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Sustainability Checklist

Sustainability Checklist

Discover the different ways you can introduce and implement sustainable practices across your contour business

Whether you are starting a new brand and want to focus on sustainability within your brand goals, or you already have an established brand but would like some assistance integrating sustainability into the business model, we have set out some key areas for you to consider:

 

Where can you implement sustainable practices?

DESIGN

PATTERN CUTTING

To minimise fabric waste, eco-conscious decisions should be taken during the design process. Employing a zero waste design method to ensure that no fabric is discarded could be one technique. Another method could be using seamless technology to produce clothing without any seams or stitches. This is more environmentally friendly than other traditional methods as it eliminates the processes of cutting and sewing. Run wild with your imagination by removing or minimising seam allowance, recycling fabric scraps into scrunchies, cushion stuffing or any other methods you can think of to reduce waste material. London contour experts have a specialist team that can help you with pattern cutting services and other manufacturing services to optimize your product to the next level. Get in touch to learn more about our bespoke manufacturing services.

SAMPLING

During the sampling phase, you can use leftover or recycled fabrics that would otherwise be discarded. Another long-term sustainable solution could be investing in 3D assets or virtual sampling technologies. These tools allow designers to create and develop in a virtual environment which not only reduces a brand’s carbon footprint but also helps in improving development and lead times. Many companies such as Adidas and H&M have addressed this issue by reducing their physical samples through digital development.

SOURCING

When sourcing fabrics, opt for natural fabrics that are either organic or regenerative. Fabrics such as organic cotton and organic linen are not only better for your health but also for the environment as these do not require any harsh chemicals or dyes during the making process. In addition, some sustainable fabrics are biodegradable, which means that they can be broken down and reused in the natural world. Also, unlike synthetic fabrics that easily wear out and need to be replaced often, organic fabrics can last for many years with proper care. This means that your customers will be able to wear your clothes longer, generate less waste, keep clothing out of landfills and also save money in the long run.

While the production process of organic materials does have a lot of benefits over conventional, it can still take a toll on the land they’re cultivated on, and producers often don’t do enough to address declining soil health, loss of biodiversity and overall carbon emissions. However, regenerative agriculture offers an exciting opportunity to have a positive environmental impact through production. Regenerative agriculture describes farming practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, resulting in both carbon drawdown and improvements in the water cycle. Patagonia is a well-known brand that prioritises regenerative fibres in its designs. Therefore, considering how much clothing is produced every year, it is crucial to use fabrics that are created responsibly as well as recycle fabrics where possible.

PRODUCT LIFECYCLE

To prolong the life cycle of a garment, it is important to create pieces with a trans-seasonal appeal or multi-functionality. For instance, DZHUS is a conceptual womenswear brand that offers alternate solutions to clothing consumption through its  innovative designs. The clothing is conceived so meticulously and with such mathematical precision that one garment can be styled for different occasions and worn across all seasons. You could also incorporate design for disassembly, a method wherein products are designed in a way that they can easily be taken apart at the end of the product’s life so the components can be repaired, reused or recycled. Nordic Drifter is a UK-based swimwear brand that recycles deadstock from its previous seasons to produce new collections.

SAMPLING

During the sampling phase, you can use leftover or recycled fabrics that would otherwise be discarded. Another long-term sustainable solution could be investing in 3D assets or virtual sampling technologies. These tools allow designers to create and develop in a virtual environment which not only reduces a brand’s carbon footprint but also helps in improving development and lead times. Many companies such as Adidas and H&M have addressed this issue by reducing their physical samples through digital development.

SOURCING

When sourcing fabrics, opt for natural fabrics that are either organic or regenerative. Fabrics such as organic cotton and organic linen are not only better for your health but also for the environment as these do not require any harsh chemicals or dyes during the making process. In addition, some sustainable fabrics are biodegradable, which means that they can be broken down and reused in the natural world. Also, unlike synthetic fabrics that easily wear out and need to be replaced often, organic fabrics can last for many years with proper care. This means that your customers will be able to wear your clothes longer, generate less waste, keep clothing out of landfills and also save money in the long run.

While the production process of organic materials does have a lot of benefits over conventional, it can still take a toll on the land they’re cultivated on, and producers often don’t do enough to address declining soil health, loss of biodiversity and overall carbon emissions. However, regenerative agriculture offers an exciting opportunity to have a positive environmental impact through production. Regenerative agriculture describes farming practices that, among other benefits, reverse climate change by rebuilding soil organic matter and restoring degraded soil biodiversity, resulting in both carbon drawdown and improvements in the water cycle. Patagonia is a well-known brand that prioritises regenerative fibres in its designs. Therefore, considering how much clothing is produced every year, it is crucial to use fabrics that are created responsibly as well as recycle fabrics where possible.

PRODUCT LIFECYCLE

To prolong the life cycle of a garment, it is important to create pieces with a trans-seasonal appeal or multi-functionality. For instance, DZHUS is a conceptual womenswear brand that offers alternate solutions to clothing consumption through its  innovative designs. The clothing is conceived so meticulously and with such mathematical precision that one garment can be styled for different occasions and worn across all seasons. You could also incorporate design for disassembly, a method wherein products are designed in a way that they can easily be taken apart at the end of the product’s life so the components can be repaired, reused or recycled. Nordic Drifter is a UK-based swimwear brand that recycles deadstock from its previous seasons to produce new collections.

