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Sustainable Fashion Materials and Trends Reshaping the Future of Apparel

At a Glance:

Why Are Sustainable Fashion Materials Important? 

What Makes Fashion Materials Sustainable?

How Do Sustainable Materials Become a Trend?

Sustainable Fashion Materials and Trends in 2022 

Sustainable Fashion Survey 


The importance of sourcing sustainable fashion materials is a popular topic in the apparel industry. Did you know that fashion production is responsible for 10 percent of the annual global carbon emissions? What’s more, almost 20 percent of wastewater stems from fabric dyeing and treatment. As more eco-conscious consumers become aware of these glaring statistics, many brands now focus on sustainable fashion. There is still progress to make, but some of the biggest trends in sustainability are making a lasting impact on the future of apparel.

Why Are Sustainable Fashion Materials Important?

Fashion should do more than make us look good; it should do good for the planet. There will always be a profound chasm between fast fashion and sustainable fashion, but the latter is gaining speed and advancing each year. With the pendulum shifting to favor the environment, it is crucial to source sustainable fashion materials and discover new production processes to help address issues of climate change, plastic pollution, deforestation, loss of coral reefs, water scarcity, and more. 

While sustainable fashion trends are not always top of mind for casual shoppers, recent studies show that 69 percent of consumers consider sustainability when making a fashion purchase. Fashion brands of all sizes should strive to create products in a way that allows them to reduce their environmental impact wherever possible. We are not referring to one season’s worth of cuts, colors, styles, or patterns, but rather long-lasting sustainability trends that will revolutionize the fashion industry and broaden our awareness of consumption for years to come. 

Related Article: 4 Ways Your Fashion Brand Can Become More Sustainable

    What Makes Fashion Materials Sustainable? 

    Sustainable fashion materials are often natural or recycled fabrics that limit harm through production and environmental impact. There isn’t one sustainable fabric for every category, but sourcing sustainable fashion materials helps lower carbon emissions and lessens waste found in our water and soil. Sustainable fashion isn’t about blindly following trends; it is about establishing an ecological consciousness and understanding of how to extend the life of our garments. 

    For example, using recycled wool in knitwear products is an excellent use of scrap materials, and the sourcing practices are more humane. Brands like Girlfriend Collective use fibers from recycled plastic bottles as a sustainable manufacturing solution for leggings, bras, and other apparel types. And don’t forget about hand-me-downs. Eventually, everything comes full circle, and popular styles come back around. Instead of throwing away old clothes, dust off your vintage denim jackets from the 80s and look stylish and sustainable at the same time (Although we do recommend flipping the collar back down).

      How Do Sustainable Materials Become a Trend?

      While the importance of sustainable apparel is a message we can all get behind, what determines a fashion trend? Sustainable fashion trends are typically set by magazine editors who promote the latest fashion technologies, styles, fabrics, textures, and more. And in the digital age, social media influencers often do the same thing to market a brand or product

      There are also fashion trend forecasting agencies that look past the latest color palettes and delve into the lifestyles, interests, and search history of large consumer groups to learn about their buying habits, desires, and values. The buying habits of consumers are either short-term or long-term depending on the brand and necessity of each shopper. 

      These agencies take a multi-tier approach that allows fashion organizations to see where trends currently stand, so they can lay out a clear path for retailers and corporations to follow. One trend that has been bookmarked for years to come — as you may imagine — is all things sustainable fashion. 

      époque évolution is a female-founded fashion brand taking this trend to heart with a compelling mission: sustainable style driven by versatility and performance. Founders Nancy Taylor and Hannah Franco saw Backbone PLM as a way to organize production, support growth, and scale sustainability permanently. Click the button below to download the époque évolution case study.

        Sustainable Fashion Materials and Trends in 2022

        As the year moves along and the industry quickly approaches the summer season, it never hurts to reflect on sustainable materials and sustainable fashion trends to follow. Continue reading to learn about 7 sustainable fashion materials and trends reshaping the future of apparel.

        1. Recyclable Textiles 

        A major issue in the fashion industry is the frequency in which consumers throw away used clothing. Recent surveys indicate that people keep clothing for only half as long as they did 15 years ago, and many items are worn only 7 to 10 times before being thrown away. When fast fashion conglomerates produce low-quality goods, their products are often short-lived and disposable, leading to consumption patterns that have continued to skyrocket over the past two decades. The global fashion industry is currently responsible for over 92 million tons of textile waste per year; therefore, it is clear that recyclable textiles represent a notable trend for sustainable fashion materials. 

        Fashion products made from natural, biodegradable materials can help reduce raw material usage and limit textile waste. Over time, recyclable textiles can stimulate the fashion economy to provide a more sustainable, environmentally-friendly industry. Think of it as a way to save some green while going green.

        2. Clothing for Rent

        There are sustainable fashion trends that help consumers delay the purchase of new garments, such as renting clothes. There are so many fashion startup websites designed to help consumers try on outfits and exchange clothes with other fashion enthusiasts. It makes it easy to test a new wardrobe instead of buying something new and tossing it aside if you do not like it. 

        The secondhand shopping market is already on the rise, but it is expected to pick up even more steam this year and in the years ahead. More and more fashion brands are intentionally designing products with longevity and resale in mind. There are even brands using the Backbone platform like Dagne Dover, Andie Swim, and BAGGU that are carrying on this trend with at-home try-on, fit consultations, and recycling programs designed to prolong the lifespan of each product.

