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Sustainable fashion - recognize and buy fair trade clothing

Sustainable Fashion & Fair Trade Clothing

Sustainable fashionFair trade clothing and eco-fashion are conquering the fashion market bit by bit. But what is behind the sustainable clothing? In this article I will answer this question and explain to you, among other things, fabrics, advantages and disadvantages and certificates of fair trade fashion, as well as show you where and from which brands you can buy sustainable fashion and why the exchange of clothes is also worthwhile. Let's go!

Here is another short Table of contents for the article:

  1. Definition
  2. Material & Fabrics
  3. Reasons for the switch
  4. Advantages & Disadvantages
  5. Different designations
  6. Seal & Certificates
  7. Buy sustainable fashion
  8. Swap instead of buy
  9. Give away & Sell
  10. Future

What is sustainable fashion?

If you want to buy sustainable fashion, you make sure that it is produced in a fair, socially acceptable and sustainable way, so that neither the environment nor people are harmed. The motto is, in short, "organic and fair, instead of plastic and child labor". The sustainable fashion can be seen, such as the Life without plasticI would like to assign the ecological fashion to the new natural-conscious society that is developing more and more. Ecological fashion is divided into several sustainability criteria, which I would like to explain to you in a few sentences:

1. fashion from organic raw materials

In clothing made from organic material you are guaranteed not to find plastic fibers, because Organic cotton, natural linen or basically organic natural fibers, are of course free of harmful substances. More and more manufacturers rely on the organic and sustainably grown material for garments. As you will see again in a moment in the advantages of sustainable fashion, this natural form of clothing is also more durable than fashion made of plastic.

2. resource-saving production of the clothing

Just as the longevity of organic fashion conserves natural resources, the entire production of clothing should also be as resource-conserving as possible. Outdated methods of processing fashion usually have a very high energy and water consumption, while new techniques allow a very resource-efficient production. For the CareElite wooden toothbrushes I use, for example, natural bamboo wood. Bamboo is, like cork, hemp or linen, a very sustainable material and is also suitable for the production of ecological clothing. The material is sustainable because it grows back very quickly. Bamboo wood, for example, grows up to one meter a day.

3. recycled or upcycled fashion

Recycled or upcycled fashion is sustainable because it reuses old material that has already been used. For example, Adidas has recycled the running shoe "Adidas x Parley" from plastic waste from the sea. So the shoe not only looks cool, but also recycles the Plastic waste from the environment. On the subject Fashion from plastic waste I have written another separate article. In addition to clothing made from recycled materials, upcycling clothing is also attracting a lot of attention. Whether bags from truck tarpaulins, caps from Jute bags or pencil cases made from comic book pages. Moreover, upcycled products and upcycled fashion are usually unique, which makes this form of sustainable fashion particularly interesting.

4. locally produced clothing

If a fashion brand has its clothes produced in Bangladesh, for example, then you can assume that they were sewn together for a pittance and that the fashion has long transport routes behind it. That is anything but sustainable fashion. That's why it's nice when production, including the entire supply chain, takes place entirely in one place, for example in Germany. Here, the production is based on a hard labor law and the transport routes in the supply chain are short.

5. fair & social fashion

There are two sustainable fashion labels that certify compliance with ecological standards and underlying working conditions. The GOTS certification (Global Organic Textile Standard) is a worldwide standard for textiles or garments made from organically produced natural fibers. GOTS-certified clothing confirms that minimum social and environmental standards have been met throughout the supply and production chain. In addition, for sustainable clothing there is a Fairtrade sealthat refers especially to the social aspect of production. With fair trade clothing, for example, you can exclude the possibility that child labor was used in the production of the clothing or that the production workers received an undignified salary.

So when is fashion sustainable?

Fashion can be 100% called sustainable if it meets all these criteria. Some fashion labels operate Greenwashing, for example, the conditions mentioned are very unlikely to be met. But these conditions make the fashion sustainable and force the big fashion companies to give in to the more and more increasing demand for ecological fashion.

