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How to Start a Sustainable Fashion Business

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The fast fashion industry has taken the world by storm in the past decade, and it hasn’t done much good for the planet. From their negative environmental impact to unsafe working conditions, the entire model of the billion dollar business is unsustainable and harmful. 

Luckily, sustainable fashion has become an important and unignorable topic that many are putting into action by both shopping consciously and beginning their own sustainable brands that aim to help rather than harm the environment and those that work for them. 

Whether you’re a fashion-lover looking to start your own sustainable fashion brand or a designer that’s looking to create more sustainably, here are some ways you can create a more sustainable fashion business and clothing line.

How Can We Make Fashion Sustainable?

While the current direction of the fast fashion industry has had a highly negative impact on many things from climate change to working conditions, we’ve discussed how the fast fashion industry could possibly change for the better and become more sustainable. However, we don’t just have to wait for the fast fashion industry to change to see sustainable development in fashion as a whole. 

At this very moment, thousands of emerging brands and established sustainable brands and designers are helping change how clothing is being made and showing the world that sustainability is the best and only direction that fashion brands should take. 

Whether they’re using innovative technology in their business model and supply chain to reduce the use of unnecessary plastic, reviving and celebrating traditional techniques that use raw materials, organic fabrics, and recycled materials, or fostering a fashion business that takes care and properly supports the workers that create their clothing, these sustainable fashion brands and names are helping influence how a lot of consumers view and shop for fashion in a great way.

How Do You Start a Sustainable Fashion Brand?

While beginning a sustainable fashion brand is an exciting journey, a fashion business can’t be created overnight. It can take some time for new brands to find their footing especially in this competitive apparel industry, and there’s a lot that goes into the formation of a successful sustainable business and fashion company. 

From having team members with prior experience and passion that know their way around sustainability, fashion design, and fashion business to knowing exactly what you want to sell and what your sustainable fashion brand stands for, here are some guidelines that can help you get your sustainable passion project and new business off the ground.

Know What Needs Your Sustainable Brand Will Address

As with all things, a single sustainable brand can’t address every issue there is out there. However, your brand can be a part of a much larger collective of individual businesses that are fighting for similar causes, whether it’s to fight a specific environmental issue, support a social cause, or create positive change with innovative technology. 

Once you discover the gap in the market you want your sustainable business to fill or figure out what issue you passionately want to address through fashion design, the products you create with your new brand can then become a clearer reflection of your mission.

Understand Your Target Market

Once you know what problems you want to fight against through sustainability, it’s time to understand what potential customers and target market you want to reach through your sustainable fashion brand. 

Do some market research to understand the needs of your ideal customer. What age group do they belong to? How much money do they make? What issues surrounding sustainability do they care most about? Not only will knowing all of these help you define the mission of your apparel brand further, but it will also help align your business closer with the most urgent needs of potential customers

Prioritise Ethical Production

To create a sustainable clothing line that genuinely aims to make a substantial amount of change, one of the most important factors among other aspects, like choosing sustainable fabrics, is to invest in ethical production. 

Given that ethics comes hand-in-hand with sustainability in fashion and that the absence of worker’s rights in fast fashion has caused a chain reaction of poverty, modern slavery, and child labour, an entire cycle repeated too often throughout the industry, choosing the right manufacturer can make a huge positive impact on a lot of lives. 

Nowadays, large fashion brands tend to outsource manufacturing to countries where labour is cheap and labour laws are lax, leading to the very problems above. By prioritising a facility that has strict ethical manufacturing processes that you know provides their workers with living wages, you’re helping to lift up textile workers and their families. 

Additionally, choosing a manufacturer that’s in the same continent or country where your fashion company is located will help create jobs in your local economy, and is one way many sustainable brands can easily support their workers.

