THE PARADOX OF SUSTAINABILITY IN FASHION.
The fashion industry is one of the largest polluters in the world. Throwaway garments alone contribute more to climate change than international flights and maritime shipping combined. In an industry dominated by ever accelerating fashion trends and constantly changing seasons, brands are manufacturing more products, at a faster pace and at a lower price, offshoring production to the poorest country where human rights abuses, gender inequality, water pollution and soil degradation are widespread.
Clothing has become disposable. As a result, we generate more and more textile and plastic waste, only a small percentage of which is donated or recycled. Most of our clothing and footwear is made of or contains synthetic fibres which are non-biodegradable and can take up to 200 years to decompose. Chemicals are one of the main components in our clothes. They are used during fibre and leather production, dyeing, bleaching, and processing of each of our garments. In most of the poor countries in which garments are produced, untreated toxic waste waters from textiles factories are dumped directly into the rivers, ultimately introducing plastic and chemicals in the global food chain. Recycled materials are key to reduce waste but often use more energy and chemicals than new garments, so they are no eco-friendly after all, unless they are used in products with a long life span.
SUSTAINABILITY IS THE EXPRESSION OF AN ATTITUDE TO LIFE.
Sustainability is a trend that reflects an increasing attention to environmental protection. There is a growing public awareness that personal choices can scale to have significant impact on global issues and that the current status quo is unsustainable. The purchasing behaviour of a broad consumer segment is fundamentally changing: from organic food and beverages to clothing, sustainability and healthy living are becoming a priority. This new consumer is impatient for change and will not compromise on ethics, even if this means spending more on products by brands that are committed to environmental or social principles.
But will the demand for ‘sustainable fashion’ be enough for corporations to consciously shift focus and change existing commercial practices and production processes? Can fashion brands integrate themselves with sustainability?
A NEW WAVE OF SUSTAINABLE FASHION BRANDS.
So far, no brand can label itself as fully sustainable. Brands that sell themselves as sustainable often still lack systems to deal with oversupply, take back used clothes, fully recycle fibers, offer repair services, or even support the life of the garment during use (such as instructions on washing, care, and repair). Almost no brands offer spare parts, which means that brands are not supporting consumers to make garments last.
The reality is that integrating sustainable practices in fashion is not straight forward, in particular for smaller businesses. Whether it has to do with finding the right materials or the right vendors, it’s much harder to create sustainable clothing and footwear than going the traditional fast-fashion route. Implementing sustainable practices - which often go hand in hand with fair and ethical practices - also tends to be more expensive. For a new fashion brand, it may be difficult to convince customers that what they’re getting is worth the higher price tag.
That said, there are in the market a growing number of fashion brands that have shown that it is possible to sell trendy pieces with lower environmental impact than their fast-fashion counterparts. It’s often brands that have a memorable character and real stories behind them and that are committed to socially conscious and environmentally friendly fashion. Their products embody the change that is currently taking place in.
ORGANIC AND ETHICAL, SUSTAINABLE AND SLOW.
All the brands who focus on sustainable fashion offer products that have been produced according to environmentally-friendly and fair criteria that go beyond the legal requirements and they communicate these criteria openly and transparently. They set different priorities in this respect: regional production, the promotion of social or humanitarian projects, adherence to fair standards for workers in the textile value creation chain, animal welfare, controlled organic farming, recyclability, longevity or sustainable fibre alternatives.
Sustainable fashion is however only partly about producing clothes, shoes and accessories in environmentally and socio-economically sustainable manners. It’s also about more sustainable consumption patterns. Some fashion companies provide fashion as second hand or have initiated rental systems for leasing clothes and accessories. Other companies, including UNTAMED STREET, focus mainly on creating products of high quality and timeless design, i.e. of long-lasting style and durability. Other companies have set up collection and recycling systems that support increased textile recycling.
THE CRAFTSMANSHIP MINDSET.
In a context where provenance and quality are gaining traction, Craftsmanship is seen as capable of offering a more sustainable alternative to mass production. Craftsmanship means quality materials and fewer chemicals in the product you buy. Better quality means longer durability, which in turn, translates into less waste.
Craftsmanship plays a fundamental role in Sustainable Fashion because it is a way of life. It is about adhering to a set of values and principles that produce objects that are not only functional and beautiful but also make for a sustainable lifestyle. Craftsmanship is a way of thinking where humanity is in tune with nature, working in harmony with the environment and the communities, not against them.
SUSTAINABILITY AT UNTAMED STREET.
Sustainability is a fundamental part of what we believe in. Every shoe is made to last and age beautifully, and can be easily resoled, so you can buy less of them. The least eco-friendly shoe is the one you have to replace every year. We make shoes without expiration date. We have chosen to make our products in Italy, where environmental regulations for factories are strict. We have built our collection to be timeless, with the declared goal of slowing down the fashion cycle and encourage durability.
We only use hides that are a natural by-product of the food industry and, wherever possible, we construct our shoes with vegetable tanned leathers, treated with a mix of tree barks, water and other natural ingredients, rather than potentially harmful chrome tanning. We use rubber soles predominantly made of natural gum rubber harvested from trees, a renewable source, as opposed to petroleum-based synthetic rubber.
We believe that luxury products should be priced ethically and fairly all year around. We strive to change the way people engage with high-quality products, creating an answer to the luxury trend of inflated pricing, built-in obsolescence and perma-sale mindset. Our promise is to deliver the highest standard of quality and craftsmanship, producing luxury footwear which is designed and made to last and that people can afford.
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'Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. United Nation’s World Commission on Environmental Development.
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At UNTAMED STREET we embrace craftsmanship. UNTAMED STREET collections are all artfully handcrafted in Italy, in the Medieval town of Montegranaro, Marche with locally sourced materials. Producing high-quality, handcrafted products is a collaborative enterprise with our suppliers - small, family-owned workshops whose obsession for craftsmanship matches our own.