Regenerative Fashion: Cultivating a Positive Impact on the Planet

Having altered ecosystems drastically over the past two centuries, humans are witnessing substantial losses in biodiversity. The impact is not limited to the health of the planet, but also human well-being.

The fashion and textile industries are major contributors to this degradation. About half of the environmental damage from fashion happens during fiber production. Cotton, which is heavily used, is a major player in this issue. It’s responsible for soil erosion and desertification, reducing land productivity.

Despite efforts to intensify farming and use fertilizers, the expected results aren’t materializing. The industry’s practices are unsustainable and it’s high time we shift our focus to more regenerative methods, like those used in the emerging field of regenerative fashion.

The Fashion Industry’s Role in Land Degradation

The fashion industry’s contribution to land degradation is a significant concern, as it’s primarily driven by the intense demand for natural fibers like cotton.

  • Cotton Production: The cultivation of cotton, a water-intensive crop, often involves harmful pesticides and fertilizers. These not only degrade the soil but also pollute nearby water bodies.
  • Overgrazing: The production of wool and leather often leads to overgrazing, turning lush lands into barren grounds.
  • Deforestation: The demand for fabrics like rayon and viscose leads to deforestation, as they are derived from wood pulp.

The advent of regenerative fashion holds the potential to reverse these impacts, emphasizing the need for industry-wide adoption of sustainable practices.

What is Regenerative Fashion?

Regenerative fashion encourages the use of practices that allow natural systems to self-regenerate and avoids the use of harmful chemicals or pesticides. This not only slows climate change effects but also improves ecosystem health. In the long run, regenerative practices can begin to reverse global warming and restore the environment.

Adopting regenerative fashion can help restore ecosystem resilience, combat poverty, and contribute significantly to climate commitments. With its viable economic model, it aims to restore our planet’s natural cycles, making a tangible positive impact.

Understanding Regenerative Agriculture

Traditionally, the fashion sector heavily depended on conventional farming practices that often led to soil degradation and biodiversity loss. However, the industry is recognizing the potential of regenerative agriculture.

This method not only replenishes the soil but also enhances biodiversity by supporting a variety of plants and animals in the same fields where, for example, cotton is grown. Regenerative agriculture improves water systems by increasing the soil’s capacity to retain water, and it mitigates climate change by absorbing more carbon in the soil. This method of farming promotes healthier soil, which in turn, produces stronger, more resilient crops.

As a result, the materials used in the fashion industry can become more sustainable and less harmful to the environment. It’s a beneficial cycle where healthier soil leads to healthier crops, which leads to healthier clothing materials and ultimately to a healthier planet.

Farming and Fashion: An Unlikely Pair

Linking regenerative agriculture to fashion might seem unusual at first glance, but it’s this very connection that’s paving the way for a more sustainable future in the fashion industry.

Farmers, by adopting regenerative practices, can produce organic fibers, which:

  • Reduces carbon footprint
  • Enhances soil health

Fashion designers, by utilizing these fibers, can create:

  • Sustainable clothing
  • Environmentally friendly trends

This pairing isn’t just about creating environmentally responsible clothes, it’s about nurturing an industry that respects and replenishes the environment, creating a circular economy where fashion doesn’t cost the earth.

Cradle-to-Cradle Principles in Fashion

Cradle to Cradle principles serve as a roadmap for the fashion industry’s transition towards a regenerative, circular model that prevents textiles from being discarded in landfills. These principles create a framework for designing products with their life cycle in mind, focusing on renewable materials and energy, water stewardship, and social fairness.

The Cradle-to-Cradle principles help fashion companies make better decisions based on:

  • Material Health: Choosing safe, healthy materials for products and packaging.
  • Material Reutilization: Designing items for recycling or composting at the end of their life.
  • Renewable Energy: Using renewable energy sources in production processes.
The Cradle to Cradle Institute Products Innovation Institute’s certification process addresses a variety of circular and social issues associated with products.

Why Support Regenerative Fashion?

Buying from brands that adopt regenerative practices allows consumers to influence the industry’s trajectory toward sustainability. It’s more than just clothing; it’s a declaration of support for the planet and its inhabitants.

Regenerative fashion also counters the harmful effects of fast fashion. Now, why is fast fashion bad? Fast fashion fills our landfills with heaps of thrown-away clothes and pollutes our air and water.

Choosing regenerative alternatives means choosing a healthier planet, fairer labor conditions, and a sustainable future.

Identifying Regenerative Fashion Brands

Brands like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, and Stella McCartney are pioneering regenerative fashion, investing in agriculture that enhances biodiversity, improves water systems, and combats climate change.

To identify these brands, shoppers can look out for certifications such as the Regenerative Organic Certified (ROC) label. Some brands also use the Climate Beneficial label to indicate the positive impact of their products. However, it’s important to be wary of greenwashing, where companies make exaggerated or false claims about their sustainability efforts.

Look for the Regenerative Organic Certified label when shopping.

The UK’s Growing Fibreshed Movement

The UK is witnessing the growth of the Fibreshed movement, a sustainable initiative geared towards promoting regenerative agriculture in the fashion and textile industry. This movement is cultivating a new, greener approach to textile production, focusing on local resources and healthier ecosystems.

Key aspects of this movement include:

  • Localization: Fibreshed encourages the use of locally sourced, sustainable materials. This reduces the carbon footprint associated with long-distance transportation of raw materials.
  • Regenerative Practices: The movement promotes farming practices that improve soil health, enhance biodiversity, and sequester carbon.
  • Education and Advocacy: Fibreshed actively educates designers, farmers, and consumers about sustainable and regenerative practices in the textile industry.

Top Brands Embracing Regenerative Fashion

Among the numerous brands making strides towards sustainability, a few stand out for their commitment to regenerative fashion. These include:

Seed 2 Shirt

Seed 2 Shirt stands out as it’s the first black-women-owned vertically integrated apparel manufacturing and print-on-demand company in the US. This company is not only transforming the fashion industry but also rebuilding regional textile systems in Africa and the US.

The company’s production of blank cotton/organic cotton t-shirts is helping various brands and organizations adopt sustainable practices. Furthermore, the brand has managed to improve the lives of small-scale and socially disadvantaged cotton farmers.

Patagonia

Known for its outdoor wear, Patagonia has embraced Regenerative Organic, focusing on pasture-based animal welfare, fairness to farmers and workers, and robust soil health.

The North Face

Known for high-quality cold-weather gear, North Face has partnered with Fibershed and The Bare Ranch in California. They are jointly advocating for a regenerative fiber system through innovative practices, reflected in products like the Cali Wool collection.

Diverse Perspectives on Regenerative Fashion

Different perspectives and interpretations exist within this complex field. Some view the concept of regenerative fashion as a holistic systems approach, encompassing not just ecological considerations, but also human and social factors.

Others argue that regenerative practices vary greatly depending on geographical context. There’s also debate over the definition of regenerative fashion itself, with some believing it’s about more than just soil health or carbon sequestration.

Brands like Sheep Inc. and Patagonia embrace regenerative fashion, but their approaches differ, reflecting the diversity within this field.

Despite these variations, all agree on one thing: regenerative fashion is a path towards a more sustainable, equitable industry, and a healthier planet. Make your choice and contribute to defining a fashion industry that can coexist with the environment.

About the Author

Raf Chomsky is a co-founder of huskyhamster.com and non.agency, where he blends his passion for technology with sustainable practices. He shares insights on environmental stewardship at https://sustainablereview.com/