What is Sustainable Fashion?

What is Sustainable Fashion? 

You might have heard the term “sustainable fashion” before, and you might be asking yourself “what in the world does it mean?” 
Look no further! I’ll explain: Sustainable fashion is a trend that describes the creation of clothing that is both environmentally, and socially conscious. 

fashion design plans

Where did sustainable fashion start? 

Sustainable practices were bound to happen eventually, but the industrustries' roots start far in the opposite direction….

Fashion started small—clothing was built to be practical, and most people couldn’t even afford enough to fill a small closet. Sustainability wasn’t a thought because (at that point) it didn’t need to be. 

In the 1950s, the fashion industry boomed. We entered the era of the post-war American Dream, filled with mass production and the commodification of just about everything—including clothes! “Fast Fashion” was born—low-cost, short runs, of mass produced, seasonal collections became standard. The never-ending cycle of mass manufacturing and discard began. 

The 1960s, hippy and flower child movement came with a shift towards environmental consciousness. Thrifting & second hand purchases, patchworking & reworked clothing became a central part of 1960s fashion. For the first time ever, people talked about taking care of our world and how business (and fashion!) fits into that. Yet, offshore outsourcing and the use of sweatshops became common practice from the 1960s and onwards—the low cost made mass manufacturing even easier. 

The first sustainable, environmentally conscious brands started in the 1970s and 1980s. Brands began to commit themselves to conscious production, business practices, and through donating towards environmental groups. 

protesting dams in Patagonia

Through the 1990s, “second life” became an increasingly important consideration in clothing design: products shouldn’t be made to wear and discard, but should last through multiple product lifespans! We also began to hear about the mistreatment of sweatshop workers, and in 1997 the Mayor of Ohio introduced the first piece of legislation prohibiting the government from purchasing any goods made under sweatshop conditions. Crises like the Rana Plaza Collapse in 2013 made us realize that fast fashion isn't just environmentally unsustainable, but socially irresponsible too. 

Towards the late 1990s and early 2000s, organizations like United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) campaigned for transparency in the garment industry, putting pressure on global outlets to release information about their factories and treatment of workers. Crises like the Rana Plaza Collapse in 2013 made us realize that fast fashion isn't just environmentally unsustainable, but socially irresponsible too. 

Rana Plaza Protest image

Sustainable fashion continued to develop into the late 2000s, with new terms to describe the trend. The concept of “slow fashion”, coined by Kate Fletcher in 2007 emerged—it’s the notion that clothing should be high quality, long lasting, and created in a clean environment. Borrowing from the “slow food” movement, a key point of “slow fashion” is both clothing producers and consumers should be treated fairly—this is the baseline for sustainable fashion. 

Why is sustainable fashion important? 

We only have one planet to call home, and it’s a home we should look after! Ethical environmental and social business practices are vital in taking care of our home. Just to put things into perspective: 
  • The average number of clothing collections has more than doubled, leaping from two per year in 2000 to around five a year by 2011
  • Larger brands produce as many as 24 new collections per year 
  • North Americans sent 9.5 million tonnes of clothing to landfills annually
  • The average person discards 37 kilograms of clothing annually 

landfill filled with discarded clothing
That’s a lot of waste, hey?

To quote Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface Inc: 

“Business is the largest, wealthiest, most pervasive institution on the Earth… and it’s responsible for most of the damage to the environment. We’re a major part of the problem, and unless we become part of the solution, it’s over…” (from ecofashiontalk.com)


So… how can I support sustainability in fashion?

With all these statistics and facts whirling around your head, you might be wondering: “How can I be a part of this movement? How can I support sustainability and prevent clothing waste?” 

The answer is simpler than you think... you, as shopper, have total control over your own footprint! Before buying new clothes, research brands and ask yourself: 

  1. Does the company treat their workers fairly? (Both onshore and offshore) 
  2. Are the products built to last a long time? 
  3. Are the products created in an environmentally friendly way? (Using sustainable products AND practices) 
  4. Does the company engage in any other sustainability related initiatives
  5. Is this piece of clothing timeless? Will it stay relevant in my wardrobe for a long time? 

Answering YES to these questions signifies a sustainable purchase. 

How does hernest fit into the movement? 

"People were investing in more expensive products that would last a long time, rather than disposables. We wanted to engage with these people – these were our people. Engaging around quality products is a great way to lower the impact of our products" says Rick Ridgeway, VP of Environmental Affairs for Patagonia in a Triple Pundit article. 

hernest follows the same ethos. To combat the masses of clothing produced and discarded yearly, we decided to create something that would last. We design our products to be timeless and durable—both through their style and their quality. Our focus lies in clean lines, classic styles, wardrobe versatility, and pieces that won’t go out of fashion—our clothes will remain a staple in your wardrobe, regardless of seasonal fashion changes.  

illustration of mother holding baby against a tree

We value sustainability at every stage of production. We care about how our clothes are made, what they’re made from—we’ve chosen the best of the best to help us make them:  

  1. We use TENCEL™ Lyocell fibres in all of our fabrics: TENCEL™ are known for their environmentally responsible, closed loop production process, and their lasting quality.
  2. We work exclusively with packaging partners that offer natural or recycled materials! 
  3. All of our textiles and trims are OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified, which means thy  are free from environmentally harmful substances.
  4. Our clothes are handmade by SM Senra, a factory in Maia, Portugal (who also hold OEKO-TEX® and GOTS certifications). Workers rights are respected and we’ve visit them regularly. You can see for yourself here
hernest project dress


We’ve built quality relationships with our garment-makers, and are proud of their reputation for quality, technical know-how, commitment to recycling and waste minimization, and strong (and regulated!) labour standards.  

On top of all this, we donate 1% of profits back to community organisations in Canada and Portugal who are committed to changing the face of fashion for the better. 


Sustainable fashion starts with us, and continues with you. That’s why we’ve dedicated ourselves to environmentally and socially conscious, durable, sleepwear that will last.

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