Four years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, a burgeoning anthology of cool but ethical brands have launched to target the socially studied young consumer. But there is still a long way to go

(Clockwise from left) Emma Watson wearing a Louis Vuitton dress made from Newlife recycled polyester; Nobody’s Child gingham bralet; Tome SS17 dress; another Tome SS17 dress; a vegan rucksack from Matt & Nat.

(Clockwise from formerly larboard) Emma Watson wearing a Louis Vuitton dress clear the way from Newlife recycled polyester; Nobody’s Child gingham bralet; Tome SS17 equip; another Tome SS17 dress; a vegan rucksack from Matt & Nat.

Sustainable style: will Gen Z help the fashion industry sanitary up its act?

Four years after the Rana Plaza tragedy, a burgeoning omnium gatherum of cool but ethical brands have launched to target the socially studied young consumer. But there is still a long way to go

This week have an effects the fourth year since the Rana Plaza disaster, where 1,135 garment working men were killed, and thousands injured, when a building downed in Dhaka. Fashion Revolution Week was set up to mark the anniversary, when the myriad deliveries with fast fashion are much reported: the fossil fees burned; the chemicals released; the landfill sites brimming with get rid ofed clothes; the human cost of poor working conditions and pitiful wages. You don’t participate in to be a hardened environmental and social activist to realise this is an inconceivable mess. In a decade or two, we might look back at this term of mass consumption and wonder what on earth we were idea.

That’s the hope anyway. Unravelling and remaking the entire apparel industry seems a daunting if not impossible task, but there are logotypes that a younger generation of consumers will demand something distinctive, and a wealth of new brands are offering it. Sustainable clothing is, finally, being accepted as a desirable option, with a smattering of cool brands reanimating the market. And a sprinkling of young celebrities championing it – perhaps most especially Emma Watson, who recently set up an Instagram account to document her eco-friendly work looks.

One brand, Reformation, has been heralded by Vogue, has more than 640,000 Instagram bodyguards and its many fans include Taylor Swift and Alexa Chung. Yael Aflalo set up the good clothing company after a trip to China where she was shocked by the amount of fouling that textile and clothing manufacturing was causing. At the time, she opportunities, people thought “I was crazy – there were basically no selections for sustainable clothes that were actually cute.”

Emma Watson wears sustainable clothing on the Beauty and the Beast press tour

Emma Watson ins a gown crafted from leftover fabric from a former
@eliesaabworld Haute Couture collection on the Beauty and the Beast ask tour.

Now, Aflalo says, there are a few more, “but it’s still a lot of orderly cotton tees and less options for things outside the basics. We be to continue to shift the thinking of what sustainable clothing can be, with the whole shebang from dresses and wedding styles to our new categories like jeans and swimwear.”

Other marks include Veja, which uses fair-trade rubber and integrated cotton for its sneakers, vegan accessories from Matt & Nat and incomparable clothes by New York-based label Tome. Online boutiques such as Pleat & See and Reve en Vert collect ethical brands in one place, as do bricks-and-mortar markets such as London’s The Keep and 69B. The company Nobody’s Child dye their own fabrics in the UK, own their own plants – and their prices are low enough to entice younger consumers. But their fabrics will-power not be considered sustainable – which goes to show that in spite of that within “ethical” fashion, few companies are perfect.

Birdsong organic silky bamboo shirt and trousers.

Birdsong methodical silky bamboo shirt and trousers. Photograph: Birdsong

Birdsong is a British type whose clothing is made by women’s organisations, including knitwear acquired at a day centre for older women, and garments produced by highly-skilled itinerant seamstresses at a factory in London. Their clothes are traceable – the style of the woman who made the garment is on the label.

Its founders are in their mid-20s and hope for to create a brand for women like them. “We didn’t extraordinarily see [a sustainable clothing label] that was for our age group that was affordable, and had a bit of a mother wit of humour, and wasn’t preachy,” says cofounder Sophie Slater. “We wish for to create a brand that really spoke to us and women we be familiar with.”

She is optimistic that ethical fashion is starting to boom. “We’ve assisted so many new brands in the past couple of years that bear really spot-on branding and marketing, and really good news.” We have seen it with food, she points out – that people increasingly need to know where their food has come from and how it was signed – but fashion still lags behind.

“Young consumers are initiative this shift in attitudes,” says Alice Goody, retail analyst for Mintel. “44% of brood millennials – the 17-26 age range – said they would like to see innumerable eco-friendly fabrics used in clothes.” In comparison, just 34% of Period X and 30% of baby boomers said it was important to them. But we shouldn’t be too bright just yet – good intentions don’t always translate to ethical lites. Even for young women, sustainability was still a low priority – Mintel originate 80% mainly looked for low prices.

Ethical and sustainable the fad will increase, says Goody, but “it will be difficult for it to convey a massive impact”. There are signs people are buying minute but buying better – Mintel found this was true for 69% of women grey 25-44 – but even so, saving up for a piece from, say, Stella McCartney – however comely and ethically-made – is beyond the budgets of most people.

It seems mind-boggling that cheap, mass-produced high street fashion resolution disappear. But something has to give. “Sustainability or responsible innovation is by far the biggest craze in the industry right now,” says Eva Kruse, chief executive of Far-reaching Fashion Agenda, which organises the Copenhagen Fashion Zenith, being held next month to bring together executives to talk give sustainability in the industry. “And it’s not a philanthropic quest – this is a business advancement.”

Companies are well aware of the costs of materials and how that sway rise in a time of scarcer resources, she says. They intention be looking “at how we use less water, less natural resources, modernize living conditions around the world for those who work in our energy. Because all of that will benefit the bottom line.”

Asos Made In Kenya cold shoulder maxi dress in ditsy floral print.

Asos Type In Kenya cold shoulder maxi dress in ditsy floral put out. Photograph: ASOS

So you find giants such as H&M, Mango and Zara sending sustainable collections, and Asos having an “eco” edit. You could notion it as a step in the right direction, or cynical greenwashing – insignificant next to the vast weight of unsustainable garments companies churns out every year.

“What we are doing within the sustainable mania movement is allowing fast fashion brands to dictate the room and terms of play,” says Lucy Siegle, the journalist and journo of To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World? “And that’s not acceptable because we’re not flatter any movement on pivotal issues [such as a living wage for breadwinners]. While we keep having league tables about which mark is the most transparent, and apps to help you rate and aggregrate all of these complex initiatives, we’re dodging the main issue, which is that fast fashion is undeniably iffy.”

For Siegle, the idea that the global fashion companies are matchless some huge change is phony. “Where does that true level come from? It’s not true. And this idea that we can’t get fit out without them. Really? We used to.”

The recent introduction of tinpot, fast fashion, she says, “shows no signs of releasing its stranglehold on the manufacture industry, or of bringing substantively better lives for garment workmen.” Rather: “all the signs are pointing to brands trying to speed up creation and get it to market quicker, because that’s where the money is. It’s not a bright outlook. I think we need some very serious vital action to get results.”

For Siegle, a few of us shopping in a slightly more musing way on the high street will not change much. Her strategies as a campaigner are fanatic and systematic: she is working with lawyers to find a legal put to improve garment workers’ lives.

Still, younger clients’ burgeoning interest in ethical issues – and the breadth of cool position brands launching to meet that demand – offers a Lilliputian chink of light. “I think modern, and generally younger shoppers, are sundry conscious and want to know more about where their products are approach from,” says Aflalo. “People are actively looking to travel a change. They want to know more about the “how” and the “who” behind the set of threads they wear – to understand the story behind their outfits.”