Sustainable Clothing Manufacturing – How We Do It

Since the early 2000s, the world started shifting away from using fossil fuels and harmful products to focusing on sustainability. This issue has had significant and positive impacts on virtually all industries, but arguably none more than fashion and apparel.

This shift in thinking began with small-scale producers who wanted to create apparel that had a low or net-zero impact on the environment. After this grassroots beginning, many of today’s most prominent brands have looked for ways to incorporate more sustainability into their products, brand vision, and foundational values.

Although multiple definitions of sustainability exist for the apparel industry, ranging from ethical pay to diversification, today’s focus is on the manufacturing process.

Here are the primary ways clothing manufacturing processes are eco-friendly and environmentally supported.

Focus on the Materials

Numerous sustainable materials are available for clothing manufacturers to use today, no matter how big or small the company or process. The first focus is to shift toward organic items to remove or lessen the number of solvents, chemicals, and dyes used in the treatment process.

Another emphasis is on incorporating more recycled materials into modern fashion. That includes processing ocean plastics into new clothing.

Rapid renewables are an exciting category, replacing cotton with materials like bamboo and industrial hemp that grow faster, don’t need pesticides, and absorb five times more carbon than some trees.

Hemp cultivation is much less demanding on the soil, while the fibers allow clothing manufacturers to create materials with better insulation properties. Flax, which is the foundational ingredient for linen, can grow in below-average soil conditions without requiring much care or maintenance. It absorbs moisture while keeping bacteria away. If it doesn’t receive any treatment, the clothing becomes 100% biodegradable.

Improve the Designs

Creating apparel that comes with increased durability and functionality reduces the resources that consumers need to have their clothing requirements met. By taking risks out of the fast fashion industry, a greater focus can be placed on outcomes that support the eco-consciousness of the modern consumer.

The manufacturing process looks at using 100% recycled outsourced materials and incorporating natural dyes that are less likely to fade during the aging process. There is a greater emphasis on communicating intent to the customer to ensure their thinking looks at long-term purchasing.

Reduced Water Consumption

Past clothing manufacturing processes consumed extraordinary levels of water to create apparel. We’re taking strides to reduce consumption, encourage recycling, and change separation and extraction techniques.

The latest advancements in three-dimensional seamless knitting create opportunities to reduce waste and streamline labor requirements. Laser cutters allow for materials to be used more efficiently.

When companies can recycle their wastewater back into the production process, billions of gallons of water are saved each year. When New York brand DL 1961 focused on these processes in 2019, they saved nearly 900 million gallons.

As an industry, we can all produce similar results. That’s why the manufacturing process looks for ways to increase water and resource efficiencies, even during intense operations.

Logistics Improvements

Sustainable clothing manufacturing must look at all steps in the production spectrum. That means starting with how the materials are produced and ending with the delivery of the created apparel.

One step is to source materials from the country of production to reduce emissions from shipping and transportation.

When sending items to a business or consumer, the packaging should optimize space while focusing on recycled materials. Working with a net-zero delivery partner creates a holistic approach to these logistics to work toward becoming a climate positive industry.

Lifespan After Consumer Purchase

The clothing manufacturing industry is looking at other ways to improve how consumers interact with their apparel preferences to ensure eco-friendly results. That includes encouraging each customer how to take care of their purchase more effectively by providing detailed care instructions.

Some manufacturers are expanding their services to include garment repair to reduce material use throughout the creation cycle. By maximizing product lifespans, fewer materials are needed without entirely disrupting revenues for the industry.

A Final Thought on Sustainable Clothing

We all have a responsibility to take a sustainable approach to the things we need and use. From a clothing manufacturing perspective, that means supporting environmental initiatives while creating eco-friendly designs that consumers can take care of easily to improve product lifespan.

At the same time, manufacturers must work with businesses to de-risk future product development.

With clear communication and positive reinforcement of eco-friendly behavior patterns, we can work together to create a world that supports us all.

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