Source Eco-Friendly Materials

The environmental impact of your clothing comes down to the materials chosen. Find sustainable fabrics and recycled materials like deadstock fabrics, raw materials, and organic fabrics like organic cotton. These are much more eco-friendly materials as they give life to pieces that would have otherwise been scrapped or break down much more easily when their life cycle has ended, unlike traditionally used synthetic or harmful fabrics like nylon, polyester, and conventional cotton.

Additionally, choosing your supplier for these materials is incredibly important, as it also ties in with the ethicality of your fashion business. Look for accredited suppliers that care for their materials and their workers, such as organic cotton suppliers, for example. Organic cotton crops use less water than conventional cotton and are not treated with pesticides that are harmful to animals, farmers, and consumers. 

There are also a ton of suppliers of sustainable fabrics online today, so finding sustainable materials that don’t harm our natural resources has become a much easier venture than it once used to be.

Consider the Environment in Everything

Sustainability doesn’t just come down to the sustainable materials and sustainable fabrics that make up the clothing in your fashion line, but the entire model and business process of your fashion brand as well. 

Keeping sustainability in mind with everything in your business is inherent to what makes your sustainable fashion brand exactly that. From your offices down to shipping boxes and how you sell your items, every aspect of your business has to be consciously considered and decided. 

Many sustainable brands find eco-friendly packaging that can either be reused, recycled, or composted, and find alternatives to wasteful and unnecessary plastics in shipping boxes that don’t deplete natural resources excessively.

Even the choice of your selling platform can contribute to the overall sustainability of your fashion brand. Brick-and-mortar shops have been found to produce less greenhouse gasses than shopping online, so that’s another aspect to consider before opening your apparel brand.

Begin Sampling and Development

Once you’ve defined the mission, ethics, and materials of your sustainable fashion brand, you can then develop your design concept and brand identity. This stage is one of the most important, as it moves your fashion brand from simply being a concept to actually being created and developed. This period is dedicated to turning your ideas into tangible pieces and utilising all the knowledge you’ve accrued concerning fashion design and sustainability. 

During this stage, you will create base patterns and prototypes of your soon-to-be products. If adjustments are needed, this is the time when your  pattern should be revised and the cycle repeated. The design concept of your sustainable fashion brand is integral to your success, so this, like all aspects of your business, shouldn’t be rushed through.

Build Brand Identity and Promote Your Label

Your apparel brand identity determines how the world will view your brand, and this includes your brand name and logo. These aspects are what makes your sustainable fashion brand stand out from other brands in terms of design and aesthetic. 

Once you have that established, you can then start promoting your fashion brand and its message. It’s never too early to begin promoting your business and establishing a following early on, so creating an online presence on various social media platforms can help your brand grow exponentially before you’ve even released your product. 

As long as your mission statement on sustainability is clear and consumers know what to expect from your business, you can cultivate an audience for your sustainable fashion brand quicker than you think.

Final Note

Starting fashion brands is a daunting task for new designers and business owners, but to start a sustainable fashion brand can be even more so due to all the added attention to details. From choosing sustainable material to knowing your target market, finding ethical manufacturers to produce your clothing line to creating a business plan that accounts for your brand’s environmental impact, and sourcing sustainable materials to choosing the wholesale price at which your clothing line will sell are all challenges that pile onto establishing a new business. 

However, being passionate about sustainable fashion means looking at the bigger picture of what your brand represents and fights for. While these all might make beginning a fashion business sound more difficult, they have much more rewarding long-term benefits in the near future and beyond that are a massively big deal for the environment and people. So if you want to start a sustainable fashion brand of your own, we think you should take the plunge.

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Ellora Sharma

Ellora Sharma is a 26-year-old fashionmonger from Leeds. She discovered her love for fashion through the many intricate and flashy designs found in the Bollywood films she religiously watched when she was younger (and continues to watch to this day). She has since developed an affinity for colourful and distinctive clothing, and loves to experiment with her style on the daily. She wants to help others find the same kind of joy and fun in clothing as she has.

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