionable clothes and footwear. The part of this index includes a search for the technological innovations, which will allow the industry to become socially responsible in the environmental direction (Sustainable Apparel Coalition 2014).

The Concept of Eco-Fashion

Eco-fashion is also called “ethical”, as it is produced with the consent of nature – with the ethical attitude to people and environment. Eco clothes are produced without the use of skin or fabrics of an animal origin. For example, footwear and bags from vegetable skin might be made of the rubber of Amazon, instead of a skin of animals or processed or artificial materials.
Ethical fashion is fashion that has been produced with respect for people and the environment. Although there are existing certifications for Organic and Fair Trade, we want to encourage companies who are taking significant action but don’t qualify for certification (Palmer et al. 2012).

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Eco-fashion includes the following directions:

  • Hand-made. The products made by hands, for example, an embroidery, keeping primordial traditions;
  • Clothes, made-to-order is a qualitative product, which can be used for a long time, unlike mass fashion, which is often disposable;
  • Products made in accordance with the International Labour Standards, at observance of the rights of workers, without attraction of a child labour and reasonable prices;
  • Organic – natural fibers grown up without pesticides and other toxic materials, preserving human health and environment;
  • Recycled – everything made of already existing or recycled materials, fabric, metal or fiber. Old products can be altered, remade for the new ones;
  • Vintage/Second-Hand. Vintage is the general term for the clothes created during the period from 1920 to 1975, which can be actual at present. Nevertheless, this term is often used for second-hand clothes;
  • Chemicals-free. The chemical dyes and bleaches should not be used in the production process of ecological clothes (Earley 2007).

Eco-fashion is not simply clothes from ecological fabrics. It is the whole concept, ideology, and a way of life.

There are the following signs by which the clothes are considered to be eco-friendly:

  • A great attention is paid to human health and a state of environment during production. The care for the improvement of life and working conditions of people, respect for work and worthy payments;
  • A respect for cultural diversity and traditions of different people. Eco-fashion promotes preservation and restoration of traditional techniques, such as embroidery, weaving, knitting, etc.;
  • Certification of fabrics by the special organizations;
  • The clothes made by the 3R concept: reuse, reduce, recycle;
  • Ethical clothes: refusal of the use of fabrics of an animal origin (genuine leather and fur) (Hopkins 2009).

Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is updating of the brand’s assortment several times during a season. It becomes possible due to the copying of the ideas of the world leading designers. It is most often applied in a mass market. Such brands as Zara, H&M and TopShop are the main representatives of fast fashion. Fast fashion means an instant adaptation to new trends – copying of the successful models of higher segments a fashion market and their delivery to the market of mass production (Tokatli 2008). In the fast fashion segment, the stocks of fashionable clothes are treated as food which have an expiration date and can be quickly spoiled. Producers quickly update the assortment and offer clothes at the height of fashion at low prices, changing the assortment more often than the main classical seasonal collections are issued. The expenditures from the fast change of the assortment are compensated by sales volumes. Sales are reached by about 10% of goods, in comparison with 80% at more expensive design brands (Joy et al. 2012).

The fast-fashion strategy of copying was used by the Spanish brand Zara. At present, the brand does not spend money for advertising, but regularly spends money for the trials with owners of companies whom the models were borrowed from. In the first Zara store, the cheap doubles of the clothes of the known Fashion Houses were presented. At that time, the founder of the company Amancio Ortega considered that slow update of the assortment is the main problem of the development of business. More than ten years later, the revolutionary model of clothes production and distribution was found out (Niinimaki 2010).

Owning to the new computerized scheme, the company could reduce time from the design of fashionable clothes up to its coming in the market to 10-15 days, in comparison with the standard half-year. Instead of giving the whole work to one designer, Zara formed the internal team of designers, the quantity of which made more than 200 people by the end of the 20th century. Contrary to the standard norms of the fashionable industry, the brand controls all the stages of the technological process of goods production – design, production and distribution (Barnes & Lea-Greenwood 2006).