PRODUCTION

PARTNERS

When it comes to production, adopting eco-friendly solutions across various processes can significantly help in reducing environmental degradation. While scouting for partners either local or overseas we recommend looking for factories that hold SEDEX, WFTO, and SA800 certifications as these ensure ethical standards. Another way to be more sustainable in terms of your production is manufacturing locally, this not only enables you to oversee the operations first-hand but also helps in reducing the carbon dioxide emitted while transporting raw materials and final products, managing the treatment of water polluting waste, as well as, ensuring the health and safety conditions of the workers are met. Upgrading your machinery often is also an effective way to implement more sustainable practices because modern machinery is more efficient and requires less energy. Therefore, it is not only essential to be aware of your carbon footprint but also to incorporate practices within your business to reduce the same.

DYING PROCESS

There are many problems with the current textile dyeing and treatment practices, it is water-intensive and relies on huge amounts of energy to heat up water and steam that is necessary for the desired finish. Besides, the chemicals used in this process are potentially toxic and have an adverse impact on human and environmental health. As more consumers become aware of the harmful effects of conventional dyeing practices, new technologies make way for more cost-effective, resource-efficient and sustainable dyeing alternatives. Innovation in dyeing technologies range from pre-treatment of cotton, pressurised carbon dioxide dye application, and creating natural pigments from microbes. It is also important to keep in mind that closed-loop techniques prevent harmful dyes from being released into the environment and to use natural dyes where possible as they don’t contain toxic chemicals or carcinogenic components.

STOCK

Over-stocking can lead to unnecessary wastage of raw materials. Invest in demand forecasting softwares as it will help predict sales figures, thereby reducing the same. Another solution is producing limited runs, not only does this help in reducing overstocking but also builds anticipation around collections, killing two birds with one stone. At LCE, we recommend our clients test the market and do small runs of 500 units, across the full production (50 units per style, 10 units per size, per colour)

Brands can also introduce sustainable practices such as Just-In-Time or Made-To-Order to omit environmental concerns caused due to excess stock. The objective of JIT manufacturing is to eliminate waste, inconsistencies and unreasonable requirements from the production process, thus resulting in improved productivity. For instance, through the use of state-of-the-art technology that monitors customer-orientated information alongside weekly sales patterns, Uniqlo orders garments just before the stores are likely to need them, thus avoiding excess inventory and spending less money on storing goods at its distribution warehouses. Made-To-Order suggests that a brand only starts the process of production once a customer has placed an order. Although this increases the lead time for delivery, brands that employ this method are more sustainable as they create minimal waste and curb environmental issues that arise due to overproduction and overconsumption. This business model is also one way to make slow fashion more inclusive for plus-sized folks and people with disabilities because made-to-order garments are often tailored to the customer’s specifications.

PACKAGING

ECO FRIENDLY

Small changes can make a big difference. Swapping the material of swing tags, bags, boxes and hangers with plastic-free or biodegradable alternatives like seed paper can significantly reduce the use of plastic. Soluble mailing bags and bio-based compostable materials are more readily available now than ever before. Plus, you could also opt for canvas bags or pouches that can be reused for other purposes increasing their longevity. You could also replace business cards with dot cards and use QR codes on packaging to share more product-related information with the customer, to reduce the use of paper. Other innovative ways to be more sustainable would be choosing suppliers that use natural dyes or packaging that is made from seeds which can grow when planted, encouraging customers to give back to the environment.

DELIVERY

PARTNERS

Producing collections locally decreases both the cost and environmental impact of delivery. You should make an informed and conscientious decision when choosing your partner. It is important to know your provider and their practices to make your deliveries greener. For example, GNEWT in London only uses electric vehicles powered by green energy from sustainable sources, and UPS has a carbon-neutral delivery option. Both of these examples show how you can reduce your impact on the environment through your delivery processes.

END OF GARMENT LIFE

THINK AHEAD

As we can see, thinking ahead and working with biodegradable fabrics is a viable sustainable solution, but another could be offering a repair service or incentive so customers will bring back the product for you to recycle.

INSPIRATIONS

We can draw inspiration from brands like Patagonia, which offer a lifetime guarantee on their products and repair any damage caused over time. They also provide DIY tutorials on how to fix commonly occurring damage. Nike, on the other hand, accepts returns of some products to recycle into new pieces, offering the customer a voucher as a display of their gratitude. These are just some of the many innovative ways in which brands can save energy by eliminating the need to make materials from scratch.

The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world and this environmental damage is only increasing as the industry grows. The first step to any positive change lies in building awareness and willingness to change. At LCE, we encourage our clients to adopt more sustainable solutions and alternatives to help mitigate the environmental concerns that arise due to the industry’s conventional practices. 

Now that you know the importance of making more sustainable choices for your brand, let the experts at LCE guide you through the process. If not designing and producing sustainably in our London-based studio, we will guide you to our accredited partner factories overseas.

And if you want to find out more about our sustainable practices and how we can support your new or established brand make sure to get in touch so that we can send you our sustainability report.

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