Fair Trade Clothing Material & Fabrics

Fabrics for Sustainable Fashion and Fairtrade Clothing Material

Cotton and other raw materials for textiles are becoming increasingly scarce, and natural, plant-based alternatives are needed. They are already in the starting blocks. When buying your clothes, you should therefore pay attention to the material used. Maybe you want to produce an ecological garment yourself. In both cases, you can check whether you want to use one of the following sustainable materials or manufacturing processes:

Sustainable material for sustainable fashion:

  • Organic cotton is grown alternately with other plants without chemical pesticides
  • Organic wool is wool from species-appropriate, organic sheep farming
  • Hemp consists of individual hemp fibers, which are processed into clothing
  • Linen is obtained from natural, resource-saving flax cultivation
  • Organic silk is made from the cocoon of the silkworm caterpillar
  • Milk silk / Milk fiber is a smooth substance obtained from milk protein powder
  • Modal is a natural, elastic viscose fiber
  • Lyocell is a natural substance from eucalyptus and beech wood
  • Wild Silk / Peace Silk is made from caterpillar cocoons (pupa already hatched)
  • Banana fibers / Musa fibers are made from the trunk of the banana tree
  • Soy(silk) consists of soybean proteins (by-product of tofu production)
  • Bamboo viscose is a textile fiber made from sustainable bamboo wood
  • Lenpur viscose consists of pruning branches and twigs
  • Seacell® Textiles are made from seaweed, which grows back very quickly
  • Tyvek® is a polyethylene fiber that is reprocessed up to 5 times into new clothing

Sustainable manufacturing process for sustainable fashion:

  • Recycling from already used plastic to new products (e.g. to Adidas running shoe)
  • Upcycling from old things to new products (e.g. carrier bag made from truck tarpaulin)
  • Cradle to Cradle (from cradle to cradle) is a biological product cycle without waste

The material should basically be separable by type and also 100% recyclable if you want to call it sustainable textiles or sustainable fashion. In the next few years, many more natural fabrics for textiles will certainly emerge. If you are missing a textile fabric or a sustainable form of processing in the list, feel free to write me a comment under this article.

The reasons for sustainable fashion

In Germany in particular, clothing has degenerated into a kind of throwaway fashion. People are sometimes looked at askance when they wear an old outfit again. In addition, a large part of the clothing of the major fashion companies contains toxins that are harmful to our health and the environment. Below I would like to give you an overview of the reasons for switching to fair, sustainable fashion:

  • Clothing is directly on our skin and therefore should not contain toxins
  • Fair fashion is produced under fair, social conditions as e.g. without child labor
  • Sustainable fashion consists of unlimited raw materials instead of e.g. petroleum (plastic)
  • Fashion from natural materials such as hemp decompose in the environment within a short time
  • Clothing made from plastics like plastic, on the other hand, remains in nature for centuries
  • Unsustainable clothing contains toxins such as phthalates, NP or NPe, which disrupt the endocrine system
  • Sustainable clothing is more durable than unnatural cheap clothing
  • ….

I could continue this list of reasons for sustainable fashion indefinitely. Can you think of anything else? Then feel free to write it in your comment under this post.

Advantages & disadvantages of sustainable fashion

I would like to give you here once again a nice overview of the advantages and of course also the disadvantages of ecological, sustainable fashion. Then I will tell you a few words about the advantages and disadvantages.

AdvantagesDisadvantages
Healthy working conditions in productionSustainability currently still difficult to understand
No exploitation/child labor in the production chainHigher price
Durable and comfortable to wearQuality seals are still confusing
Resource-saving and environmentally friendlyThe look is often unfamiliar
Does not harm our healthFew stores currently have sustainable clothing sections

On the benefits of sustainable fashion

Here, as promised, a few words about the aforementioned benefits of sustainable fashion:

No exploitation

With excellent, sustainable clothing you can be sure that the production has taken place fairly and without child labor. Many major fashion brands still use child labor and this must not be supported. A great advantage of sustainable fashion.

Healthy working conditions

Little to drink, dusty factory floors where workers have trouble breathing and are exposed to toxic substances. By buying sustainable fashion, you bypass these conditions for the production of your clothes.

Durable and comfortable to wear

Ecological clothing has a higher quality, is usually more durable and therefore more long-lasting. So it's worth spending a few cents more. In addition, sustainable fashion is more comfortable to wear and does not absorb odors as quickly as, for example, fashion made of plastic.

Environmentally friendly, resource-saving production

For me, this advantage of sustainable fashion is particularly important. By choosing natural clothing, you avoid the use of limited raw materials such as raw gasoline (or petroleum) for the production of your clothing. Instead, you use natural renewable resources such as hemp, flax, or bamboo, which would also quickly decompose in the environment. Plastic, on the other hand, remains forever and decomposes only slowly to become Microplastics.

