The Importance Of Sustainability In The Fashion Industry

This week Stella McCartney and Ellen MacArthur have called for radical changes in the 'incredibly wasteful' fashion industry. The designer is backing a report by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation which claims half of High Street fashion is disposed of within a year.

The call for fashion sustainability highlights some important points, but what does fashion sustainability mean?

Sustainable fashion is about producing clothes, in environmentally and socio-economically sustainable manners. It is also about more sustainable patterns of consumption.

In today's 'throw away society', where clothes can be incredibly cheap, it's easy to change your fashion look almost instantly for a fraction of the cost in my parent's day, but is that a good thing? We could do with adopting their attitude to clothing, buying the best that you can afford, and mending clothing if holes appear. For example, who remembers patches on your jeans? I do! Rather than buying a new item of clothing, we could do with thinking of customizing it, adding beading, sequins or a trim can really give it a makeover.

Of course, this needs sewing skills, but with shows like The Great British Sewing Bee, it had become 'on trend' to go back to adult education classes and learn and update your sewing skills.

Manufacturers also need to take responsibility for the sustainability of fashion, breaking away from the disposal nature of clothes, improving the recycling of leftover materials and making effective use of resources and renewables. All this will help improve the environment. In a recent survey by consultants, Kantar Futures, the BBC reported that 80% of respondents said they would pay more for products that lasted longer. That's reassuring to know that consumers really want better quality sustainable clothing too.

To get an insiders view of the fashion industry, I spoke to Tom Lovelace, CEO of Hawthorn, a clothing manufacturer that helps fashion startups, about why sustainability is so important. Winner of the Drapers  'Fashion Supplier of the Year' award 2017 here is Tom's interview.

1) Tell us more about Hawthorn. What makes you unique?

Hawthorn is a clothing manufacturer based in the City of London. We specialise in helping new startups in the fashion industry create their collections of everything from casual wear to tailoring. One of the challenges that a lot of startups have is that manufacturers have high minimum order quantities which mean they spend a lot of money on creating just one or two lines, however, we are able to offer very low quantity, fully custom manufacturing meaning that without limitation we can help startups begin their journey in the industry with as many products as possible for their budget.

2) Why do you think sustainability is so important to the environment and to your business?

Sustainability is important to everyone not just in the fashion industry, but in the world. The fashion industry is, however, the second most polluting industry, behind the oil industry, and we believe that as manufacturers it is our responsibility to do as much as possible to help the environment in any way we can. Because we work with start-up businesses, we have developed sustainable fabrics which can be supplied at low order quantities, meaning that brands no longer have to make very large orders to be able to achieve their sustainability goals.

3) What are you as a company doing to help the advancement of sustainability in the fashion industry?

In developing new sustainable fabrics which can be produced in low quantities to help small businesses in the fashion industry, we are helping to bring new brands to the market who either deal in all sustainable or part sustainable clothing. Over the past year or so since we have been developing these new fabrics and offering them to our customers, we have seen the % of brands we work with who use sustainable clothing rise from around 5% to over 30%; These are brands who would have otherwise had no choice other than to use traditionally farmed fabrics, which can be harmful to the environment.

4) Are there any exciting new developments in fabric design to watch out for?

Fabrics are constantly developing, however sustainable activewear is something which we're starting to see a trend for. Traditional activewear brands are certainly on the rise in popularity, however, some brands are now incorporating sustainable elements. For example, Organic Cotton and Elastane blends are coming into the market, being chosen by brands who may have usually had no choice other than to use Polyester, a fabric that is not kind to the environment at all.

5) What can consumers do to help the sustainable cause?

Arguably, consumers are on the front line of sustainability because of supply and demand; brands will always strive to meet the demand of their customers and as trends start to show that more customers are switching to sustainable fabrics, the brands and manufacturers will be forced to change their ways also. When this happens there will only be a positive environmental impact.

Tell me, have you thought about sustainable fashion? Is the environment important to you?


  1. I like the sound of the new sustainable active wear that we could be seeing soon!

  2. I think it is great that sustainability is now being talked about in fashion. It HAS become so easy to just throw away clothing and it is terribly wasteful. Hawthorn sounds like it will be so helpful to those designers who are trying to embrace sustainability into their clothing lines.

  3. I have noticed a rise in the use of organic cotton lately and now I know why. I think sustainability is great and I am a glad they are applying it to the fashion world as well.

  4. I think it is brilliant fashion is looking to be more sustainable. Hopefully when more and more brands start to produce sustainable fashion pieces the prices will come down, I'm sure that holds a lot of consumers back from buying more.

    1. I think so too. Hopefully, the more companies produce sustainable clothing, the more prices will come down as you say.

  5. It's good to know that there are companies thinking about sustainability when it comes to the fashion industry. Tx

  6. So good to know that companies are starting to actually think about this! x

  7. This is such an important topic! It's great to see so many more brands emerging that are supporting more sustainable methods, but hope to see it spread into the more commercial brands. That's where it's a huge issue, especially with the constant churn of 'fast fashion'. Hopefully it will get better soon, before it becomes even worse.

    1. I look forward to seeing an alternative to polyester, as at the end of the day, it's still made with plastic.

  8. I like this line of thought for the fashion world as there is a lot of untapped potential to be doing this. Great post!

  9. Fashion is such a crazy and insane industry that it's great to hear they are thinking about this.