If Mother Earth wore clothes and went shopping at the mall with her best friends Mars and Uranus, she would definitely be looking for an ethically-dyed grass-dyed skirt and top, and she would wear it for over a hundred years – if she can keep from spilling an asteroid smoothie and smearing the outfit, of course. Humans should also buy ethical and sustainable clothing – take it from Mother Earth herself (and a few panelists discussing sustainability).
On Thursday, September 23, the Professional Advisory Council of the Fashion Department at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hosted a Zoom Roundtable on Sustainability and Ethics in Fashion. The fashion industry is a big contributor to global pollution and accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. Also, many fashion companies are known to pay foreign workers low salaries and inhumanely testing products on animals.
The panel was made up of three business owners and representatives. There was former UNL Chris Hughes, founder of American-made accessories company ARTIFACT, former UNL Nicole Rudolph representing the American Duchess, who makes reproductions of historic shoes, and Cassie Uecker, the head of digital marketing. for the ethical bag company Sapahn.
Panelists agreed that one of the most important things for a business to be sustainable is to make something that will last a long time. If the customer can keep an item instead of throwing it away, it will reduce the amount of textile waste that clogs landfills.
“Our company has recently focused on the real life of an object that we create,” said Rudolph. “We are working to determine, once an item leaves our store, that it will have a long lifespan and will not just be thrown away in a year or two because it is falling apart. ”
Hughes believed that the longevity of an item equals the quality of that item.
“If you make a product that can’t even withstand a wash cycle, then you don’t really support that notion of sustainability,” said Hughes.
Uecker and Rudolph also discussed the trends and said that a trend may seem over after a year, but the trends are coming back.
“Being more fashionable can give you a head start by understanding that certain trends are going to peak and come back very quickly,” Rudolph said. “Trends are generally historical in that they’re all things we’ve done before. Nothing is new. “
Uecker trends refer to the longevity of an item.
“We want to respond to trends that we know to be timeless,” Uecker said. “When an item is recycled through the trend cycle, then it stays out of landfills.”
Another thing the panelists focused on was how a brand should be transparent to customers about what they do. If a business says it’s sustainable or ethical without explaining how it can sell more products, it’s called greenwashing.
“Consumers are getting more and more savvy and really want to know where you put your stake in the ground, and it’s no longer enough to just say we’re sustainable or ethical,” Uecker said. “We really have to show our practices and our actions. ”
To be more transparent with customers and fight against accusations of greenwashing, Uecker described what Sapahn does to help customers buy their products at ease.
“We spend a lot of time requesting videos and photographs from the manufacturer, which we then share with customers,” Uecker said. “When I was working in Portugal, the people we worked with were like, ‘I’ll send videos every day of everything that is produced’, and that was great because then we could know what was really going on. Many of these videos were then shared on social media. ”
Hughes also told the public that consumers should hold businesses accountable for greenwashing.
“I think to help with greenwashing and all that, the next generation has to work to create some kind of accountability and measurement so that companies can say, ‘Yes, we meet those criteria,’ said Hughes.
Hughes also told the audience that while the present may seem a bit bleak when it comes to sustainability and ethics, the future is bright.
“Right now there is a lot of gray; there’s a lot of work to be done, ”said Hughes. “But I think the future looks bright… I urge you to continue this conversation with your friends and teachers.”