How do you know if a garment is really eco-responsible?

The message is clear, but the label a little less. If we are more and more attentive to the impact of our wardrobe, some brands are blurring the lines with clothes that are only eco-responsible in appearance. Find out how to beat greenwashing.

With the ecological awakening of society, the greenwashing of fashion brands has become an Olympic discipline. As the committed multibrand WeDressFair denounces with its impactful campaign revealed during Fashion Revolution Week 2020, there are many false friends used to make us believe in green approaches when the reality is quite different. Behind the eco-conscious vocabulary in vogue hides a multitude of tricks to green one’s image without going through the “action” box. But how to distinguish the true from the false in this marketing war where all the blows are allowed? Recognize eco-responsible clothing : manual.

On the front line of bad practices: fashion players, from the production of raw materials to clothing in the workshops. Since the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013, one of the main concerns around ready-to-wear has been traceability. Who makes our clothes and under what conditions?

Geographic origin :

To ensure that the manufacture has been made with respect for human dignity, the reflex is to take an interest in its geographical origin. As the scandals linked to sweatshops, these shabby manufacturing workshops located on the outskirts of large cities in Europe and elsewhere have proved, sorting by country is irrelevant. Made in China is not necessarily a guarantee of poor quality, just as made in Europe does not guarantee good working conditions. For the “made in France”, the best is to refer to the certification French manufacturing guaranteed for which 50% of the unit cost price must be acquired in France.

Social protection :

To be sure of the manufacturing conditions of a garment, it is better to trust the labels. With their own specificities, each one guarantees in its own way the smooth running of production and the protection of employees through regular checks. The main reliable social protection labels are: Fair Trade, Fair Wear Foundation (FWF), SA 8000 …

Animal protection:

Leather, wool, feathers, silk … Natural materials often involve animal exploitation. There are two solutions available to the consumer: vegan fashion or guaranteed cruelty-free. Certifying the total absence of animal milking, the most widespread label is that of PETA. Regarding the ethical treatment of animals, different certifications exist depending on the raw materials and animals concerned. For silk, Eri silk can be recovered without killing the cocoon, organic silk protects it from pesticides. For leather and down, the Responsible Down Standard (RDS) guarantees animal welfare. For wool, this is the Responsible Woof Standard (RWS)

The notion of ecological material is very vague and no material is perfect, because each has an impact. To disentangle the “best fibers” from the “less good”, the solution is still to appeal to your common sense, to sharpen your knowledge in the matter, and as always, to rely on labels like GOTS and its strict organic charter.

Recycled materials:

From the recycling of finished products or industrial waste, recycled materials abound on the shelves. Some materials such as wool can be 100% recycled while cotton must be mixed with new fibers. Leather scraps are also recycled.
In the synthetic department, polyester (rPET) or polyamide (Econyl) is recycled. For each of these materials, there are pros (cleaning the oceans, reusing surpluses) and cons (chemical recycling, recyclability of the product over time, release of particles during its degradation) enough to spend hours analyzing the labels. on the Loup.

Secondary subjects:

In another genre, materials from industrial residues represent a circular solution. The waste of some is transformed into material by others as with pineapple (Pinatex), apple (Frumat) and even animal leather with the food industry.

Vegan materials:

While they protect animals, alternative materials to leather do not necessarily protect the planet. Often used to replace it, polyurethane from petrochemicals or PVC are materials that have a catastrophic impact on the environment. Better to turn to recent innovative materials that take into account the chemical impact to pollute less.

Natural materials:

The issues natural plant materials are located at two levels: their culture and their treatment. Regarding their cultivation, some materials are more greedy than others in water and pesticides than others (always favor organic). Cotton, organic or not, is a false friend because it is extremely greedy in water. The manufacture of viscose from wood pulp requires a lot of chemicals. On the contrary, if they are organic, flax (much cultivated in France) and hemp are very good students with little irrigation needed.
Natural animal materials like leather or silk are also processed to be usable. Prefer natural or chrome-free tanning and the dye GOTS certified.

Clothing can pollute in several ways. First during the manufacture of its material (synthetic or not, organic or not, tinted and treated with chemicals or not), then with its design and finally at its end of life (is it recyclable or its many details make its dismantling impossible?). Reassuring presence, the Oeko-Tex label certifies the absence of toxic products for the environment and for humans.

Then, with its transport if it is manufactured far from its place of sale. Many fashion companies pass zero waste, use simplified or reusable packaging for deliveries and returns to minimize their impact. An eco-responsible garment is also a garment whose marketing has paid attention to all these details.

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