This month we are featuring a fashion series focused on five fast fashion facts and five questions with a sustainable, slow fashion brand.
Why we should care about fast fashion and sustainable fashion
Merriam Webster defines fast fashion as: “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.”
In our consumer driven society, that doesn’t sound all bad since we love having things quickly and cheaply at our fingertips. But the impacts of fast fashion on people and the environment are huge. This month we will be sharing some facts about fast fashion to emphasize why we need to be paying attention to the industry.
We understand that sustainable fashion brands are not accessible to everyone, so please know there is no condemnation from us if you shop in fast fashion. We want to share information, highlight some of our favourite brands we love to follow, and provide alternatives with hopes to minimize the negative impacts of fast fashion.
Five Fashion Facts
So why should we be paying attention? Here are some facts you may not know.
- Fast fashion is often made not only at the expense of the environment, but also the expense of labourers who make the clothes. The #whomademyclothes movement was started in 2013 after the Rana Plaza factory collapsed and exposed horrible working conditions. Over 1,100 people died in the building’s collapse and approximately 2,500 were injured.
- In June 2020, a UK factory in Leicester was exposed for its poor working conditions that exposed workers to COVID-19 and paid workers 2-3 GBP/hour. Boohoo Group, the main clothing company using this factory, has been repeatedly asked to improve working conditions for their factory workers (Labour Behind the Label)
3. “The Fast Fashion model used by Boohoo and many other brands – of short and often small batch orders with a fast turnaround – encourages unauthorised subcontracting in order to meet low prices, fast production times and volumes needed, and also encourages the exploitation of workers and noncompliance in terms of working conditions and standards.”Labour Behind the Label Report
- “A living wage is a decent remuneration for labor that enables workers to meet their basic needs, sustain healthy lifestyles, and support their dependants. A living wage is a recognized human right, yet it is denied to most of the estimated 80 million workers in the global fashion industry. There is a logic within supply chains to minimize costs and maximize margins and wages are one of the first pressure points to be squeezed by retailers.” (Conde Nast Sustainable Fashion Glossary)
- The fashion industry not only pays indecent wages, but is also known to use child labour in dangerous circumstances such as the production of cotton, which can include using dangerous machinery and chemicals.
Five Questions and Answers with a Sustainable Fashion Brand
We reached out to some of our favourite sustainable, slow fashion labels to find out more about what they do and why they do it. This sustainable fashion series is a passion project for us, motivated by our love of supporting small businesses, which means we were not compensated by these brands to feature them. We hope you love these brands as much as we do!
Introducting Akinda Co
A lot of the above facts reference the unfair and unsafe working conditions of textile factory workers. I share those statistics to contrast the impact and care of a slow fashion brand. Not only is Akinda Co focusing on sustainability and fabrics that will biodegrade, but they are paying close attention to their supply chain. Akinda has actually gone to the factory where her clothes are made to meet the workers. So when she is asked “Who made my clothes?” she can confidently answer the question.
We fell in love with Akinda’s style because of the classic and versatile look of her suits. They are something that can stand the test of time and be taken on any of life’s journeys. I didn’t think I had a stereotype for what sustainable fashion looked like, but I was surprised when I saw that these gorgeous items were made sustainably!
Akinda has put incredible thought into her designs so that her pieces are not limited in their use. Their versatility make them so perfect to pack for any trip and would be an ideal addition to a capsule wardrobe.
We hope you enjoy getting to know Akinda Co as much as we did through the answers to our sustainable fashion questions.
Why did you choose to start a sustainable brand?
At Akinda Co. we try to think of sustainability as a value, part of our ethos, so when starting the brand it was simply something that I was going to do. It was never a choice between should we be a sustainable brand or not, it was more looking at the choices we had to make when sourcing and partnering with a production facility and finding the ones that best aligned with our values.
I wanted our products to be made in the USA because I value supporting our local production facilities that adhere to excellent working conditions and fair wages. When we met with our current production facility, the founder gave us a full tour and we met everyone that would work on the garments – that was amazing. The family-run facility in downtown Los Angeles is a perfect fit for our brand.
