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What's the difference between sustainable fashion and eco fashion?

The green transition is one of the greatest challenges of the century. What is the fashion industry's role in innovation for sustainability and ecology?

The green transition and sustainability in the fashion industry

When it comes to green transition, we all know we’re addressing one of the greatest challenges of this century in order to make Planet Earth a better place and support worldwide growth by standing by the values of sustainability.

Considering the scale of its impact, the fashion industry is surely among the business sectors that have the biggest roles to play:

Therefore, it is very important for fashion brands to commit to serious actions and goals for what concerns their green transition, for example:

  • Using mostly or only recycled materials for both production and packaging;
  • Adopting clean processes for collecting raw materials, using renewable energy sources and aiming for achieving net-zero to cut dangerous emissions;
  • Promoting trends like reselling and upcycling to reduce product waste.

Some brands produce misleading and false communications, leading to what it’s called the phenomenon of greenwashing. But technology, nowadays, can help consumers to actually recognise brands that truly care about the environment and sustainability: connected products represent a great solution, allowing customers to authenticate products and connect with brands to enjoy extra content that is able to show the history of the production of that garment, the origins of its raw materials, and helps producer fosters sustainable markets.

Is there a difference between sustainable and eco-fashion? Let’s check the definitions.

What is sustainable fashion?

The most complete and specific definition for sustainable fashion stands for all products, processes, activities and actors aiming to build a brand new fashion industry based on sustainability and ecology, human equality, social justice, animal welfare and integrity, especially for what concerns the green policies and actions put into play by governments, companies and even consumers.

Thus, this definition explains how the phenomenon addresses not only the mere economical side of the green issue, like production or distribution, but also and especially the possibility to play a key role in the making of a better and cleaner world without giving up on business, and even improving it.

What is eco-fashion?

On the other hand, the term eco-fashion actually serves as a synonym of sustainable fashion, but this is not completely correct.

In fact, eco-fashion is a definition which especially stands for the production, distribution and re-use of clothing and other types of garments which were firstly produced by methods not harmful to the environment. Any examples? The adoption of sustainable textile innovations or regenerative fashion strategies to make a brand’s business model truly green and suitable for the challenges of the green transition.

Is ethical fashion equal to sustainable fashion?

Another specific term to address green and sustainable transition into fashion is ethical fashion - a market which is expected to grow up to $10 billion by 2025.

What is it? Ethical fashion is basically the equal to sustainable fashion, for it aims to rebuild the whole fashion industry based especially on ethics by reducing all forms of harm to people and environment. In another article we have written about good examples of sustainable fashion brands from which other companies should get inspired.

sustainable fashion vs eco fashion

How the fashion industry meets sustainability

It is interesting to check some figures to get a proper idea of how the fashion industry actually meets sustainability and thus how valuable the sustainable fashion industry.

Key statistics concerning the market claim that:

  • Sustainable fashion industry is currently valued $6,5 billion, but it’s expected to grow up to $10 billion by 2025 and even $15 billion by 2030;
  • The average annual growth rate of this industry is expected to reach 9% by 2030;
  • Sales of sustainable products will grow of 5x or 6x faster than others by 2030;
  • Occupation in sustainable fashion will produce up to 18 million jobs by 2030.

Instead, key statistics concerning the demographics claim that:

  • Millennials aged 25-34 prefer to buy sustainable clothes and 73% are willing to pay more than usual for products made by fully sustainable brands;
  • On average, 55% of consumers are interested in sustainable fashion and 33% want to buy all their clothes from sustainable brands and stores;
  • On average, online purchases include at least 3 items;
  • 17% of consumers get inspiration for purchases on Instagram.

The three pillars of sustainability

Sustainability is nowadays a very key and trending topic, but what are the main factors concerning sustainable development? There are three main pillars of sustainability:

  • Economic development which refers to the ethical provision of resources for companies and citizens, the gathering of raw materials, the production, the supply chain, the distribution, the generation and division of value in terms of capital, the creation of new markets and, therefore, the increase of new workforce;
  • Social development which refers to all the actions that make societies worldwide capable of growing, increasing services, education, GDP and richness per person;
  • Environmental protection which indeed refers to the activities that safeguard the environment and its ecosystems from the pollution of air, earth and waters, wastes of materials (especially plastics), wild deforestation, mining and abuse of natural resources, by promoting sustainable lifestyles, recycling and clean energies.

The main characteristics of sustainability and ecology in the fashion industry

Let’s see now, specifically, what are the main characteristics of sustainability and ecology for what concern the fashion industry:

  • Proper conservation and use of resources to design and manufacture garments;
  • Primarily the. use of recycled and natural materials;
  • Reduction of carbon footprint and material wastes;
  • Promotion of social development and working conditions of territories where brands hold textile factories, providing workers and their families a respectable lifestyle;
  • Production of durable garments by using top-quality materials and methods;
  • Fostering of sustainable trends among customers, like reselling, second-hand branded purchases, upcycling or clothing exchange.
24 May 2023

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