WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE CLOTHING?
If you've browsed on our website for any amount of time, you've probably noticed that sustainability is very important to us. It's something that fashion brands don't talk about enough, so we're here to break the ice and talk about what sustainable clothing really means to us! Sustainability can be defined as "actions that will in some way improve the health of our planet" 🌎 — but when you see a Canadian clothing brand, or any clothing brand claiming to be sustainable...what does that really mean? And how can we know for sure that they really are putting into practice all the things they say they are? There are a number of different ways a brand bring sustainable practices into their business, from the way they produce, package and deliver their product, to the raw material they use. When you think "sustainable fashion brand" you probably think something along these lines —the business uses sustainable and ethically sourced raw materials, produces it ethically creating as little waste as possible, uses eco-friendly methods for their packaging and shipping, and reduces their ecological footprint wherever they can.
FINDING TRULY SUSTAINABLE CLOTHING BRANDS
At Miik — we don't just use sustainable raw materials and put a stamp of approval on it. It's so much more than that! We look at ALL areas of our business to identify areas we do well, and also to find ways to keep growing. At Miik, we use rayon from bamboo and modal clothing for almost all our styles.
But we don't just use any type of Modal or bamboo fabric — we use Lenzing to make sure we meet the highest standards of environmental responsibility. Lenzing is known for their commitment to sustainable fabric production and their closed-loop processes. In their production of MicroModal, the pulp and fibre are produced in one location and 95% of the materials produced are recovered to reduce energy use and minimize waste.
Bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world and requires no pesticides and minimal water to grow. If you’d like to read more on this, we have an entire page on our website sharing about our fabrics! We also like to think of the landfill when we produce our clothing. To us, sustainability means high quality Canadian clothing that will last you a long time — and not having to buy new pieces every season because they have worn out. Ever had a massive hole in the armpit of your favourite t-shirt after one season? We've all been there, but think of how many landfills are full of clothes that people loved, but didn't stand the test of time. (In case you’re wondering why our prices are more expensive than your typical fast fashion brand, head to this blog post to understand!)
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN SUSTAINABLE CLOTHING BRANDS:
As we've already talked about, it's not just eco-friendly fabric that makes a clothing brand sustainable (though it's definitely still important!) Let's talk about some other ways that you can identify brands who truly care about the planet and making their brand as eco-friendly as possible.
1. Their garments are made of high quality materials and classic, timeless styles (fashionable, but not trendy). This is important! Let’s say a brand makes all their garments using sustainably sourced materials, but they’re dropping new collections every 2-weeks (yes, some big chain retailers really do that 😳). Then they can’t really be considered sustainable, because yes their items will last you a long time, but they're cranking out so many pieces, and are flooding the consumer market with fast fashion. One of the best things you can do as a consumer is NOT bend to the trends! Trends will soon go out of style, which will then end up in landfills, contributing to mass amounts of pollution. We create all our collections in small batches, because we want to see every piece we make worn and loved. Sustainable clothing brands should have a healthy balance of eco-friendly materials, high quality products, and fashionably timeless styles that go beyond the trends.
2. They have an ethical supply chain! If you don't care about the people who make your clothes, then you probably don't care very much about the planet they live on either. You might be wondering “what in the world does an ethical supply chain look like?” Don’t worry, we got you, let us explain. There's a process that takes place to get our raw materials into production to custom mill our fabrics (rayon from bamboo and Lenzing Micromodal). From there, they are taken to sewing factories where our fabrics are cut, sewed and packaged. Then, all those clothes are taken to our warehouse, and then finally they get delivered to you! It is an intricate and sometimes long journey, and everyone along the way needs to get their piece of the pie (also known as FAIR WAGES). Again, you might be looking at the screen asking yourself “what does that have to do with sustainability?” and we will tell you, it has A LOT to do with it. Companies that are paying very low wages to their employees (regardless of that being legal or not) are usually the companies mass producing clothing, ensuring they’re spending the least they can to profit the most they can. So, when a company hires the services of a manufacturing company in Bangladesh for example, that pays their employees around $3.50 a day (yes that’s real and it does happen) there really aren’t any regulations against disposing chemicals like dyes from going down the drain and polluting rivers. There are no standard or regulations that prevent “accidents” from happening like the factory collapse Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2013. When we support companies that pay their employees a living and fair wage throughout the WHOLE supply chain, it gives the manufacturers and factories the tools they need to do things safe and sustainably. If we as the brand expect more and pay more, then sustainable clothing follows. We think it's worth the investment, don't you? 🥰
3. They value a low carbon footprint. Have you seen some companies (like Miik!) offering a carbon footprint offset at checkout? Well, the reason why we do that is because pollution is a part of fashion, no matter how sustainable your clothing brand is. There are factories, machinery, and transportation which all use up energy and contributes to pollution. Since we product locally, our carbon footprint is already a lot lower than your standard business, because there’s much less shipping required between stages of production. But, it's still not perfect! So what we do is offer carbon offsets — a small addition to your order of $1 that goes to certified GREEN projects. These projects ensure the conservation and restoration of forests, generate clean and renewable energy, or increase energy efficiency. That way we can try to fix problems we can’t change, since we need transportation, factories, and energy to produce our clothes.
4. Last but not least, they avoid producing WASTE. That is a hard one! Humans create A LOT of waste, there’s no running away from that — but what’s important is to avoid creating unnecessary waste. Let’s refer back to our previous blog post. If you buy cheap and low quality clothes that won’t last you a long time and that will wear out quickly, that is creating waste 🙅🏻♀️ When it comes to a company's responsibility with waste, there's at least 2 MAIN things they should be doing:
A. Recycling scrap fabric, donating fabric/clothing to certified institutions that will repurpose that fabric to be used again ♻️
B. Producing high quality, timeless clothing that won’t be discarded every season because of how bad it washes or because it was trendy...and it's gone out of style overnight 😅
Here's a graphic that will help you re-cap all the areas that help make a clothing brand sustainable:
THE POWER IS IN YOUR HANDS (YES, YOU!) 🙌
As consumers of clothing, you have the power to drive what kind of consumer market you want. EVERYONE in the world buys clothing, so we ALL have a part to play in this! Investing in sustainable brands (brownie points if they're a Canadian sustainable brand because #shoplocal) means that you're not only buying from brands who care about BOTH people and planet for the future, but also buying styles that are going to last YOU a long time.
It’s important to be observant and critical when you're shopping — companies have to be held accountable for their actions. If both consumers and producers all do their part, the future of our planet can look a whole lot better! 💚 We hope this blog post helped you understand sustainability a bit more. As always, feel free to send us a message on social media or on our contact form here if you have any additional feedback or questions, we love to hear from our community!
Your Miik Team