Updated: Aug 24, 2021
Fashion was always slow until fast fashion took off in the late 80s and early 90s. What is fast fashion? It is the system of producing clothing at an alarming rate and selling it for extremely cheap. Sustainable fashion is a movement that says that we can do better. It focuses on quality and longevity while standing up for both nature and people.
It isn't necessary to pollute, exploit, and overconsume to look stylish. Sustainable brands all around the world are working on solutions to these monumental issues. Here are just a few of the ways that RAANU is doing its part.
1. Uses Less Energy
10% of all greenhouse gas emissions come from the fashion industry, more than aviation and shipping combined. It uses massive amounts of chemicals and is responsible for copious amounts of water pollution. Synthetic materials, in addition to producing more greenhouse gases, also use more energy. Recycled polyester, for example, uses half the energy than new polyester (source). But sustainable materials are even more energy-efficient, which is why sustainable fashion supports these fabrics more than polyester and other synthetic fabrics.
But reducing energy consumption can be implemented at every step of the supply chain.
Local production reduces the energy used for transportation.
New dyeing methods are put in place to reduce energy and water use.
Creating smaller collections with handmade items means craftsmanship and human labor replace the energy used by factories.
The slow fashion movement could easily cut the energy use of the fashion industry by half. And transitioning to more traditional practices like those of Raanu Handwoven could cut them even more. Over 90% of our production process is human-powered. We rely on fossil fuels for just 10% of our entire process. TEN. PERCENT. And we hope to reduce this number in the future by converting to solar power.
2. Produces Less Textile Waste
About 85% of textile waste in the United States is incinerated or goes to landfills. Globally we dump or burn one garbage track of textile waste every second! If we extend the life of our clothes by seven months, we could cut the waste in half! Which is still a lot, honestly. But you can see that buying better means buying less. And that can have a meaningful impact on the planet.
Sustainable brands focus on using materials and techniques that are lasting as well as kind to the environment. Fast fashion brands expect their clothing to be disposable. The aim is to get you to buy more, so why would the focus be on making quality, long-lasting clothing? By choosing sustainable brands that provide durability, you can reduce your waste and the amount of clothing you buy (also saving you money).
Raanu garments are artisan-made with great attention to detail. Bridgette uses reinforced seams to ensure that you will be wearing your handwoven clothing for many years. She also reduces the waste generated in production by weaving garments to size, leaving very few scraps on the cutting room floor. Waste is inevitable, however, but we have found ways to close the loop by turning ours into useful products. Our line of Home Goods was developed specifically to meet this need.
A few years ago, slow-fashion activist Livia Firth introduced the 30 Wear Movement. This ideology encourages consumers to buy items that they will wear 30 times or more. So, before making your next purchase, conjure up a mental image of your closet and try to pair the clothing item in your hand with the pieces you already own. Then take a look at the quality of the item. Ask yourself how many washes it can reasonably survive.
3. Local Production
As you might know, transportation also emits an enormous amount of greenhouse gases. And the process of transporting huge collections all around the world is very damaging to the environment. It might be more "cost-efficient" to make clothes in the global South, but what is The True Cost*? Employees of fast fashion all over the globe, and even right here in the United States, are victims of wage theft, grim and inhumane working conditions - and the industry thrives off this.
More and more, sustainable brands are shifting back to local production. A focus on local materials, local artisans, and local markets can positively impact the environment. And as a bonus, local production creates jobs and boosts the local economy.
Raanu is the only slow fashion brand on the West Coast, USA, that creates 100% handwoven and handmade apparel from natural fibers. Your investment goes directly to our skilled artisan, Bridgette. First, she designs our garments for your luxurious comfort every day, everywhere. Then she plies, winds, and ties up to 3,200 threads as she prepares them to be handwoven on a mechanical Dobby loom. Lastly, she pre-shrinks the cloth and assembles your garment with great care.
As Raanu grows, so too will the knowledge of this lost art. We see a future collective of local artisans working together to get more human-powered objects into society.
*The True Cost is a documentary film exploring the impact of fashion on people and the planet. It is about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact this industry has on our world. Clothing prices have been decreasing for decades, while the costs to humans and the environment have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider who really pays the price for our clothing?
4. Uses Less Water
Fashion is a very water-intensive industry. Cotton, for example, needs a lot of water to grow. As a result, sustainable fashion tries to reduce the use of cotton. Switching to organic cotton is a solid solution since it uses 71% less water than conventional cotton (source). But sustainable brands often opt for other natural materials such as linen and hemp because they use even less water.
Raanu found another solution. We work with cotton yarn that the manufacturing houses of the fashion industry have discarded. Over 90% of the cotton yarn we buy was once destined for the landfill or incinerator. But we give it another life. And since these materials are on their second cycle, they require no additional inputs.
And did you know that your clothes use tons of water after you purchase them? Your washing machine runs nearly 15 gallons of water per load. Washing your clothes less frequently could have a significant impact on your water footprint. (I am not talking about smelly tops and underwear!) Less frequent washing also means reduced damage to your clothes. So, you can keep them longer and produce less textile waste (as mentioned above). It really is all connected!
When wash day comes, follow these low-impact laundering instructions so your garment will stay looking fresh while growing softer with each cycle.
1. Machine wash in cold water
Your garment has been pre-shrunk, so you can wash at any temperature without doing damage. Using cold water will preserve the life of your color and use less energy. I prefer eco detergents to keep harsh chemicals out of our water systems.
2. Dry flat
Hanging to dry may affect the shape of your piece.
Machine dry is OK for the short term but may shorten the overall life of your garment with continual use.
5. Uses Fewer Synthetic Materials
More than 60% of fabric fibers are now synthetic. These materials, such as polyester, nylon, and spandex, require oil, and oil production is one of the top greenhouse gas emitters. And when this clothing ends up in a landfill or our oceans, it will not decay.
Slow fashion opts for natural and plant-based materials like organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo. And the synthetic materials you do find are made of recycled materials. Does the landfilling of non-synthetic clothing matter? It does because it contributes to global emissions of methane, a potent heat-trapping gas.
Raanu is committed to only using natural fibers. The foundation of our brand is upcycled cotton, and soon we will be expanding into the use of sustainably grown bamboo. Someday you may see our garments made from wool or silk but never synthetics.
All of the strategies above are impactful but are just band-aids for our underlying addiction to consumption. Planting trees with every purchase to offset carbon emissions is a poetic gesture, but it will not get us to where we need to be.
To enact lasting change, the fashion industry as a whole needs to implement degrowth plans. So what is degrowth? Degrowth brings the economy back into balance with the living world in a way that reduces inequality and improves human well-being. It means PRODUCING LESS. SLOWING DOWN. It is discovering that enough is plenty. It means reaching net-zero* through changing behavior instead of just planting trees.
We need new structures and systems that promote, rather than inhibit, a modest way of life. These sweeping changes will never emerge, however, until we have a culture that demands them.
*Net-zero: a target of completely negating the number of greenhouse gases produced by human activity, to be achieved by reducing emissions and implementing methods of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.