        3. Manufacturing on Demand

        We discussed manufacturing on demand (MOD) in our recent blog on increasing speed to market with fashion PLM software, but did you know this process could also improve your brand’s sustainability efforts? Instead of producing items in large quantities well in advance, many fashion brands sell their products through their website on a made-to-order basis and only accept an approved number of preorders. This technique is most common for smaller brands and fashion startups working with a limited budget, as it can be difficult for larger organizations to deliver products at scale this way. However, if it suits your company’s product development cycle, supply base, and inventory, MOD can benefit any brand hoping to channel a more sustainable practice.

        MOD ensures fashion companies have the exact materials needed to fulfill current orders to prevent excessive and unnecessary textile waste. However, when products are made in small quantities, production costs can increase and customers might have to wait longer or pay more for their items. In this fast-paced world, waiting seems like an ancient philosophy, but when it comes to sustainability, slow fashion surpasses fast fashion every time. 

        4. Produce Locally 

        When we talk about sustainable fashion production, where you produce goods is equally important as how they are produced. Emphasizing local production in environmentally-friendly facilities assures ethical working conditions and reduces the CO2 emissions associated with transportation. As a result of the global supply chain disruptions that followed the COVID-19 pandemic, logistics and production have adopted a new significance. As supplier delays continue to evolve and expenses increase, look for local production to gain even more traction as one of the prolific sustainable fashion trends. 

         5. Sustainable Transparency 

        If you didn’t already know, the future of fashion is all about technology, preservation, and sustainability, and that future is here. With an increased number of sustainability efforts flooding the fashion industry, there is an equal number of greenwashing campaigns. Consumers see through fake sustainability claims and initiatives that don’t reflect a company’s environmental involvement. Luckily, product passports allow sustainable production steps to be traced and certified, so there is no second-guessing. 

        Product passports help further the theme of sustainable transparency to store, track, share, and verify information about products. Essentially, they are large portfolios that house product specifications to help combat greenwashing. Some brands may even provide QR codes to quickly scan a product tag to learn about where the item was made, who made it, what materials were used, and more. These codes also assist the secondhand market to verify authenticity and the number of previous owners.

        6. Plant-Based Leathers

        Consumers have been reluctant to invest in plant-based leathers due to quality concerns; however, cactus leather is different. Cactus fibers are incredibly strong, so they do not need to be blended with plastics or excessive polymers. Sun-dried cactus grown for plant-based or vegan accessories is organic and requires very little water. Cactus is used for belts, high heels, handbags, and more, but it isn’t the only plant-based leather available today. 

        Sustainable materials such as pineapple, apple, banana, grape, and even mushroom-based leathers are entering the fashion world. The existing leather industry has left consumers searching for a healthier alternative due to high greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and pollution from toxic chemicals. As we mentioned, plant-based leather has made tremendous strides in durability and style. Brands like ADAY are joining in for most of its products, using ‘technical fabrics’ that are vegan and do not use animal products. In fact, 77 percent of its styles are made from recycled, regenerated, and natural materials.

        7. Digital Fashion Sustainability

        The newest phenomenon shaping the future of fashion and apparel is the Metaverse. As fashion and digital align, consumers’ shopping habits happen in virtual spaces, and non-physical items are purchased through NFTs (Non-Fungible Tokens). DRESSX is a digital fashion brand that believes that the best way to produce sustainably is to not produce at all. With its current development model, clothes exist in their digital versions to minimize carbon footprint and eliminate the waste left behind during traditional fashion production. 

        Despite the energy this technology requires, virtual clothing production is still far more environmentally-friendly because it does not require raw materials, fabric dyes, water, CO2, or textile waste. According to DRESSX, a digital garment emits 97 percent less CO2 than the production of a physical garment and saves 3,300 liters of water per item. The answer is not shopping less, but rather shopping digitally to purchase unique pieces that won’t hurt your wallet or the planet. 

        Before we know it, we will live in a full-fledged virtual world with NFTs and digital games used to express our keen sense of fashion. Out of all the sustainable fashion trends discussed in this list, virtual fashion is perhaps the most intriguing of them all, with the potential to reshape our existence beyond fashion. 

        Related Article: Pact Leverages Backbone for Organizational Growth

          Sustainable Fashion Survey

          We want to hear from you! Which sustainable solution does your fashion brand seek out? Let us know below:

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            Sustainable Fashion & Fashion PLM Software

            Much like the clothing we wear, fashion trends come and go, but sustainability is here for good. The items highlighted in this article are only the beginning of what lies ahead for the future of sustainable fashion and the future of our planet. 

            The team at Backbone PLM believes in ethical, sustainable fashion, which is why our system helps fashion brands meet the consumer demand for efficiency by tracking and optimizing sustainability efforts. Backbone’s cloud-based solution provides clear visibility into compliance requirements, approved material lists, and the sample development process to effectively evaluate sustainable performance in real-time. 

            If you’re ready to take sustainable fashion to the next level, discover our collection of case studies, blogs, and free resources to learn more about the role fashion PLM software plays on sustainability.

            Want to try Backbone for free? Click the button below to access a self-guided demo and get started today!