Biodegradable. It means an item can naturally break down in the environment without causing harm. All materials break down eventually, but some of them can take thousands of years and can release chemicals and harmful substances in the process (Rauturier, 2019).
Circular. The circular economy model in garments production is defined as an industrial system that is restorative or regenerative by intention and design, uses and reuses natural capital as efficiently as possible, and finds value throughout products’ life cycles. The manufacturing process based on the 3R (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) principles that should be applied throughout the whole cycle of production, consumption and return of resources.
Cruelty-free. There is no standard legal definition for the term, so brands are free to use the language however they want. Companies employ the label to imply they do not play a role in testing products on animals or harming them in any way. As opposed to more specific language such as “not tested on animals” or “vegan”, “cruelty-free” doesn’t make a claim. For clothing, cruelty-free included vegan alternatives but also non-vegan products where animals are treated well.
Eco design. It consists of integrating environmental protection criteria over a service or a product’s lifecycle. The main goal of eco design is to anticipate and minimize negative environmental impacts (of manufacturing, using and disposing of products). Simultaneously, eco design also keeps a product’s quality level according to its ideal usage. This approach supports a product’s entire lifecycle in a circular economy perspective by saving and recycling at maximum natural resources.
Ethical fashion. It focuses more on the social impact of the fashion industry: ethical literally means “morally right”. Ethical fashion covers a wide range of issues such as living wages, working conditions, health and safety, forced labor, child labor. Ethical fashion can also include the fair treatment of animals, vegan and cruelty-free fashion.
Fair trade. It is a global movement made up of a diverse network of producers, companies, consumers, advocates, and organizations putting people and planet first. There are different certifications for it, among others the infamous FAIRTRADE labels, ensuring safe working conditions, environmental protection, and sustainable livelihoods.
Fast Fashion. It refers to cheap, mass-produced clothing often replicating the newest styles unveiled by the fashion shows. Fashion trends move quickly and with fashion brands chasing increasing profits, a downward spiral has developed in the industry. Manufacturers mass-produce garments at lightning speed to beat competition and keep up with customer expectations. This constant demand in the fashion world to outperform causes numerous knock-on effects. As consumers now demand and expect more for less, creating a race to the bottom in price and quality.
Organic clothing. Generally, it is clothing made from materials grown in compliance with organic agricultural standards. For instance, authentic organic clothes involve no pesticides or artificial fertilizers in their production process, and the land from which the raw materials are grown from is also pesticide and fertilizer-free. One of the most famous certification is the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS).
Recycling. It is the action of converting waste into something reusable. For example, some brands have turned plastic bottles into yarn to make fleece sweaters or coats.
Sustainable fashion. It can be defined as clothing, shoes and accessories that are manufactured, marketed and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components. From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimize any undesirable environmental effect of the product’s life cycle by: (a) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, biodiversity, ecosystems, etc); (b) selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc) at every stage, and (c) maximizing repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components.
From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practice and international codes of conduct.
Traceability. It means being able to trace back each component of an item throughout the supply chain, from the raw material to the zipper and everything in between.
Transparency. It is the practice of openly sharing information about how, where and by whom a product was made. Being transparent means publishing all information about every actor involved in the production process, from start to finish, from the fields to the store shelves.
Upcycling. Based on C2C, upcycling turns waste into reusable material, but of better quality. It includes the concepts of re-using and re-purposing old items to make something new, and therefore removes waste from the system. Besides requiring less energy than normal recycling, it also encourages creativity and innovation.