Environmental concerns and sustainability in fashion have been expressed as early as the 1960s. The flower power hippie movements began protesting the growing consumer society and searching for ways in which to reconnect to the natural world.
In the ’70s and ’80s the punk movements emerged, preferring second hand clothing and worn out looks. Both movements were entirely anti-fashion and literally going against the whole concept of being fashionable.
In the 1990s eco fashion became a movement and brands such as Esprit launched an eco-line of clothing. As opposed to the more environmentally friendly anti-fashion fashion movements, brands began to consciously choose more sustainable fibres.
The eco fashion style of those days still set itself apart from mainstream fashion in so far as it rather reflected an ecological activist wave than an overall change towards a sustainable fashion industry.
So, it was almost like a statement to set yourself apart from fashion trends. Garments were rather functional than stylish and colours were earthy and bland so that the overall image was a ‘sloppy looking eco style’.
From Anti-Fashion Statement to Fashionable Sustainability
As we move into the 2000s, larger numbers of market consumers begin to shift their focus towards fair trade and sustainability and the demand for sustainable fashion of equal quality and style began to grow.
The term LOHAS (Lifestyle of Health and Sustainability) popped up, describing a population demographic and particular market segment relating to sustainable living.
These types of people wanted to be fashionable and trendy while considering it their moral and ethical duty to be socially responsible. This includes rising awareness for fair working conditions and generally being conscious about the entire chain of fashion production.
The 2013 Rana Plaza disaster, in which a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, drastically accelerated the process towards conscious consumerism. Its effects on the fashion industry were profound, giving birth to “slow fashion”.
Slow fashion opposes “fast fashion”, which holds no regards for these values and is seen as destroying the planet and endangering livelihoods for the sole purpose of profit. It feeds into an unsustainable psychology of consumerism, with a devastating impact on planet and people.
The Fashion Revolution
The growing demand for conscious and sustainable fashion produced newly emerging young designers, who brought these values into the mainstream fashion world. The new eco styles began to follow fashion trends, marking the first moves towards a larger shift within the entire fashion industry towards sustainability.
As a result, recent years have seen new sustainable brands, entering the fashion scene, as well as large brands beginning to incorporate values of sustainability into mainstream fashion trends.
This means that eco brands and collections have become stylish, form fitting and are making their way on to high end red carpet events. The image has shifted from the 90s sloppy eco look towards highly fashionable style with the additional benefit of including sought-after values, which are being promoted across all industries.
The entire industry has changed as sustainability has entered mainstream thought and become standard topic of conversation, leading brands to take measures and include this into their own ethos.
Sustainability trends are literally shaping the future of the industry as brands are now seeking to shift to sustainable materials, designing garments for longevity and adopting circular economy principles, while at the same time following the fashion trends of the day.
Dawn of a New Fashion Era
Nike came under fire, in 1991, for poor working conditions in its factories and is now considered one of the most sustainable fashion giants worldwide. Big names such as Gucci and Calvin Klein are joining the movement as well as many new brands entering the scene with new concepts of production and innovative design.
The shift has also prompted the emergence of sustainable fashion week in Berlin and London among other such large-scale industry events. You will see high-end, luxury fashion being showcased, which bare no style difference to the general fashion events of the fashion capitals of the world.
These facts speak for themselves. Gone is the image of functional and sloppy eco fashion as sustainable fashion is now stylish and completely in line with the fashion trends of the day.
However, there is still much work to be done. The momentum is at its peak and it is now for the industry to move towards fading out the practices of fast fashion and move towards a consensus on how the industry conducts itself.
Since the demand has moved into mainstream territory and the need for stylish sustainability is being satisfied by even the biggest names in the industry, nothing stands in the way of establishing these values across the entire world of fashion.