Here’s how some companies in Arizona are making fashion more sustainable
PHOENIX – It’s easy to find affordable options to fulfill your fashion needs, whether online or in a brick-and-mortar store. But most major retailers mass produce their stock, making it difficult to find information on where a fabric came from and how it was made.
According to the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, the fashion industry uses 215 trillion liters of water every year. Textiles are responsible for 9% of the microplastics in the ocean.
Most sellers are unaware of the environmental impact of the products they sell, but efforts are being made in Arizona to mainstream sustainable fashion.
FABRIC, a non-profit Tempe organization, participates in these efforts by helping apparel companies create goods and teach them how to make their businesses sustainable by making products the way customers order them and local reuse materials. Co-founder, award-winning designer Angela Johnson creates her own fashion-forward products.
“Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world,” Johnson said. “It’s second only to the oil industry and is probably catching up very quickly, so it’s ready to be disrupted.”
That’s why FABRIC is pushing to transform the industry through technology and through its annual Eco Fashion Week, which celebrates Earth Day and features clothing made locally from donated denim scraps.
Waste reduction technology
To make clothing more sustainable, FABRIC uses new technologies, including a Kornit Presto printer and a Gerber Z1 digital cutter, to create personalized prints in a single step.
The printer does 3D rendering of designs and limits the use of prototypes that end up in landfill. The Gerber Z1 uses ContourVision to automatically cut fabrics to reduce time and labor costs. All of this means that FABRIC can control where their product comes from without worrying about the honesty of the suppliers.
The Arizona Sustainable Apparel Association is also pushing to make fashion more sustainable. Stella Abril, the group’s president, said greenwashing – when a company falsely claims or gives the impression of environmentally friendly practices – remains a major problem in the fashion industry.
“Companies state that they have sustainable practices, that they are transparent and that they have traceability. … It’s just a statement,” Abril said. “Not all of us have the time to sit here and research everything we buy.”
Her association encourages consumers to do their research before buying clothes and remember that sustainability is not limited to eco-friendly products – it encompasses ethics, working conditions and fair wages for workers.
Clothing brands focus on sustainability
Founded by Angela Zdrale, 38, of Phoenix, LivTall is a company committed to transparency. She discovered at a young age that the fashion industry had limited opportunities for tall women like her.
“I knew all the trends and wanted to wear them, but they weren’t available in my size,” said Zdrale, who is over 1.80m tall. “If it wasn’t in the mall then, it didn’t exist for you, sorry.”
Zdrale noted that many brands listed themselves as “including height” but didn’t take height into account. This inspired her to start a clothing brand for tall women, where she could control the creation and production of her clothes.
“The good news is that the entire industry has had a wake-up call,” she said. “They’re really more aware of how they actually make the fabrics. Then the end product is also more sustainable.”
LivTall, which launched last year, is partnering with FABRIC to develop a sustainable business model. Zdrale makes their clothes to order, donates their leftover fabric to a non-profit organization and ships their products in reusable packaging.
“I literally work shoulder to shoulder with my model maker,” said Zdrale. “I know I can go in and greet the people who make my clothes.”
LivTall is only one Arizona brand that prioritizes sustainable practices. For more information, visit the Sustainable Apparel Association website for a list of certified sustainable brands.