Tip: Not only the product itself, but also a corporate philosophy focused on sustainability can make a difference. For example, by T-shirts with prints When you buy from EMP, social organizations are supported. In addition, you can choose your fashion there according to the characteristics that are important to you, such as sustainable production, the renunciation of Fur or organic cotton choose

Not harmful to health

Unlike the toxins in conventional clothing made from plastics, sustainable fashion is not harmful to health because the clothing is free of harmful substances. Many sweaters, shirts and other garments made of plastic contain harmful substances that negatively affect our hormonal balance and thus have an impact on our health.

On the disadvantages of ecological clothing

Following also a few words about the disadvantages of sustainable fashion:

Higher price

If a garment is to be sustainable, it must of course be produced more elaborately. In return, you forego the use of limited resources, child labor and underground low wages in production. But the investment in sustainable fashion is worth it, as said, because the garments are usually much more durable and do not fade as quickly as artificial fashion.

Sustainability difficult to understand

As a buyer, you have to rely on certifications and seals because you have no insight into the entire supply chain. It is difficult to measure how sustainable the production of the ecological fashion was between the individual tests. For example, there may be unexpectedly higher transport costs or a lot of plastic was needed for transport.

Quality seal currently still confusing

GOTS, Fair Trade, Eco Fashion... There are now many environmental seals for sustainable clothing. Keeping track of them is therefore not so easy and some seals have security gaps. In addition, there are many self-created seals on the Internet, which make an official impression, but are no confirmation of a sustainable manufacturing process or social and fair working conditions.

Unfamiliar look

For many, the appearance of ecological clothing is certainly strange at first. It often takes a bit of time to get used to, because the natural fashion is usually not as shiny and also not as smooth as conventional cheap fashion made of plastics.

Scarce equipment in stores

The fashion market is incredibly large and the trend towards sustainable fashion is only slowly joining the masses of cheap clothing from manufacturing processes that are anything but socially, fairly and environmentally friendly. For this reason, fashion stores currently have sustainable fashion only limited or not yet in the assortment.

Different designations of sustainable fashion

Through many different terms of sustainable fashion, it is difficult to keep track. But exactly this overview of the different designations I would like to give you now:

Slow Fashion

Fashion connoisseurs like to divide clothes into Slow Fashion and fast fashion. While the term Fast Fashion In contrast to the term slow fashion, which is used to describe short-lived fashion trends that disappear into the closet after a short period of wear and waste vast amounts of natural resources, slow fashion is the exact opposite. Slow fashion describes sustainable fashion that is long-lasting and trend-independent and has now developed into a kind of lifestyle. The so-called slow fashion wants to create environmentally friendly, durable clothing under fair and social working conditions with as little effort as possible in production and transport.

Fair Trade Clothing

Fair trade is an international trade agreement that tests products for social, ecological and economic criteria and, if necessary, awards them a corresponding fair trade seal. It creates standards that improve trading conditions and thus also secure the rights of disadvantaged economic participants. When you buy fair trade clothing, you can assume that it was produced under good working and environmental conditions, as well as under fair conditions throughout the entire supply chain.

Ecomode

So-called eco-fashion is a broad term for sustainable, environmentally friendly clothing that is particularly resource-friendly and saves a lot of water and the use of chemicals during production. With eco-fashion you can assume that it is comfortable to wear and very skin-friendly.

Second Hand Fashion

Sustainable fashion does not necessarily have to come from natural materials. For example, if you go for second hand fashion, you save money and also reduce the consumption of raw materials. The second hand fashion is nothing more than re-purchased fashion from someone who has already worn it. Since fashion is a matter of taste, someone else may like the fashion that you have already sorted out. This saves the environment and your wallet.

Recycling and upcycling fashion

Recycled fashion consists of material that is reused. For example, the Adidas running shoes made from recycled Marine debris. Such a social and sustainable product has the nice side effect that the Plastic waste in the environment is eliminated and gets more attention in the media. Upcycling fashion is made, for example, from old truck tarpaulins, plastic bottles or old comic books. The resulting fashion is usually unique and looks surprisingly cool.

Certificates and seals for sustainable fashion

Since consumers cannot usually classify clothing as sustainable or non-sustainable at a glance, many labels have been introduced. The following eco-labels are used to identify pollutant-free, sustainable fashion and fair trade clothing:

Fair Trade Seal

Fair trade seal sustainable fashion clothing

The Fair Trade seal confirms the sustainability of clothing, especially in terms of ethics in production. If you buy a garment that is marked with the Fair Trade seal, you can assume that it was produced under the standards of fair working conditions (adequate payment, no factory hazards to health, no child labor). In addition, the production of excellent Fair Trade clothing has proceeded free of any chemicals. With regard to the evaluation of environmental friendliness, however, another seal should always be consulted, because, for example, the fair trade cotton could not 100% come from a purely organic cultivation.