In what ways does your brand fall under the sustainable label?
When we design we try to ask ourselves what can we do to “tread lightly on the earth”? For us, that means looking at the entire lifecycle of a product. We think about the functionality of a product and focus on creating pieces that are versatile and can be worn year-round, in many fashions.
We also think about the fabric we’re using. For the first collection, we used a remarkable fabric called Amni Soul Eco that actually biodegrades in just 5 years in landfills (compared to 50+ years!). For us, we like to think of our materials as just the beginning and we are constantly exploring what the future of textiles looks like.
What are some obstacles you’ve faced in starting a sustainable brand?
With starting any apparel company there are always challenges – knowing where to start, how to source materials, how to run ads, etc. With a sustainable brand the challenges are the same, but the resources to figure it out seem more limited.
I found that the hardest part was finding what we were looking for – whether that be sustainable swimwear fabric or packaging that was biodegradable. What has helped us overcome these challenges is the niche community of other startup founders that are in the sustainable space. The community may be small, but it is rapidly growing and tight-knit.
I would not shy away from starting a sustainable brand just because you lack the resources to do so, there are people out there that can help you figure it out. If that’s you, feel to reach out – I am always happy to share my tips that I’ve learned along the way.
In what ways do you find customers receptive towards the idea of sustainable, slow fashion? In what ways do you find customers hesitant?
Often we see consumers thinking that sustainable fashion looks a certain way and doesn’t cross-over with high fashion – think more sporty or minimal apparel. We will always have pioneers in sustainable fashion such as Patagonia that match this aesthetic, but what I think is exciting is that sustainable fashion is becoming an expectation that regardless of your style is a standard at all brands.
At Akinda Co. we create timeless pieces that have thoughtful, luxury details to embody both the high fashion style with our core ethos.
What are your hopes for sustainable fashion?
Companies and consumers play a communal role in sustainable fashion, so what I hope to see is more communication between companies and consumers. Consumers play a vital voice in speaking up for what they demand out of their purchases (fair labor, sustainable materials, recycled packaging, etc.) and companies need to be receptive to changing times and talk to their consumers about these needs.
As brand transparency increases I believe we will see this happen more. This conversation has the potential to expand from these needs to create greater connections between consumers and brands.
What do you want people to know about sustainable fashion?
There are multiple ways of being sustainable – think the 3 r’s: reduce, reuse, recycle. We predominantly see fashion brands focusing on the later, recycle, but what we have to realize is there are still the other two: reduce and reuse.
Partaking in slow fashion isn’t limited to only buying garments made from recycled materials; it’s also about looking at ways to reuse and reduce. We often limit our wardrobes, but looking at them with an expanded eye and finding creative ways to re-wear seasonal garments year-round is one way to reuse items.
Reducing what we consume by making thoughtful purchases of items that we know we can wear year-round also helps. I think sustainable fashion is more of a mindset than a set form, it’s about making conscious choices that in turn help the environment and our communities – which really turns sustainability into a creative practice.
Have you noticed a shift in recent years towards the concept of slow fashion? If yes, how so? If no, why do you think nothing has shifted?
I think one of the main developments we are seeing in slow fashion is the rise of the origin story, the “why” behind the brand, and this is where you start to see a brand’s ethos. I’m talking more than an about page on a website that talks to slow fashion.
Brands that are shifting have their ethos sprinkled throughout their brand in ways that you discover with time. This may be in the way they package their goods in biodegradable packaging or in the newsletter they send out with tips on how to live more simply.
Recently, sustainable fashion has been a hot marketing topic, and a ploy that many brands are using to gain a customer base despite their actual sustainable practices. I think this has led to consumers looking for more than just the standard sustainable labels, they are looking for genuine connections to their brands.
Slow fashion has become more than just a word you throw up on your website, it has become something that has to be ingrained in everything you do.