Sustainable fashion definitions

It’s time to learn a little bit about some sustainable fashion definitions. Nowadays we can find on the Internet content related to “eco-fashion”, “ethical fashion”, “sustainable fashion”, “upcycled fashion”, and more. But what does it really means? Which are the differences between one and another? In this post, we will talk about many sustainable fashion definitions and why it is important to take them into account.

Why it is important to know sustainable fashion definitions?

These last years sustainability topics have been increasing on social media. And brands and companies started to take more seriously producing and selling more sustainable products. It’s pretty common to read on labels or on social media posts words such as eco-fashion, ethical fashion, fair trade, cruelty-free, sustainable, and more. And sometimes it can be a bit confusing reading all these similar words. So it’s important to know what do they mean in order to realize what you are actually buying or consuming.

Being a more conscious fashion consumer it’s also about being informed regarding who made our clothes, of which materials are made of, and how was the chain production. For sure it’s not easy to know all of these, that’s why I recommend buying from sustainable brands. They have very transparent communication with their audience and share all kinds of information needed about their products: working conditions, partners, materials, fabrics. Usually, you can find all of this on their websites.

Sustainable fashion definitions


It is called eco-fashion to those clothing produced by methods and materials that aren’t harmful to the environment. And this doesn’t mean that its only focus is the environment but also the health of the people that will be wearing the clothes. For example, wearing organic cotton underwear is far more healthy and better for our body than a piece of polyester fabric.

Furthermore, they take into account working conditions which is such a great thing. A report from 2018 published that forced labor and child labor exist in the fashion industry in different countries like Argentina, India, Brazil, China, and more. You can see the report here.

sustainable fashion definition

To be more specific, eco-fashion involves:

  • Clothes made using raw materials, like cotton grown without pesticides, and recycled textiles. These materials consume much less water and energy and emit less carbon dioxide than common fibers like cotton, polyester, and nylon.
  • Products designed and made to last longer.
  • Clothing made under good working conditions.

Slow fashion

Basically, slow fashion is a movement focused on taking a more ethical and sustainable approach to fashion. And this is for both retailers and consumers. As the industry continues to accelerate, slow fashion proposes a stop and makes us rethink our relationship with fashion. It includes slowing down production and consumption of clothing and values fair treatment of animals, people, and the planet.

Ethical fashion

Ethical fashion englobes clothes design, production, and distribution based on reducing harm to people, animals, and the planet. It creates a better future for everyone and benefits workers along the supply chain. In fact, ethical fashion is worried about social impact and the ethics of a brand.

Sustainable fashion

Sustainable fashion refers to clothing and accessories produced in an ecologically and socially responsible manner. It combines eco-conscious and ethical fashion. After all, they have one thing in common: they speak to longevity. Environmental, social, and economic systems need to be designed so they can be in balance and maintained into the future.

Sustainable fashion is about creating good and avoiding harm to people, the planet, and animals. It isn’t about buying lots of new clothes and stocking them in your wardrobe. It’s about buying less and wearing what you already own. But this doesn’t mean you have to be with your clothes your whole life. Body changes, our likes change as well. And what should you do in this case? First, do wardrobe cleanings and sell, donate or give away those clothes you don’t wear anymore. Then when you realize which pieces do you need, shop quality instead of quantity, so your clothes last longer and can be worn for many years.

Fair trade fashion

Fair trade fashion is clothing that has been produced based on ethical trade standards. Its main focus is people. It’s also known as an international movement that was born after the Second World War and it became popular in Europe in the 1960s. It ensures producers are paid fairly, improve working conditions and support local economies.

Nowadays there are many different organizations promoting the principles of fair trade and offer help and certification for brands. Here are some of them so you can take a look and read more about them:

Cruelty-free fashion

Cruelty-free fashion means that there were no animals that suffered during the production of clothing and that the piece doesn’t contain any animal byproducts. As time goes by there are new cruelty-free leather options in development. For example, leather made of natural products like pineapple skin, mushrooms, apples, bananas, mulberry tree leaves… It’s a whole new world to discover!

Biodegradable fashion

Biodegradable fashion is clothes made of biodegradable materials such as organic cotton, hemp, linen, coconut, or vegetable skin. These materials can decompose in nature to natural chemical elements as a result of the action of biological agents like plants, animals, or bacteria. There are also trainers made from recycled materials like plastic bottles or nylon recovered from fishing nets. Biodegradable clothing is a way to reduce the polluting effects of fashion, for sure.

There are ecological certificates that offer an organic quality stamp ensuring that the company is committed to preserving the environment. Here are some of them:

  • Naturtextil IVN Certified: it validates that clothing is 100% natural.
  • Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): it guarantees that at least 70% of organic materials have been used in clothes.
  • Other standards: include several certifications like Content Claim Standard (CCS), Organic Content Standard (OCS), Organic Exchange (OE).

Upcycled fashion

Upcycling clothes is taking old or damaged garments and reshaping them into something different, completely new. It’s a great thing to do when you have ripped clothes or that don’t fit anymore. It’s a way to give them a second chance and keep wearing them! There are a lot of easy tutorials on the Internet on how to upcycle clothes. Even on YouTube! It’s a whole world to discover.

Last thoughts

There are different ways to have a more sustainable approach to fashion. And it’s a good step to start to know these sustainable fashion definitions in order to help you decide on your next purchase! If you still are a bit lost of how to be a more responsible fashion consumer, then I recommend you to follow me on Instagram and TikTok, there I share more content and you can write me whenever you want!

Also, I recommend you to read Sustainable shoe brands, Smart clothing shopping tips, Affordable ethical fashion brands for more help 🙂

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