Fast fashion seriously changes the attitude of people to shopping. If earlier people went to clothing stores once a month or two, now they are compelled to come weekly, knowing that there can be novelties, which will not lay on shelves for a long time. It helps clothing companies to support high sales and avoid the need to arrange sales, which consequently reduce profit. The scheme of companies’ existence is the same: a retail network, selling only one brand, debugged logistics, cheap production and fast update of collections. Collections in shops are updated each two weeks, not considerably, not completely, but customers always have the feeling of the novelty of models in a store. It warms a consumer demand up. Such networks are much faster than the luxury ones: the thing from the sketch to a hanger goes only two months, whereas in luxury brands this way can last for a year. Own outsourcing production and shops allow these networks to enter the flexible system of discounts and have their own warehouses (Joy et al. 2012).

Marks & Spencer and H&M Sustainable Programs

The first steps in the sphere of responsibility of textile production were taken by the companies making clothes from hemp. Such brands as Hemp, Hempy’s caused an interest only among specific audience, remaining in the shadow for mass market. However, the increasing number of brands departs from the stereotypes and proves that fashion business can be both stylish and socially responsible.

In January, 2007, the largest British retailer Marks & Spencer declared the start of the Plan A Program, assuming the struggle for the ecological reputation by 100 points of charge of violation of the ecological balance in the world. Since 2010, M&S established 62 factories, including points on the reduction of emissions of carbon dioxide (due to the increase of energy efficiency of shops) and cooperation with eco-friendly factories worldwide. One of them, located in the territory of Sri Lanka, manufactures the ethic collection of the organic silk, cotton and jersey created in collaboration with Eco-Boudoir in 2009. This collection broke the popularity records in Britain. Similar factories with the equipment, twice lowering a water consumption and energy by 40%, were opened in Bangladesh and Wales by M&S (Hamed 2013). According to Green Retail Decisions (2014), Marks & Spencer put the following goals in the sphere of sustainable fashion:

“By 2020, the retailer has also vowed to:

  • Procure 50% of cotton from sustainable sources;
  • Ensure 75% of all M&S food comes from eco and ethical benchmarked factories;
  • Derive 50% of the energy used in the U.K. and Ireland stores from small-scale renewable sources;
  • Reduce the U.K. and Ireland store refrigeration gas emissions by 80%;
  • Target a 35% reduction in water usage in M&S stores and offices” (Green Retail Decisions 2014).

The Swedish brand H&M was among the first brands in the segment of a mass market which started using organic cotton. After the entrance into the Organic Exchange, the charitable organization supporting the use of eco-friendly textiles, started promoting the organic chemistry not only for children but also for adults. Since 2004, the H&M Company included 5% of integrally grown up cotton into some elements of a kids wear, generally from Turkey and India (Environmental Leader 2013).

In 2005, H&M became the member of Fair Trade Association, and in 2006, the company was recognized as one of six largest world companies, giving preference to the “green” dyes and materials. There is no natural fur in the H&M collections. During 2005 and 2006, there were about 40 tons of organic cotton annually, and in 2007, H&M created the new collection made of 100% organic cotton, and its use made 600 tons. In 2008-2009, this figure grew even more, promising to make 50% of all used materials. Besides, the company composed recycled cotton and wool, and the even processed plastic PET bottles (Forbes 2013).

The plan of the future sustainable fashion on H&M states:

“Conscious is our plan for creating a better fashion future.

It’s built on seven commitments and hundreds of Conscious Actions:
  • We have collected 3,047 tones of garments. That’s the equivalent of about 15 million t-shirts;
  • We have used the equivalent of 9.5 million plastic bottles of recycled polyester;
  • All our regular shopping bags are made from recycled plastic” (H&M 2013).

Fair Trade Fashion – People Tree

In materials processing, only natural dyes, for example, powders of natural minerals, flower pollen, juice of berries and other natural raw materials are used. Chemical dyes and bleaches are completely excluded. An important role is played by an ethical aspect of a question of production: the principle of Fair Trade. It is a fair attitude towards each participant of the production process. The whole production should correspond to the international standards of work, which assume the observance of workers’ rights, a ban for the employment of minors and child labour (Niinimaki 2010).

The People Tree Company is one of the pioneers of eco-friendly fashion. Since 2007, such supermodels as Helena Christensen, Lily Cole, Shalom Harlow and Anne Watanabe appeared in the People Tree clothes in Japanese Vogue. Unlike the majority of Eco brands, People Tree, founded in 2001, quickly got popularity – owning to the identity of its founder, Safia Minney, who was the founder of the Fair Trade movement. People Tree does not use artificial dyes and synthetics, preferring the recycled materials. The things of brand are made only in the countries of Southeast Asia. Earlier, People Tree distinguished only ethics, but after the cooperation with Thakoon, Topshop and the actress Emma Watson, whom Safia sent to Bangladesh, it started to produce its own product (Beard 2008).

