Sustainable fashion has become one of the biggest forces of change in the fashion industry across the globe. This is being driven by a growing awareness among consumers who are demanding products with more sustainable origins. According to the Sustainable Apparel Coalition’s 2019 Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report, 75% of consumers view sustainability as very or extremely important. Half of the shoppers said they would switch brands if a competitor is more environmentally and socially directed.

As a result, fashion businesses are appreciating that they need to change the way they conduct their operations. This extends to creating a conscious supply chain to reduce their negative impact on the environment, and improve social conditions for the labour forces behind their creations.

Sustainable fashion in SA



Put simply, sustainable fashion means any fashion garment, accessory, or shoes etc. that is made using eco-friendly and/or ethical means. While a hot topic, there remains a ton of work still be done to make sustainable fashion mainstream. However, both global fast fashion and luxury brands are committing to the philosophy every year.

Sustainable fashion is actually a broad category. There are some sub-categories that can help when it comes to identifying whether fashion is sustainable. These are ethical fashion, low carbon footprint, sustainable materials, slow fashion and recycled, upcycled and recyclable fashion. Conscious brands will fall into one or more of these sub-categories.

Ethical fashion. Brands that trade fairly and ensure good working conditions for their staff.

Low carbon footprint. Fashion that has a short supply chain where collections are manufactured using non-polluting means. Fashion that is designed, manufactured and sold within a shorter distance naturally has a lower carbon-footprint than collections that have travelled between cities or countries. Hence, “buy local”.

Sustainable materials. Brands that focus on using sustainable materials that have a lower environmental impact in the manufacture of their collections.

Slow fashion.  Fashion that is made with care and should last a lifetime. This approach is designed to create high-quality, durable clothes that won’t end up in landfill or the ocean.

Upcycled, recycled and recyclable fashion. Another way to ensure fashion doesn’t contribute to landfill.  For e.g. by using recyclable fabrics to reduce the raw materials that the fashion industry consumes.



Sustainable fashion SA

African Style Story at SAFW

South African Fashion Week (SAFW), the country’s premier platform for South African design, has joined the global sustainable fashion revolution. SAFW has committed itself to a 5-year plan to spearhead the development of a sustainable local design culture by 2025.

According to Lucilla Booyzen, director of SAFW, the immediate goal is to initiate a process of collaboration and joint problem-solving with the designer community and the broader clothing industry. The vision, to establish a local fashion ethos that supports people, the environment, creativity and profit in equal measures.

“We subscribe to the values articulated by the international Fashion Revolution movement and support the ground-breaking work that this organisation is doing to turn the enormous power and influence of fashion into a positive force,” she says.

Booyzen aims to use SAFW’s many established initiatives, in particular, its prestigious competitions such as the New Talent Search, the Cape Wool SA Designer Challenge and the SAFW Student competition, to reduce the fashion industry’s harmful impact and actively encourage circular economy principles. This will be done by including critical sustainable fashion evaluation criteria such as usage of fabrics with the least environmental impact, incorporating crafting techniques as well as zero-waste cutting such as draping, knitting or patterning as well as an emphasis on creating timeless and trans-seasonal collections.

“We will also actively resource-share with like-minded organisations and initiatives such as Twyg, the online sustainable lifestyle magazine’s Sustainable Fashion Awards. These awards, sponsored by PET plastic recycling company, PETCO, recognise Southern African designers who have implemented a sustainable design approach and foster ethical practices in the fashion industry.

According to Booyzen, SAFW is currently developing a curriculum of sustainable fashion workshops. These will equip designers with the skills and insights for developing viable business models and production systems which will be launched early in 2020.



Sustainable fashion SA

The Fashion Revolution is a global fashion movement that seeks “to unite people and organisations to work together towards radically changing the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed so that our clothing is made in a safe, clean and fair way.”

Cyril Naicker, the country coordinator for Fashion Revolution South Africa, welcomes SAFW’s sustainability vision. He says that as part of a global fashion family, South Africa simply cannot ignore the gravity of this issue.

“Whilst international retailers opening stores in South Africa has been good for job creation, there is also is a fundamental challenge with transparency. Very few people know what happens behind the closed doors of the factories that produce the garments for global fast-fashion retailers.

Cape Town used to be a clothing manufacturing hub which is almost entirely gone, in part due to fast fashion. The spending power is in the hands of the consumer. What it will take to restore our manufacturing? We have to go back to supporting local designers and local manufacturing,” he says.



We subscribe to the Fashion Revolution manifesto, “We love fashion, but we don’t want our clothes to come at the cost of people or our planet.” Investing in clothes that are manufactured and sold in an ethical and environmentally conscious manner is something we should all aspire to.

Here at Equilibrio, we support our local designers who understand and subscribe to this philosophy. We appreciate that it may entail a somewhat higher price tag. However, we recognise this as our contribution towards more conscious consumerism that will help preserve the planet for future generations.

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