What exactly is sustainable fashion anyway?


Sustainable fashion is on the rise with searches and purchases growing steadily. Which leads to the question: what exactly is sustainable fashion anyway?

As the popularity of sustainability within fashion grows we do see a lot of brand greenwashing over what is being done, and on the other side we do see a lot of consumer dissatisfaction with what isn’t being done, and neither really help move us forward. So for me, sustainability is somewhere in the middle ground, a balance of realistic expectations with genuine efforts.

As we enter our 5th year we have evolved from Fair Trade Fashion Show to our new name Impact Fashion Show to better encompass our mission of helping brands and individuals find their own paths within sustainability, their own way to make an impact.

"Sustainability means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

- my own interpretation, based on the Brundtland Report


I see sustainability as a way of using less (people and resources) and giving more (ideas, time, and money).

A few months ago I had a brand approach me interested in partnering with us but they were worried they weren’t “good” enough since they weren’t entirely vegan, that maybe they weren’t “fair trade” enough because they weren’t certified. And I think perhaps this is one of the biggest challenges in sustainable fashion: it’s becoming a place where so many brands and consumers are so worried about not being enough that they sometimes decide not to be anything at all.

And I don’t ever want to be a place where perfect becomes the enemy of good.

Instead the Impact Fashion Show is a place for brands - and people - who are trying, striving, making efforts, making changes, making things better in the best ways they can. Obviously we want to uphold certain standards (and we do). Obviously we want to… make an impact (and we do). But that isn’t accomplished by scaring away the people and companies who are trying their best, trying in their own way, who genuinely want to make a difference, whether or not they have the ability to do in every single area of sustainability.

"Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without."

- Confucius


Some of the things we at Impact Fashion Show focus on and promote:

  • Fair Labor: brands that pay living wages, offer safe working conditions, and treat employees with dignity and respect, whether or not certified

  • Sustainable Textiles: brands that use organic agriculture, local fibers or mills, recycled materials, remnant fabrics, or innovative textiles to reduce resources and waste

  • Animal Welfare: brands that provide vegan options within their collections thereby reducing the number of animals used in fashion

  • Mindful Manufacturing: brands that prioritize processes like small batch production, zero waste patternmaking, non-toxic dyes, and responsible waste disposal

  • Giving Back and Creating Forward: brands that support others through charitable donations, empowering programs, and leading changes for a better world

There are so many ways that brands can make an impact - so many ways each one of us can make an impact, too. And the Impact Fashion Show is a place to showcase these options, these ideas. To celebrate what is being done, to commend those who are choosing to make a difference, and to inspire each of us to find our own unique passions and paths within the complex world of fashion and the often vague terminology of sustainability.

I don’t know of any person or business that is flawless but I know so many who are remarkable anyway, and if each of us does our own part to create a kinder, more compassionate, more just world then we will see an impact.

Join us October 26, 2019 in Los Angeles for the 5th annual Impact Fashion Show.

Photos by Ron Knerem

Sica Schmitz