Designers and Materials

Genuine leather and fabrics of animal origin (all types of skin, ivory, fur, baleen, a horsehair, etc.) are not used in the production of eco clothes and footwear. For example, at production of footwear natural materials surpass artificial, such as vegetable skin, obtained from plant juice of a hevea (from Amazon). Eco-clothes should correspond to the concept “biodegradable”, which means that clothes should decay in order not to pollute the planet. Also, clothes and accessories from the recycled materials are urged to reduce the level of pollution on the planet (it can be processing and synthetics). The prefix “eco” assumes that a producer establishes fair goods prices, which correspond to real production expenses and are not directed at the reception of excess profit (Eco Fashion World 2014).

Designers: Sarah Ratty, Katherine Hamnett

The Ciel brand drew attention to itself in 2007, when Sara Ratty, famous for the work with the Conscious Earthwear Brand which received attention of the Victoria and Albert Museum, received the Ethical Fashion Awards. Sienna Miller, Eve Hertsigova and Cate Blanchet were the followers of the brand as the jackets, dresses and womanly, almost air jersey with the French dusting (“ciel” from French means “sky”) appeared on the pages of the Italian and British editions of Vogue. Since 2011, Ciel got the line of organic cosmetics and underwear. In order not to spend precious eco fabrics in vain, Sara Ratty organized the waste-free production (assuming total upcycling of the jersey remains), and not only out of organic cotton, but also out of alpaca wool, silk and flax. The various Ciel’s prints on t-shirts and dresses are in an active demand – they are put with the dyes, not containing nitrogen, that is harmful to skin (Bonini & Oppenheim 2008).

The design for Katherine Hamnett was always the mean of the political statement: it is enough to remember a t-shirt with an inscription “58% do not want pershing”, which she put on for the meeting with Margaret Thatcher, protesting against the placement of rockets in the territory of England. However, Katherine launched the campaign for the education of the industry, but, having realized a vanity of own efforts, simply broke the contracts with all suppliers.

In 2004, Hamnett starts a new brand with ethic motives. Since then, Katherine uses only organic cotton, produces it in accordance with the principles of fair trade and with suppliers, worthy of her trust. The main thing is that she started controlling her production completely and cooperates only with her adherents. Thus, in 2013, the designer created the line of jewellery from the “ethically extracted gold and diamonds” for the Cred brand – the first European fair-trade retailer of jewellery, and also presented a capsular collection of the beachwear for Yooxygen – the Yoox.com joint project and the International Green Cross.

Eco Materials

Eco clothes are produced on the basis of exclusively natural fabrics, which include silk, flax, cotton, hemp, wool, etc. At the same time, it is impossible to consider clothes made on the basis of raw materials, grown up in the adverse conditions with the use of chemicals to be the environmentally friendly. Thus, cotton does not belong to the environmentally friendly raw materials if it is grown on the plantations processed by dangerous pesticides. In the modern world, a special attention is paid to this fact; therefore, producers of eco clothes buy cotton, flax, fur only from the checked and reliable enterprises. It should be noted that goods belonging to eco clothes should correspond to the environmentally friendly production by composition. The manufacturing companies bear responsibility for any attempts of the fake of natural fabrics and are obligatory exposed to the penalties in especially large sizes.

The quality of organic clothes is usually better than the quality of clothes of mass production. Organically grown cotton, hemp and flax are used in textile production in increasing frequency. The plants for fabrics are grown up without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, and, therefore, reduce the risk of pollution of ground waters. Such fabrics will also decay naturally after they are thrown out. In order to increase durability and service life of organic fabrics, their fibers are often mixed with other fabrics.

