Passion Lilie was conceived more than a decade ago when designer Katie Schmidt recognized an absence of high-quality, affordable, sustainable fashion in the marketplace. She knew there was a way to offer beautiful clothing that stood the test of time and trends without hurting the planet or the people making the garments. And she was right! Nearly eleven years later, Passion Lilie has a bevy of loyal customers and garners more and more attention from local and national media. If there’s one thing Katie has learned through the years, it’s that business and sustainable fashion brands are always evolving. Sustainability is not a series of boxes we check off and pronounce success. It’s something that’s constantly evolving, with moving goalposts and changing metrics – and that’s how it should be! That’s how we keep getting better at serving our planet and the people who live here. Read on to see how the sustainable fashion industry is evolving.
One of the most considerable changes in the sustainable fashion industry is the movement toward innovative materials like organic cotton, modal, and recycled fabrics. Passion Lilie strives to use 100% organic materials whenever possible because it’s healthier for farmers, consumers, and the environment. You can read more on why we prefer organic materials here. This year, we took significant steps towards sustainability by investing in organic yarns for our ikat fabrics, resulting in a substantial increase in our organic production for Spring 2024. The Spring 2024 collection will be 80-90% organic, compared to 50% in prior years. We plan for Passion Lilie products to be 100% organic by 2025.
Other sustainable fashion brands are experimenting with different materials like lab-grown fibers; biodegradable fabrics made from things like algae, bacteria, or mushrooms; and fabric made from recycled materials like plastic bottles and fishing nets. The production processes for these fibers often use less water and fewer chemicals and emit less CO2 into the atmosphere.
Our friends at Sustainably Chic did a breakdown of some of the most innovative new fabrics in the marketplace, including leathers made from fruit by-products, wood, and textile waste. Check it out for an idea of how the sustainable fashion industry is evolving in creative ways.
Circular Economy Strategies
Unlike the traditional linear model of "make, use, dispose," a circular economy aims to eliminate waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, and regenerate natural systems. In a circular economy, materials are reused, refurbished, repurposed, composted…anything to keep them in circulation and out of the landfill. Many sustainable fashion brands are focusing on “closing the loop” by creating garments and accessories that are made from natural materials like organic cotton that are durable and can be repurposed or recycled at the end of their lifecycle. By using these strategies to extend their products’ lifecycle, sustainable fashion brands can significantly reduce their carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Companies that embrace circular economy strategies may also adopt clothes rental subscriptions, recycling incentives, take-back policies, or upcycle seasonal designs to extend the lifecycle of their clothes. This promotes more efficient use of textiles and encourages consumers to adopt a sustainable mentality when shopping.
At Passion Lilie, we try to use every scrap of fabric that falls to the production floor by turning remnants into jewelry, home goods, or beauty products. Our zero-waste collection will continue to expand as we strive to be a waste-free brand. Other companies offer platforms for reselling, returning, or repurposing clothes to achieve a closed-loop system.
In recent years, 3D technology has become an important part of sustainable production by helping companies minimize waste, reduce environmental impact, and provide customization without an increased financial and ecological cost.
One major way that 3D technology helps reduce waste is by providing retailers with 3D samples instead of physical products. Products often go through dozens of iterations before they’re finalized, so 3D samples eliminate the time and materials involved in product development.
Many sustainable fashion brands are turning to 3D printing technology as a way to create products on demand, rather than overproducing garments. 3D printing and scanning technologies give brands the ability to create custom clothing that fits a customer’s exact measurements and specifications. This in turn is likely to lead to fewer returns and reduced waste in the retail process. Producing garments on demand instead of large-scale production ultimately reduces inventory and material waste used in the manufacturing process.
If the idea of 3D-printed clothing conjures images of stiff, uncomfortable clothing, you’re not alone. But 3D technology is capable of using sustainable materials like biodegradable fibers and recycled textiles to create comfortable, beautiful clothing as an alternative to traditional textiles.
As 3D technology becomes more easily available, sustainable fashion brands will be able to optimize their production processes, reduce waste, and create custom looks and fits for their customers.
Another key evolution in sustainability is the use of blockchain technology. For supply chains, one of the most important features of blockchain is its ability to create a secure and transparent record of transactions that is resistant to tampering or modification. With blockchain technology, products can be tracked through every stop in the supply chain, from raw material sourcing to the final product. Each step of the process can be recorded, providing a transparent and traceable history of a product’s journey. This is especially significant for procurers of luxury goods – there’s no question about the quality or authenticity of the products.
Blockchain technology streamlines the supply chain process, reducing paperwork and errors. It can automate processes and trigger actions that are directly written into the code. Companies can demonstrate commitment to ethical, eco-friendly practices by using the blockchain to ensure compliance and record relevant data and metrics. Transparency is a major component of any sustainable business, and blockchain technology is a reliable innovation for companies and consumers to use for full accountability.
Speaking of Transparency
While not as innovative as fabrics made from pineapple waste or 3D technology, the idea of transparency continues to evolve in other ways, like the importance of educating consumers. In recent years, brands have taken the onus of educating consumers about the impact of their fashion choices. Sustainable fashion brands promote transparency in everything from materials to makers to supply chain practices. We want people to know who made their clothes and in what conditions so that they understand what happens when they choose fast fashion over ethically made, sustainable options. We tell people that they vote with their money. When shoppers purchase sustainable, ethically made clothing, they’re demanding a better fashion industry for all.
Brands that are truly committed to sustainability will likely have information about every stop on their supply chain including where and how materials are sourced, where the products are made, and the conditions wherein people make the clothing. If this information is not readily available, you should probably hold up your red flag. It would be worth your time to contact the company in search of the answers you want.
Sustainable fashion brands have come a long way since Katie first started Passion Lilie, but we know there’s always work to do. We hope you’ll join us on our journey to become more sustainable with each passing day. Let us know in the comments if you have ideas for how the industry can continue to evolve.