FRA News

The Complete Guide to Sustainable Fashion


4th May 2023

Sustainable fashion has become increasingly more prominent over the past few years, and is being promoted by hundreds of brands throughout the fashion industry. In this article, we’ll cover what sustainable fashion is and why it’s so important.

What is Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable fashion encourages the idea of creating an eco-friendly industry where products, people, and processes are all aiming toward a carbon-neutral goal. In a nutshell, sustainable fashion focuses on environmentally-friendly fashion that's ethically made.

The term focuses on both the way in which clothing is created and the people who work to produce the garments. Sustainable fashion concerns more than just products; it aims to achieve equality, social justice and animal welfare throughout the industry. 

Why is Sustainable Fashion Important?

The goal is to create a system whereby fashion can be made in a way that considers humanity and the environment, reducing the negative impact as much as possible. There are many reasons why sustainable fashion is important, but here are some of the main ones:

Reduces Carbon-Footprint

The fashion industry contributes to global warming as it emits a large amount of greenhouse gases. The majority of clothes are made from fossil fuels (such as polyester and nylon), which require much more energy in the production stage. 

However, ethical brands use materials that are natural or recycled, which require less chemical treatment and energy to grow to the materials needed. Organic materials such as linen are biodegradable too.  

Promotes Fair Wages and Working Conditions

Most fast fashion companies that are manufacturing cheap clothes will source their clothing from developing countries. Workers are often severely underpaid and work long hours in poor conditions. In contrast, sustainable companies prioritise a safe environment and fair pay for their workers.

Doesn’t Support Child Labour

Accusations of child labour have often been made against fast fashion brands. Sustainable companies, however, aim to create a safe workplace, providing transparent information about work processes and conditions.

Saves Animal Lives

Clothes that are made from leather or fur kill millions of animals every year. Sustainable brands have begun using cruelty-free alternatives, including materials made from recycled seat belts and even rubbish from the ocean. 

Requires Less Water

The fashion industry uses a lot of water when manufacturing fabrics and garments. Cotton is particularly dependent on it, and is usually grown in hot and dry areas where water is already scarce. Sustainable brands use materials such as organic cotton instead, which consumes significantly less water. 

Examples of Sustainable Fashion

There are many terms in the sustainable fashion sphere, but here are some of the most important ones:

Slow Fashion

Slow fashion is essentially the polar opposite of fast fashion (which will be looked at later in the article). The concept is very similar to sustainable fashion, and follows the same general guidelines.

What is Slow Fashion?

Slow fashion takes a long-term view and considers the whole life cycle of the product. It promotes buying long-lasting garments that are of a higher quality, whilst valuing fair treatment of people, animals and the planet.

Ethical Fashion

Ethical fashion is about taking a moralistic stance to ensure no humans or animals are hurt during the design, production and distribution of garments.

Circular Fashion

Circular fashion refers to strategies intended to recover any wasted materials, with the idea of re-purposing them to use in manufacturing. One of the most common examples of circular fashion is recycling plastic-based materials and reusing them.

What is Fast Fashion?

On the other side of sustainable fashion is fast fashion. The term refers to cheap clothing that is mass-produced in response to the latest trends. Fast fashion replicates recent catwalk or celebrity culture styles and produces them at a low cost.

The goal of fast fashion is to get the newest trends on the market as quickly as possible, so that they are available to shoppers while they are still current and popular.

Factors Common to Fast Fashion Brands

Examples you might see in a fast fashion brand include: 

  • A limited quantity of particular garments, encouraging shoppers to buy immediately as they know it could soon be out of stock
  • Use of low-quality materials like polyester
  • Short turnaround time between when a trend is seen on a catwalk to when it appears in the store
  • Thousands of styles 

How Can We Shop More Sustainably?

Invest in Clothes for All Seasons 

Buy items that you know will work all year round. Don't spend all your money on a whole new summer wardrobe each year if you live in a chilly country like the UK, when you'll barely get to wear it! Try pieces that could be worn anytime, such as jeans, t-shirts and light jackets that can be worn year-round.

Buy Second Hand

Instead of buying new all the time, take a look around charity shops and purchase something second-hand instead. You can also donate your own unwanted clothes, rather than just leaving them hanging in the wardrobe, which will help others to be more sustainable too. 

Choose Quality Over Quantity

Buy quality pieces from sustainable companies rather than cheaper alternatives from fast fashion brands. Although it'll likely cost more money to begin with, it will also last longer, saving you money overall. Buying a few high-quality items that will last for years is much better for the environment (and cheaper in the long-term) than buying tons of cheaper non-eco-friendly clothes.

Repair Your Current Clothing

Try to avoid throwing clothes away unnecessarily. If something rips, try and repair it yourself, or find a professional to do it. There are apps that can connect users to local tailors who can repair and alter clothing. Although giving your clothes away to charity is a great way to be more sustainable, it doesn’t always mean they end up in someone else’s wardrobe, and can sometimes just end up in the landfill.

Study at Fashion at the Fashion Retail Academy

If sustainable fashion is something you’re passionate about, and you want to make a difference in the industry, why not take the first step and enrol onto one of our fashion courses? We offer a variety of options including Level 2, 3 and 4 courses as well as undergraduate and apprenticeship courses. 

Study BA (Hons) Fashion Business, and you'll get the chance to explore the commercial and ethical factors that can impact brands, as well as develop leadership qualities in order to start your own fashion business. 

Our Level 4 Garment Technology course will allow you to study the entire lifecycle of a clothing product, from its initial development through to production. You will get hands-on practical experience that'll help to improve your creative abilities.

If you think a role in fashion is right for you, take the first step and study with the Fashion Retail Academy. If you have any questions about the courses on offer, send us an email at

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