Lifestyle Asia

EVERGREEN STYLE

Designer and fashion sustainabi­lity advocate LULU TAN GAN says that you must first understand what sustainabi­lity means, and then do your research to be a more discerning consumer

- Text MICA TORRES CRUZ

In the past decade, global markets have a heightened awareness for sustainabi­lity. It has become pivotal for the fashion industry, in particular, to integrate greener practices into its brands. What was once only feel-good marketing messaging in the 90s, has now become a legitimate customer demand.

The numbers reflect it: In 2019, the sustainabl­e and ethical fashion market was worth $6.35 billion. According to the Globe Newswire, the market is set to grow to $9.81 billion in 2025 and $15.7 billion in 2030.

CLOSER LOOK

Fast fashion companies, in turn, are creating green divisions under their brands to accommodat­e this demand. But these are also being closely scrutinize­d.

In 2019 the Norwegian Consumer Council (NCC) accused Swedish clothing company H&M of “greenwashi­ng” their sustainabl­e integratio­n. NCC found that H&M Conscious only provides vague descriptio­ns on why the H&M Conscious line is genuinely eco-friendly.

Greenwashi­ng is a form of marketing spin that deceives consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmen­tally sound, usually done as a shortcut to gain profit without concrete evidence.

With H&M Conscious launching in 2010, it took nine years for the greenwashi­ng controvers­y to arise. It seems that the mass market has yet to understand what sustainabl­e products must entail and what questions must be raised to shop sustainabl­y accurately.

The retail company, apparently, had an extensive dialogue with the NCC about better communicat­ing the work that they do. In an interview with British Vogue last year, new H&M CEO Helena Helmersson said that “fast fashion doesn’t have to be a dirty word,” and shared some of their immediate and long-term eco-friendly goals.

“With our size and our resources, we can be part of making [new technologi­es] more scalable,” says Helmersson, who used to be H&M’s chief sustainabi­lity officer.

DEFINING SUSTAINABI­LITY

Designer and fashion sustainabi­lity advocate Lulu Tan Gan says that one must know what sustainabi­lity means to be an earth-friendly consumer. It’s not enough to take a brand’s word for it.

“Sustainabi­lity is made up of three pillars: the economy, the ethical factor, and the environmen­t,” Tan Gan explains. She believes that avoiding fast fashion altogether will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions released into the atmosphere, also known as a carbon footprint.

“Be aware of fast fashion brands that are made from unfair wages and unsafe working conditions. You can then support fair labor,” says Tan Gan, adding that we should prioritize quality over quantity when shopping and opt for timeless pieces that can be worn year-round.

CELEBRATIN­G ARTISANS

“Wehavea youngerand moreecocon­scious generation­of consumersw­ho aredistinc­tly awareofthe supplychai­n’s environmen­tal impact”

If you don’t know where to start, Tan Gan advises exploring artisanal fashion brands as they use natural textiles such as organic bamboo linen and wool that are biodegrada­ble. You would also be supporting skilled workers

that design in small batches, which ensures the ethical manufactur­ing of each collection.

It’s also a way to retain local craftsmans­hip, as the Philippine­s is home to time to long-living traditions of weaving and embroidery.

Fast fashion retailers regularly mass-producing garments. Spanish brand Zara, for example, makes 840 million clothing pieces each year, which is sold in its 6,000 stores worldwide. This might make for an unethical production process.

There are also other issues associated with bigger retailers, from brands stealing independen­t artist’s designs to the unfair wages, and dangerous environmen­t garment workers experience. Smaller-scaled brands might offer more transparen­cy and have the capacity to control a more direct supply chain.

SLOW IT DOWN

In Tan Gan’s namesake brand, they utilize local and organic fabrics such as piña, and when it comes to production, she says that the carbon emission rate is at zero.

“We fabricate, either handwoven or hand-knit, using hand-drawn looms and not automated. Therefore there is no energy used, no carbon footprint at all,” Tan Gan shares. “Our designs are properly studied and engineered to avoid wastage of materials. Our artisans have good hand skills.”

With Tan Gan’s product offerings being handmade, it takes time to produce collection­s, which categorize­s her label as being “slow fashion.”

Slow fashion is a business and awareness approach that contrasts fast fashion with its emphasis on quality over quantity. This process aims to produce long-lasting garments that value the treatment of people, animals, and the planet.

“Beawareof fastfashio­n brandsthat aremade fromunfair wagesand unsafe working conditions. Youcanthen supportfai­r labor”

DIGITAL SUPPORT

Many platforms have risen that highlight slow fashion brands. Frankie and Friends General Store, for example, is a curated marketplac­e that sells homegrown, eco-friendly products from shoes and bags to home items and pantry goods.

In addition, it regularly provides impact reports to communicat­e their supply chain methods and contributi­ons to local cities where they source labor and goods.

For instance, they offer bags made of upcycled coffee sacks from Cavite. With every bag sold, coffea is planted to help revive the local coffee industry. Frankie and Friends also sell bags from Cebu City made of recycled rice sacks woven together by underprivi­leged families to provide them with a livelihood.

Tan Gan remains optimistic about the future of fashion’s sustainabi­lity.

“Globally, we have a younger and more eco-conscious generation of consumers who are distinctly aware of the supply chain’s environmen­tal impact,” she says. “Many brands, big and small, are supporting the livelihood of local communitie­s. Several surviving brands have brought out environmen­t-conscious collection­s.” With the new generation being raised with informatio­n at their disposal, we can hope that slow fashion’s growth will continue to rise. It seems that instead of constantly asking “what’s next?” fashion consumers want to know what’s here to stay.

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 ??  ?? "We fabricate, either hand-woven or hand-knit, using hand-drawn looms and not automated. Therefore there is no energy used, no carbon footprint at all,” Tan Gan shares
"We fabricate, either hand-woven or hand-knit, using hand-drawn looms and not automated. Therefore there is no energy used, no carbon footprint at all,” Tan Gan shares

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