7 Healthy Habits of a Conscious Fashion Professional

Happy New Year! It’s 2018 and that means it’s time to do a little midwinter tidying away of obsolete habits. If you work in sourcing, design, product development or production, please read through this list of things to be mindful of this year if Positive Impact is on your agenda.

  1. Know the origin of your materials

Do a little digging: ask mills where they source their fibre. If they are willing, arrange visits to the fibre suppliers/farmers on your next sourcing trip. Gather as much information as you can without disrupting your workflow.

  1. Make yourself aware of the impacts of your fibre choices

If you haven’t already, educate yourself on how different fibres options impact the earth, ecosystems, and the people that harvest them. A great place to start is the Good On You app. Their material guides can be accessed here. 

  1. Choose low-impact dyes and inks

This is not usually something that mainstream designers consider, but simply asking your vendor partners for low-impact dye options paves the way for enlightened and informed product design in the future. If it’s not available, ask if it’s something that your partners might investigate with their dyehouses. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, so when your voice is added to that of other interested brands and retailers, suppliers will recognize the demand and business opportunity.

  1. Give partners adequate time

This one resonates with me because when I was a designer, there was always pressure to be quick, yet stringent in approving lab dips, fabric and trim quality submissions, and fit samples. That said, when colour, quality, or fit were not passable, the lead times were crunched. How was I to know if garment workers were forced to work overtime, perhaps even unpaid overtime? I never considered this and look back with concern and regret over the lives I may have negatively impacted. Better communication and a more tolerant attitude in approving submits would have benefitted everyone and the bottom line. Non-compliance is most often triggered by time and money constraints.

Timely approvals, avoiding last-minute style and colour changes, and reducing the number of fittings can all make compliance more achievable.

  1. Consider your trimmings

Fabric is not the only fashion component that has taken huge strides in innovation and sustainability. Trim suppliers are also on top of the growing demand to design with the earth in mind. As always, communicate first with your suppliers about what they have available. If you are both unsure where to start, the Ethical Fashion Source has some direction on their platform here.

  1. Give consumers and other brands access to your process on social media

Participation gives consumers a sense of investment. When designers like Arket or  Zero Waste Daniel share the design process on social media, it adds intangible value to the product. We can see the thought and consideration that goes into the business and by supporting conscious companies, we become part of that story. Moreover, inspiring other brands and designers to find ways to create positive change simply magnifies the impact. Everyone wins!

  1. Plan for the end-of-life of your designs

In the old days, when products were purchased, the responsibility of its fate shifted to the consumer. But now, we know better. All the stuff we make will ultimately end up in landfill if we don’t have a better plan for it. So, is your fabric recyclable? Can it be dissembled or repaired easily? How can you help guide your consumer to do the right thing when they are finished with your product? Does your brand have a take-back/recycling, resale or mending program? It is our responsibility as makers to have an end plan for our designs.

What habits are you going to tackle in 2018? What will you prioritize? For more thoughts on how those small steps you can take can make a real different why not read the series Big Little Impact – inspiring and practical ideas for everyday differences.

For more guidance on shifting to a sustainable garment industry, check out the coming guide, adDRESSing Change by Marci Zaroff and Yours Truly.

Photo credits: Title Photo by Sam Burriss  and dyed yarns by OSCAR AGUILAR on Unsplash
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