Sustainability has been mentioned so much in the past year that it can compete as the top fashion buzzword—high fashion brands have sworn off leather and plastic, fashion capitals have made the manufacture and selling of fur illegal, others have committed to sourcing their materials ethically and ensuring that every step of the production is eco-friendly. Questions have been tossed around: is the alternative really ever safe? Can fashion truly be sustainable? But as much as it has been talked about in the past year, there is still no standard to make brands accountable and redirect them to a more sustainable path. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) just took the lead in changing that.
CFDA began the year by taking the stand that sustainability is something that the industry should take seriously and releasing a 233-page report that supports that. It covers many aspects of the term, whether it be social or environmental. Because sustainability is a fairly new concept for most, it is highly likely for companies to struggle with aligning themselves with it. The CFDA report is a thorough starting point as it puts forward steps for brands, both established and emerging, and provides additional resources as necessary.
The document, officially called the CFDA Guide to Sustainable Strategies, is written by Domenica Leibowitz. It makes the case for sustainability as a great design, because it acknowledges that fashion is connected to other industries rather than isolated, and ensures continuity, as in the ability to enjoy the things we do and have without depleting the source. Strategies are provided so that companies can build a sustainable brand, and a toolkit is included to map top priorities. There is an index for materials that can be used and a directory to lead readers to organizations and additional resources to supplement the guide. Both will be updated from time to time.
The guide also dispels certain notions regarding sustainability, such as it being concentrated only on a single area, or that it compromises style. It is true that initiatives usually begin with changing materials or practices, but there are more ways to sustainability, as the guide details. The fact that companies can control up to 80% of the environmental impact of a product, according to the research made by the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, only suggests that there is more that can be done. Good designs can also come from working with eco-friendly materials right from the beginning, instead of adding them when the process is almost complete.
With the release of the document, the CFDA recognizes that the fashion industry in its current state does not support sustainability, and that it is taking up resources that might not be enjoyed in abundance by future generations and enterprises. It hopes that the damaging practices will change with the release of the guide, which is made accessible to the public as an educational resource. The road to sustainability does not stop there, however—CFDA is contemplating hosting events where major points of the report could be discussed.
Image credits: Remake, AP, Taylor Hill/Getty Images, LJLPHOTOGRAPHY/FLICKR/THE ATLANTIC, Vikram Kushwah, Péro