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At present, organic fabrics are quickly spread in two main directions. First of all, it is greenwashing. Many companies declare themselves as eco brands, but in practice they only improve some production links. The fabrics from ecological cotton are softer and are comfortable to wear. In order to receive the label “organic”, the product should consist of at least 95% out of the certified organic materials. In order to correspond to the standard, producers should refuse solvents, toxic heavy metals, genetically modified seeds or such chemicals as formaldehyde. All sewage should be cleared, production wastes should be processed, and the used bleaches should have an oxygen basis. Eco fabrics possess very attractive useful properties, hypoallergenicity is one of them.
Organic cotton is the most universal and popular fabrics among designers. Owning to a careful collecting and processing organic cotton differs by a higher quality and easy structure, and is very pleasant to the touch. The clothes made out of cotton make people comfortable: in summer – it is cool, in winter – warm. However, according to Greenpeace, 20% of pesticides and 22% of the insecticides made around the world are used for cotton processing. Thus, a solid share of chemical components is put to each cotton item (Brunger 2012).

Bamboo fabric is favourably distinguished by the environmental friendliness, softness, durability and ease. Also, it is capable to support an optimum heat exchange and to protect from the ultra-violet radiation and bacteria. Moreover, the cultivation of a bamboo improves the quality of the soil and can even restore it after the erosion. Besides, the bamboo has some very useful qualities: it easily keeps heat in frosts, but, at the same time, provides a good ventilation, helping a body to remain cooled in a hot weather. Linen fabric possesses antibacterial properties, helps to improve a blood circulation in an organism and to raise vitality. Owning to fine hygroscopic properties, linen is especially popular in summer collections. A natural silk is very light and pleasant to the touch, capable to dry and warm a skin (ideal for people with the increased perspiration), and also is useful for people with blood circulation problems. Wool possesses excellent heat-shielding properties, keeps heat well, and cashmere fabric is very light and pleasant to the touch. The fabric from a nettle differs in a good wear resistance, antistatic, antiseptic and temperature-controlled properties. Visually, such fabric is similar to linen, however, it differs by the gloss.

Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a compound polyester, used for production of the diverse packing for products and drinks, cosmetics and pharmaceutical means. The PET materials are irreplaceable at the production of audio, video and x-ray films, car tires, bottles for drinks, films with high barrier properties and fibers for fabrics. The main area of the use of PET in the world is the production of polyester fibers and threads. A broad application of PET started in the 1960s from the production of textiles. Since then, the demand steadily grows, first of all, in the developed countries. There is an extremely rapid growing demand in the PET market in the majority of regions. Polyester fabrics are produced from the polyester threads.
An increase in demand for PEF was caused, first of all, by a lower prime cost in comparison with the other types of chemical fibers and threads. PET does not concede to polyamide by durability and lengthening, and even surpasses it; it also surpasses the most form-resistant natural fiber – wool, has a low hygroscopicity and a high thermal stability, which is an advantage in the production of technical fabrics. Polyester textile fibers are used for the production of yarn polyester and are widely applied in the production cotton, linen and woollen fabrics. Polyester textile threads are used in the production of a wide range of various types of materials: lining, costume fabrics, etc. (Brunger 2012).

Eco Labelling

Eco labelling is a sign, found on the packing of the goods, which passed examination and proved an ecological safety and a high quality. Eco labelling was created, on the one hand, to give a reliable criterion of a choice of qualitative production to the consumer, and, on the other hand, to help producers of ecologically safe production with the advance of their goods and increase of competitiveness in the market. Eco labelling and marking is one of the instruments of the ecological management, which is an object of the consideration of a complex of the ISO 14000 standards (namely ISO 14020 – 14024) (Eco Fashion World 2014).

The eco labelling existing in the world can be divided into the following groups:

  • Information on environmental friendliness of production in general considering the whole life cycle of its production;
  • Information on the environmental friendliness of separate properties of production. It also includes the signs reflecting the absence of the substances, leading to the reduction of an ozone layer around the Earth; the signs on consumer goods reflecting the possibility of their utilization with the smallest harm for environment, etc.;

Eco fashion and eco clothes compose a new area, which has started its active development in the world recently and represents a huge interest for the future. It assumes a new mentality, respect for the nature and a person, and a reasonable use of natural resources. Today, the subject of eco fashion becomes more and more popular and more and more designers produce eco fashion collections. The percent of consumers of eco-fashion grows slowly but steadily. The American and European fashion industry is full with the eco events – shows of eco-friendly clothes within the fashion weeks or separate thematic shows. Eco clothes are not only fashionable and stylish clothes, but also very ethic.

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