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What is “Sustainable Fashion” and how can we be more ethical?

As society moves into more sustainable living, mainstream luxury fashion brands are catching up, while new and smaller fashion brands build their companies ethically from the go - all with the healthy vision for a sustainable future.

Waste production directly harms the environment, and the fashion industry has been targeted as a huge culprit. According to Environmental Health, 80 billion pieces of new clothing are purchased each year, which adds to an annual revenue of $1.2 trillion.

The truth about climate change is only just being taken seriously, and even then, global leaders are in denial. Some countries have had the audacity to burn their waste for fuel, which may sound efficient, but releases even more CO2 than coal, heating up the earth’s atmosphere expeditiously. Nevertheless, fashion brands (not naming names) support this, as it increases “brand value”.

Modern trends demand that fashion brands move into sustainability, and many are beginning to use recycled materials while promoting positive environmental, economic and social impacts. Here’s just a few examples:

  • Organic fabrics (Bite clothes, By Independent Thinkers for Environmental Progress)

  • Water based glues (Paradise Row shoes)

  • Never go out of style designs and can be worn in multiple ways (Zena Presley clothes)

  • Made by small family run workshops (MadeByWave bags)

  • Recycled underwear from plastic bottles and fishing nets (ASOS Eco)

What are WISP doing?

We don’t have the answer for everyone, but we do have some pointers based on what we have learnt as a startup company entering into the fashion industry. Initially, during our product development, WISP undertook a six month project with Wear Sustain, an EU platform dedicated to making the future of wearables more sustainable - and through this experience we dedicated our practices to becoming a globally conscious wearable brand.

Our ethical and sustainable policies align with our brand value, so when collaborating with other companies we make sure to ask them about their transparency, reporting methods, environmental impact, labour rights, women’s rights, social impact, chemical use, waste and natural resources, before considering a partnership. This is because we like to offer our customers complete transparency: of where our products come from, who made them, and what materials were used.

As far back as designing our prototypes, we used 3D printing. 3D printing helped us to design some pretty complicated and customized prototypes, which are more expensive and time-consuming if you use conventional manufacturing. The different types of 3D printing for our project includes domestic printing FDM(fused deposition modelling), industrial SLA(Stereolithography and SLS (selective laser sintering). Additionally, with most 3D printing, you use what you design, which equals zero waste. We sought out reused powders, which meant we could also recycle it for the next designers.

Much of the sterling silver we use comes from recycled pieces, and the glass orbs that contain our perfume are sustainably refillable and recyclable. The perfume itself is long lasting - up to a year, or 6 months in full use, and the organic ingredients include avocado and coconut oils.

On top of our product and our packaging materials being easily recyclable, we have prioritised our brand to have a positive social impact too, particularly when it comes to supporting women. As a female-led tech startup that also creates products for women, we understand just how important it is for women who work for our company are paid fairly and treated well. With a vision for female empowerment, we advocate discussion about female wellbeing. Our wearable devices help women better understand their own sensuality and arousal triggers along with any intimacy issues they may have with their partners.

Of course, like most brands, we all still have work to do. While it relieved costs, over the years we have faced many challenges of production since splitting the development of hardware, electronics and software between Italy, China, and the UK. So as well as sustainably managing integration with our product, we eventually hope to reduce our carbon footprint by managing the product in one place. As a relatively small team who work remotely, we save on office space and find more flexibility in our working time.

What can you, as a sustainable fashion-conscious consumer, do too?

When shopping, do you research and become more conscious. Demanding transparency from the brands you like may help encourage them to be more sustainable long term. Value what you own and make your clothes and jewellery last. Washing your clothes on a lower temperature setting and air drying saves energy. Reuse, repair, exchange. Donate to charity or even try setting up a “swap-shop” with friends, as they say ‘one person’s trash is another’s treasure’. When you do feel like treating yourself to something new, buy from ethical and organic brands. New apps, such as Almond, are coming out to make this decision much easier for you.

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