By Bay Ewald

If you’re just getting into the scene of sustainable clothes, you might find yourself asking: exactly what is sustainable fashion?

Sustainable clothing refers to clothing, shoes, and accessories that are created and manufactured in a way that considers both social and environmental aspects.

Green Strategy’s definition states,“this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components.”

At Project Ropa, we believe sustainable clothing carries with it the power to change the world (and to do so fashionably, at that). Let’s take a deeper dive into the world of sustainable clothing and see what it all means.

For the Clothing Consumer

What is sustainable clothing for the consumer? It means being mindful of your purchases and the philosophies behind the brands you support. How was it made? What materials are used? Who are the workers and how are they treated? Ask yourself these questions prior to making your purchase. Keep the idea of minimalism in mind, too; buy less, give away what you no longer need, and get creative with upcycling.

For the Clothing Brand

And how about for the clothing brand? Sustainable clothing brands consider each aspect of their production. From reducing the carbon footprint of clothing transportation, to utilizing sustainable clothing materials free of chemicals and resource depletion, to having a positive impact on the lives of their workers — sustainable fashion supports both humanity and the environment.

Making Sure Fashion is Fair

When it comes to making sure fashion is fair, here are some good things to keep in mind about sustainable clothing.

  • Fair fashion means fair wages. With fair wages for workers, comes a better quality of life for them and their families.
  • If you aren’t clear on the philosophy of a particular brand, visit the ‘about’ section before purchasing. And remember, it’s okay to be curious and ask questions!
  • Think of the clothes you wear as similar to the food you put into your body. How does your clothing benefit both you and the world around you?

A Few of Our Favorite Sustainable Clothing Materials

From flax-based fabric to the wonder-ingredient of hemp, here’s a handful of popular sustainable clothing materials to take note of. The inspiring news is that innovative materials are constantly coming to the market — like piñatex, for example — pineapple leather made from the leaves of the pineapple plant!

Organic Cotton: Cotton is a popular plant-based fiber that’s both versatile and long-lasting. Unlike synthetic fabrics, it’s biodegradable. However, conventional cotton is known for using a massive amount of water and land in its production and also having a negative effect on its workers.

Sustainable Clothing Tip: Go for certified organic cotton — and make sure to double check the tags to see what other materials are used.

Linen: Linen is a plant-based fabric that’s magically made from the stem of the flax plant. It can be grown and processed without chemicals and on land that’s unsuitable for food production. It uses less water than cotton and gets stronger as you wash it.

Sustainable Clothing Tip: look for linen in its natural colors rather than pure white (which has typically undergone bleaching).

Hemp: Hemp is one of the oldest fibers in the world, and has become recognized for its ability to make some excellent clothing. Mindful companies like Patagonia and prAna have helped to introduce and popularize hemp clothing lines. Hemp is similar to linen, is drought resistant, and doesn’t require chemical pesticides or fertilizers (making it safe for the farmers).

Sustainable Clothing Tip: Hemp is a UV-resistant fabric known for keeping you cool — so add it to your beach bag during the summertime.

Recycled Clothing: Giving clothing a new life by way of recycling (or upcycling) is what we do at Project Ropa and it’s something you can integrate into your daily life, too. Gather well-loved clothing and throw an “upcycling” evening with friends. Between painting, embroidery, and natural tie-dye — the possibilities are endless.

Sustainable Clothing Tip: Check out this article from The Sewing Loft Blog for 100 creative ways to upcycle your clothing.

What Project Ropa Does

At Project Ropa, we believe that clean clothes and hygiene products impact everything from physical and emotional health to overall economic well-being. We began by redistributing unwanted donations from local charities and today, in tandem with Lava Mae, a mobile shower organization, we work to bring clean clothes and other basic hygiene necessities to those experiencing homelessness in the Los Angeles area.