What Is Zero Waste Fashion?
by Malaika Haaning
The development of sustainable fashion is an important way to minimize the environmental impact of the fashion industry. It is clear, however, that many brands that approach sustainability through the use of sustainable materials also forget about the waste they are leaving behind.
On average, fashion brands throw 20-30% of their materials into landfill for each style they make. Even if they use sustainable materials, their cutting scraps still end up in landfills all over the world. To give you an example, in 2018 in the USA 17 million tons of textile waste ended up in landfills. This is not only cutting scraps but the total of textile waste, including second-hand clothing that either hasn't been donated or is too damaged to wear again.
For companies that also choose to manufacture overseas, an increase in their waste and CO2 emissions can have damaging effects on the environment. For each season they create, a brand may have to send samples back and forth to get the final garment approved for production. A sample will be shipped back and forth at least 6-7 times so imagine a company that produces a collection of 50 pieces every season! Manufacturing locally and making samples in-house are essential ways to combat these harmful production methods.
Sustainable fashion also encompasses zero-waste fashion. The main focus of zero-waste fashion companies is to either make products from waste or create products that have no to very little waste. This is where we put our main focus because we see waste as the biggest constraint on the environment.
What should you consider when creating sustainable fashion?
It is essential to create garments with little or zero waste. Zero waste is the staple at Malaika New York and it is also one of the most advanced forms for sustainability you can look for. Our first focus is the waste created before even designing the garment. Most of our garments are made from rectangles, the same size as the width of the fabric, to maximize the fabric use and limit our waste.
Unfortunately, many companies that produce their garments overseas to save cost do not adhere to essential labor standards (fair wages, good working conditions, no child labor) and limit the visibility of their supply chain. We get our collections sewn locally to make sure that these necessary working conditions are upheld.
Whenever possible we use our cutting scraps in our new collections, donate them to students or quilting societies. Often, many companies will just throw them out to landfills.
We burn a very limited amount of CO2 in order for the samples to be made in-house. Companies that produce overseas may ship one garment back and forth multiple times before they are satisfied with the end result. Brands outsourcing production lack the essential access to their factories that not only ensures control over their samples but also enforces fair labor standards.
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