Label works to make it easy to be green
The fashion industry has a poor reputation for environmental sustainability, being synonymous with high water and chemical use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Some brands have responded to criticism by producing more eco-friendly garments.
But are you truly helping the planet by buying these garments or are they just examples of greenwashing - products portrayed as being green to enhance their marketability?
Emma Sommerville formed clothing label Folktribe with her sister Kellie after travelling and seeing the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
"In China they know new season colours way ahead of us because their rivers run that colour," Emma says. "They'll know, 'millennial pink, this is on trend'."
Folktribe's fashions are designed to be long-lasting, rather than being based around trends, and can be worn in different styles, in all seasons, and are made from durable natural fibres such as hemp.
Here are Emma's seven tips for buying ethical and sustainable fashion:
1. UNDERSTAND WHERE YOUR GARMENT GETS ITS COLOUR
Dyeing processes involve a lot of water and the wastewater from textile dyeing is a huge pollutant of waterways worldwide. While some dyes don't ever degrade, others produce harmful substances as they decompose. There are also harmful additives that not only degrade the environment but are bad for those wearing the end garment. Natural dyes and digital printing are best - and don't be afraid to reach out to a brand and clarify this kind of information.
2. KNOW YOUR FIBRE TYPES
Not all fabrics are created equal. Some synthetic fabrics can be toxic in their creation, some natural fibres can be resource-intensive in the process and even some recycled or "eco" fibres can have both toxic and resource-intensive impacts. There is plenty of information out there - a quick Google search could be your best friend.
3. MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR BRAND
Connect with them on their social platforms and read their "about us" section. This may seem like a very simple task but understanding the true values of the brand will give you an indication of what you're buying.
4. FIND OUT WHERE YOUR GARMENT IS FROM
Think about the steps it takes to get that new top to you. There is a farmer growing the crop, someone weaving the fabric, dyeing the fabric, designing the garment, making the garment, transportation, and the list goes on. How much do you think that is really worth?
5. TRANSPARENCY IS THE NEW SUSTAINABILITY
Finding it difficult to navigate through all the claims of eco brands? Transparency requires brands to be open about their claims and honestly share the relevant facts behind them. For example, a brand that claims to be fair trade will share where their garments are made, who makes them, what they are given in exchange for their labour and any certification to go with it.
Generally speaking, if a brand is doing the right thing they are more than happy to give you every detail of their process. You can usually find this on a brand's website, but again, contact them directly if you're feeling unsure.
6. SAY NO TO PLASTIC OR EXCESS PACKAGING
If you've decided to buy a piece that you adore, there's only one thing left to do at the counter before you pay: let them know you don't need a bag or a receipt (unless for some reason you need it). If you're buying online, there's unusually a comments section that you can request minimal packaging and no plastic.
7. LONGEVITY IN YOUR CLOTHING
There is 6000kg of clothing that goes into landfill every 10 minutes in Australia, so there's no denying fast fashion is a huge problem. This part starts with you: know your style. Find brands that suit your style and buy pieces that will stay in your wardrobe for a long time. Avoid brands that constantly release new things that you "can't live without", and instead look for timeless designs and pieces you really love. Focus on quality over quantity.
Seem like too much research? Emma says to send the brand an email asking exactly what you'd like to know, particularly things that are important to you.
"Keep the email as a draft so you can use it over and over," she says. "If you want a template, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you an email to use with all the questions you should be asking.
"The power for change around ethics and sustainability in fashion is in your hands and your questions and your choices make all the difference."
Folktribe is an entrant in the international entrepreneurship competition Pitch @Palace. The Queensland final will be held at Bond University on the Gold Coast on November 27.