Looking Great Doesn’t Have to Cost the Earth
Sustainable or eco-friendly fashion brands are forecasted to grow in Vietnam, according to industry insiders. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the industry’s sustainable practices and unregulated supply chains. This gives fashion brands an opportunity to address societal and environmental challenges head-on through sustaining shared value.
These opportunities may involve anything from recycling schemes to energy efficiency programmes in production and logistics. Some fasion brands have even embedded sustainability into their operations such as transparent management policies, ethical working environments, and smart and efficient designs. These all aim to make better use of natural resources and minimise waste, helping the business of beauty become truly beautiful.
Thriving on originality and circularity
Conventionally, environmental protection is the first thing that comes to mind when sustainable fashion is mentioned. Official statistics report mainly on environmental damage and pollution—to be fair, it is a serious problem. According to the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion, around US$500 billion in value is lost annually due to the lack of recycling. What is often underreported are the industry programmes that protect heritage and societal wellbeing.
Inspired by indigenous culture, Tim Tay is a local brand founded in 2014. The Brand goes beyond just looking good and doing good by the environment, but also promotes local arts and crafts. “For us, Tim Tay is a brand that pursues a sustainable lifestyle or sustainable development, rather than a sustainable brand,” say the founders. The brand is committed to encouraging sustainable consumption through fashion, increasing product longevity by improving textile quality, using 100% pure cotton linen that is decomposable, and providing a free repair service for their customers. This is a brand that inspires behavioural change.
Other brands opt to establish a separate arm for their sustainability work. They often have a recycling programme, encourage customers not to use plastic when shopping with them, or support a charity arm dedicated to funding sustainability projects.
One example is a special sustainability programme named the Refinity Community, organised by Leinné, a French-Vietnamese fashion brand. Leinné and Refinity started based on the founder’s “love for natural materials and craftsmanship” and was founded on the back of a 20-year-old heritage hat shop. Refinity collects recyclable materials from used garments and upcycles them, breathing new life into fashion waste intended for the landfill. Any unused waste materials and scraps are further recycled as building materials.
Fashioning a sustainable future
The benefits of embedding sustainability strategies into fashion brands go beyond addressing local societal and environmental challenges, towards shifting the competitive edge for Vietnamese garments and textiles exports.
Export competition is fierce. China, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and Pakistan are the main competitors in global textile exports, especially to major markets such as the EU and the United States. To win against these competitors, sustainable fashion is a deciding factor to garner business. Research revealed that sustainably manufactured clothing matters to most consumers surveyed (93% of respondents). Of which, 42% are concerned about environmental responsibility, 36% about social responsibility, and 22% about ethical practices and transparency.
To improve their unique selling proposition, the Vietnamese garment and textiles industry its local fashion brands can incorporate sustainable practices in their operations.
The time has come to do good while looking great.
This article was first published in Sustainable Vietnam: A Focus on Sustainability, Partnerships, and Impact on 5 December 2022.