Ökotex seal

Ökotex Logo - Sustainable Fashion, Fair Trade Clothing

Ökotex is intended to show the consumer that a garment is safe from an ethical and environmental point of view. Unfortunately, the Ökotex seal has some weaknesses. For example, only carcinogenic and allergenic dyes are completely excluded by the Ökotex seal; other substances of concern are only subject to limit values. When it comes to social aspects, such as fair wages or appropriate working conditions, the sustainable fashion seal also has gaps. What is missing, in my opinion, is a clear, consistent line in the evaluation.

IVN-Best

IVN Best Seal - Sustainable Fashion and Fair Trade Clothing

The IVN-Best seal is awarded for natural textiles and natural leather under really very strict conditions throughout the supply chain. Social standards must be met, it must be 100% organic material and substances hazardous to health and the environment must also not be used in the production. It does not remain with the IVN seal with the one control. Once a year, the suppliers are inspected again and must continue to meet the requirements. For me personally, the seal is the most important seal for the safe distinction of sustainable clothing.

GOTS certification

GOTS seal sustainable fashion and fair trade clothing

The GOTS certificate (Global Organic Textile Standard) certifies that textiles such as garments are made from organically produced natural fibers. The clothing must meet environmental and social requirements along the entire supply chain. GOTS pursues the goal of ensuring and evaluating the production of sustainable garments from the extraction of the raw material through fair and social production to uniform labeling for the end consumer.

 Bluesign® seal

Bluesign seal - sustainable fashion and fair trade clothing

The Bluesign seal for sustainable fashion was created back in 2000 by Swiss textile experts to minimize the impact of the textile industry on the environment. You'll see the Bluesign seal on garments that have been processed to at least 90% in certified factories throughout the supply chain. This is done to ensure that production is as low-impact as possible by setting clear guidelines for the use of toxic chemicals. Both environmental and social aspects are taken into account when assessing the garments.

Buy fair, sustainable fashion

In this paragraph I want to show you where and how you can buy fair trade clothing or sustainable fashion. I will show you the best online stores for sustainable clothing and the most popular fashion brands.

Sustainable fashion online stores

There are already a lot of online stores where you can buy selected sustainable fashion. Here is a small overview for you:

Greenality - In this online you get only sustainable fashion. Organic fashion and fair trade clothes are available for men, women and children. The styles are really cool and visually almost indistinguishable from conventional fashion made of plastics.

Avocadostore - The online store calls itself a marketplace for eco fashion and green lifestyle. This fits very well, because you can get sustainable fashion for men, women and children in the store, as well as plastic free products from the lifestyle sector.

Glore - In this worldwide online store for sustainable fashion you can also get cool clothes for men, women and children and also fashion from specialties such as yoga. The store is equipped with the above mentioned quality seals.

These are just three really good online stores for sustainable fashion that have already proven themselves. Feel free to write a comment if you know and have tried other online stores where you can get fair trade clothing.

Fashion labels for sustainable clothing

Bleed - This German fashion brand for sustainable fashion has me seriously excited. Here you get fair trade clothing made from organic cotton, hemp, cork, linen and some other natural fabrics. Bleed fashion is very nicely presented and described in detail.

People Tree - The fashion label from London has been at the forefront of sustainable fashion for many years. From sustainable summer dresses to fair trade clothing for babies and children, it's all here.

Woody - Austrian fashion label Woody specializes in making sustainable shoes. They use a sturdy and beautiful wooden sole for their shoes. Both for men and women here are cool sustainable shoes.

This list of online stores and brands that stand for sustainable fashion is something we can keep going on and on. As said, just write a comment if you think of another suitable website.

Swap sustainable clothing instead of buying

Swap sustainable fashion instead of buying

It is also not very sustainable if your purchased sustainable shirts, sweaters and pants disappear in the closet after one season, while others could make good use of the garments. Therefore, pay attention to whether you really need the desired article of clothing, or whether a used, but no less bad article of clothing will do. Quite in the sense of the Minimalism you should also think minimalist when shopping for fashion and thus save resources and your wallet. The following platforms are ideal for exchanging clothes instead of buying them:

  • Kleiderkreisel.de - Here you can give away or sell all your superfluous clothes and vice versa. Since it is mostly second hand fashion, the prices are affordable. Kleiderkreisel is a huge marketplace for used fashion.
  • Ubup.com - Ubup is Germany's largest online store for second hand fashion. In contrast to Kleiderkreisel, the store is designed like an ordinary online store with a shopping cart. Ubud upgrades used fashion and offers it for resale at low prices. According to the company's own information, 750,000 pieces of second-hand clothing were sold via the website in 2015.
  • dieauschboerse.de - The swap meet is a German platform where you can swap not only clothes, but also many other things from over 600 categories. Ideal and completely in the sense of Zero Waste Lifestyle you can exchange things that are superfluous to you for things that are interesting to you. This is sustainable because no new natural resources are needed.
  • eBay Classifieds.com - There is also a lot of clothing for sale on eBay Classifieds. New fashion, but mostly second hand fashion. As with the other platforms, you can also buy, sell and swap clothes here. By the way, the eBay Classifieds app is one of the most popular apps. Zero Waste Apps.

These are just a few examples of platforms where you can easily buy, sell, give away and swap used clothing and also make a contribution to more sustainability.

Where to put the old clothes?

Over the years, we accumulate quite a bit of clothing that we don't even wear anymore. Leaving them in the depths of your closets or even in the basement is anything but sustainable. Therefore, you should give them to people who can really use the clothes. Would you rather give away your old clothes or sell them and get a few more euros for them? For both options I have a few places for you here:

Sell old clothes

If you still want to have a few euros for the clothes that you have bought at some point expensive, I recommend you to go to a second-hand store in your area. Usually you will find buyers there. Alternatively, you can sell your old clothes online, for example, at Kleiderkreisel or eBay classifieds. However, the effort to enter all the clothes online is not insignificant.

Donate and give away clothes

It's really cool to donate or give away your unused clothes to people in need. Social institutions in your area are good places to start, where your used clothes can be checked again and then sold on site. Refugee homes are also a good place to start, but often the need for household utensils and other things is greater than the need for clothing.

Note: Even though it feels like a good deed, shipping your clothes to e.g. Africa is very dangerous for the existing local clothing markets. This is one reason why several countries have banned the import of second-hand clothing. 

The future of sustainable fashion

For years, there were no alternatives to the major fashion brands, which produce their garments in anything but an environmentally friendly, fair and socially responsible manner. With the trend towards sustainable fashion, consumers themselves are setting the direction in which the fashion market will develop over the next few years. Sustainable fashion is part of a big movement, part of a society with a new awareness for nature and for more humanity. This increases the pressure on manufacturers of cheap clothing. Fashion brands that do not adapt to this development will perish over time.

Organic, ecological fair trade clothing is going to shake up the fashion market. That's my opinion. What do you think about the future of the fashion market and do you have any other experiences or questions about sustainable fashion that you would like to share? Then I look forward to your comment under this post.

Best regards,

Living plastic-free - Less plastic waste in the environment


PS: You're already getting your fashion sustainably! 🙂 What about your plastic waste in everyday life? In the article Life without plastic I'll give you a lot of tips on how to avoid waste. Have fun!

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate linksIf you click on it and buy something, you actively support my work with CareElite.de, because I get a small share of the sales revenue. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!

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Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

4 thoughts on “Nachhaltige Mode & Fair Trade Kleidung”

  1. To the heart touching reflections and quite precise and exciting! My heartfelt thanks for the meaningful impetus to think! My friend gets the clothes in the second-hand stores and looks no worse compared to the others. For me, however, fashion is what suits yourself and what you feel comfortable in.

    1. Hi Helga, you're always welcome! Thanks for your positive attitude. Well, of course, it's also just about doing something about the Fast Fashion to undertake. Of course, you can also buy something new sometimes 🙂
      Best regards
      Christoph

  2. Sieglinde Talke

    Hello, great compliments for the extensive and comprehensible information and suggestions. I am on the right track, it seems to me, only it actually takes quite a while to use up the Plstikartikel, in a OnePerson household.
    However, one thing bothers me enormously, and not only with you, why is everything recommended via Amazon? Amazon has nothing to do with sustainability, sustainable are small stores, personal contacts or even small providers on the Internet. I order, for example, from Kräuterland or a small fermentation manufactory. Why aren't small and medium-sized businesses offered a larger platform?
    A point to ponder????
    Love greeting Sieglinde

    1. Hi Sieglinde, thanks for your feedback 🙂 .
      I'm working on many new partnerships right now, so especially sustainable stores get great opportunities here. Since I do this work alone, it unfortunately takes time. Thank you for your understanding and have fun with CareElite.
      Best regards
      Christoph

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