What Really Makes Clothes Sustainable? / by Sabria McElroy

When I first started exploring the idea of starting a children's clothing line, I quickly learned that the fashion industry is riddled with negative consequences for the environment. When creating Born To Be, we are taking every action we can to create beautiful, high quality clothes that won't contribute to this problem.

We recently went to an apparel textile show in Miami with the hope of finding the perfect sustainable cotton for the Born To Be line. This experience underscored the challenges to sustainable fashion, but also got us excited about the possibilities and made us think about all of the different ways to minimize our environmental footprint, while creating amazing clothes that little girls want to wear.

A Sustainable Fabric Supplier Booth

A Sustainable Fabric Supplier Booth

First, the challenges.

It's hard to find suppliers and really hard to find suppliers that work with new businesses with low minimums (i.e., the amount of fabric you have to purchase). Sometimes the minimums can be over a thousand yards, which is a lot.

After listening to a panel on sustainable design, we realized that we weren't the only ones facing this challenge. There were several others in the audience who expressed our same frustration.

Design Meets Sustainability Panel

Design Meets Sustainability Panel

Then, even if you do find sustainable fabric suppliers, it's expensive and the quaility isn't always what it needs to be.

BUT, the biggest takeaway from the panel, was that sustainable fashion doesn't just mean using organic fabrics. It's also about factory practices, fabric use and waste, and what happens to clothes after they are thrown out. It's even about how much you wash your clothes when you take them home. In fact, I recently learned that over half of a garment's carbon footprint occursafter the purchaser takes it home.

Now, this brings me to the exciting part:

We know that we're searching for the perfect, super soft, high-quality cotton for Born To Be clothes. We're continuing to search for fabric that meets those qualities and is also organic. But, if we can't find it now (and even if we do), we're also committed to being as sustainable as we can right from the start in as many ways as possible. That means:

  • Working with factories that minimize waste and water use during manufacturing.

  • Creating care labels that instruct purchasers on eco-friendly washing.

  • Using eco-friendly printing and low impact dyes.

  • Creating high-quaility clothes that will withstand the active lifestyle of curious little girls and can be passed on after the first wearer outgrows them. (One of the biggest negative environmental impacts comes from textile waste.)

  • Utilizing a give back program that ensures our clothes don't end up in a landfill somewhere after being worn for a few months. Our customers can send the clothes back. We haven't figured out all of the details but we'll make sure the fabric is repurposed or that the clothes are donated to charities that will actually use them.

We want you to choose Born To Be clothes because you believe in the message AND because we provide an alternative to the envornmental problem that is happening in the fashion industry.