Let's talk about sustainability!
5 july 2020
(Last update : 12 septembre 2020)
End of the Crowdfunding.. Beginning of the Dream!
We reached 100% , 15 days in advance!
I would like to thank all those who supported my crowdfunding and consequently contributed to the realization of my dream! This is the first step towards building a magical and sustainable world that I have wanted to recreate since I was a child. A fairytale world, immersed in mystery and nature, in folkloristic traditions and with respect for the environment. A world that allows us to dream with our eyes open but that does so in respect of human rights and our planet, slowing down the rhythms of fashion and consumption, appreciating craftsmanship and the made in Italy. It is a world made up of talented women who combine their creative skills to build an alternative reality. It is the world that my mother inspired me to pursue.I thank everyone who helped me, despite the difficult times.
The world of Nour & the Merchant is growing, and it is also thanks to you!
Introducing a new blog!
Today I would like to introduce you to my new blog. This will be a space where I will share contents about magical locations, festival, practices and once a month I will share your own fairytales as well! But it will also be a place to share updates on new productions, new collaborations and, most important, new ways of making sustainable fashion. It is from here that I would like to start today, the concept of sustainability.
We all want to measure our impact on the environment but it is extremely difficult to learn about all the threats modern economy, and consequentially, our own actions, pose to Mother Earth. We all demand more sustainability and accountability from brands and producers but often don't truly know what goes behind the creation of sustainable garments and the challenges that come with this process.
I decided to write this little column of my blog about my own personal experience as a brand owner with the creation of sustainable fashion.
I hope to intrigue you in the days to come with information about the challenges and choices that I make on a daily basis to keep my brand as sustainable as possible!
What does sustainability really mean?
What does sustainability mean? In my perspective sustainability is not only about waisting less resources or protecting the environment; sustainability is a matter of human rights, children's, animal rights, new imperialism and self determination of developing countries. It is an issue of gender roles and female empowerment, of racism and modern slavery, of welfare and democracy. It is most of all a matter of class.
The word sustainable is too often linked solely to the environment but what it truly means it is something that CAN be done without finishing our planet resources and impoverishing the masses. It is something that CAN be done by making progress in transnational justice and by keeping our values and dignity, without recessing to nationalistic close markets and abandoning concepts of human rights and freedom we fought so hard for.
Sustainability is a difficult and multi-dimentional concept to define, therefore any definition or guide to sustainable fashion would not be complete or accurate.
I will use this space every month to talk about sustainability, and my own personal experience with creating sustainable fashion, one step at a time. Today, however, I wanted to start with a few informations about the costs of sustainability in order to give you an overview of what goes behind the process of designing and finding the right fabric for a sustainable dress.
The Cost of Sustainability
The first thing I realized when I started getting interested in creating sustainable clothes was that, on the fabric market, sustainable fabric was extremely difficult to find. Most suppliers of fabric work with MOQs or Minimum Order Quantities under which they do not sell to fashion brands and other companies. MOQs can be as low as 5 meters of fabric but, in the case of sustainable fabric, MOQs are usually very high (hundreds of meters) and expensive to support for smaller brands.
While the cost per meter of a non-sustainable fabric usually ranges between 3-10 euros per meter, the cost of sustainable fabric is likely placed in the price range of 15-25 per meter or more. There are, thankfully, a couple of suppliers who work with no MOQ or very low MOQs, however the price is of course higher than it would be if the brand purchased larger quantities of fabric all at once.
Another issue I realized right away was that in order to purchase sustainable fabric that was not too plain and boring I needed to find solutions to dyeing and embroidering. Sustainable fabric is not personalized unless ordered in extremely large quantities and, since big brands do not want to give up on the high profits, very few producers have "decorated" sustainable fabric. This is why most truly sustainable dresses found in the market are very simple, mono-color, with no prints and no embroidery. There is almost no organic cotton lace or tulle, no pattern or prints. Sustainability can become less and less appealing because the cost of creating an elaborate sustainable fabric are too high for small brands to sustain. This could change if the large fast-fashion brands started increasing the demand of sustainable fabric, lowering consequentially the price for everyone else.
The way in which fabric is dyed is also not sustainable. Fashion coloring process causes 20% of the world water pollution and it uses 2 millions Olympic pools of water a year! A sustainable solution is digital printing which is the way the crowdfunding dress was printed (and the Diana) but, as you can imagine, the cost of digital printing is still very high because it is a new sustainable technology not yet used as much by fast-fashion brands.
Another issue I encountered with sustainable fabrics is that each of them have its own pros and cons, some are recycled but of plastic base and therefore can still pollute if you wash them, some require a lot of ironing and drying so waste electric resources, some are organic but still waste some water in the process, dead-stock is in a way "second hand" but it also pushes big brands to continue purchasing more fabric than they need because someone will eventually buy it anyways, and all of them are produced in very few countries where this market is concentrated so in order for brands to have them they require shipping. Basically at the moment being 100% sustainable is a fairytale rather than reality and consumers should be aware that brands, despite their best intentions, face logistical challenges that still can't be overcome! What is the solution? Some say it would be only buying second hand. Vintage clothes that are made of polyester (the large majority now-a-days) can still pollute water when being washed and in order to collect vintage clothes we still use transport technologies that rely on unsustainable fuels.
The End... for now!
In order to be 100% sustainable in my own personal opinion we have two options. The first would be to go back to the middle-age and live in regional nationalistic close markets, with all the political consequences that this would create in regard to democracy and human rights (I could go more into it but it would make this post more about history than fashion). The second would be to push big brands to change the rhetoric of production by making sustainable fabrics the norm, lowering their cost for everyone else and changing the currently unsustainable and cruel rhythms of fashion.
If those corporations with money could normalize higher costs of fashion and promote new technologies for sustainable materials things would rapidly change. Soon suppliers would adapt and logistics companies would follow by changing the ways in which transportation is done and the fuels used in the process would be of alternative energy resources. However "science" and "innovation" follow where the money goes, and the money only goes where there is a higher profit.
When initially I talked about sustainability being something that CAN be done, this is what I was talking about. Being sustainable today means doing fashion with the best possible intentions but if we look at all the factors involved nobody can be truly 100% sustainable until larger brands realize that the future of this world and our way of life is in their own hands.