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This Season's Hottest Trend: Fashion Protecting Forests

Image credit: Canopy/Gurbir Grewal

Fashion and forests don’t likely go hand-in-hand in most people’s minds, but a new partnership announced today is aimed at increasing the sustainability of both.

Socially conscious fashion brand Eileen Fisher and Canadian environmental NGO Canopy — with the help of Quiksilver, prAna, Patagonia and lululemon athletica and 14 progressive designers — have announced a joint campaign designed to bolster protection of ancient forest ecosystems and raise awareness about the fashion industry’s role in endangering them.

Fashion frequently has an environmental cost that doesn’t show up on the price tag. Canopy research has found that the planet’s ancient and endangered forests, from the lush tropical rainforests of Indonesia to the great northern boreal forests, are increasingly being cut down and pulped to make fabrics such as rayon and viscose. The forest conservation organization has documented fiber from these rare forests turning up in suit-jacket linings, dresses and skirts, t-shirts and tank tops in a variety of major brands.

In a step toward reversing this growing and harmful trend, Eileen Fisher, Quiksilver, prAna and Patagonia have developed purchasing policies to help eliminate the use of endangered forest fiber; are engaging their suppliers to further understand their supply chains, supporting research and development of solutions such as recycled viscose; and have committed to partner with Canopy in raising awareness of the link between fashion and forest conservation. “At Eileen Fisher, honoring the earth and its connection to human well-being is a company priority,” said Amy Hall, Director of Social Consciousness. “The current role of fashion in forest depletion is alarming but we know designers and leading fashion houses can make a difference. Working with Canopy to address our use of forest fiber, develop mechanisms to ensure our fabrics are free of endangered forests and to craft long-term solutions for sustainable fabric sourcing are the first steps in turning the tide for the world’s rare forests.”

A number of designers — including Prophetik, Tara St. James of Study NY, Miik, Anna de Shalla, Auralis and local designer Nicole Bridger — are also on board and have signed a statement supporting the protection of ancient and endangered forests.

“Canopy is thrilled to be working with these conscientious leaders of the clothing industry,” said Canopy’s executive director Nicole Rycroft. ”Their actions are setting a new bar for sustainability within the sector and inspiring other large global players.”

Cutting ancient trees to produce clothing is a rapidly expanding threat to the world’s endangered forests and the communities and species that depend on them. Last year, an estimated 70 million trees were cut for fabric production and it is projected to double in the next 20 years.

"At Quiksilver, we are substantially investing in socially responsible efforts. Like our consumers, we believe we have a responsibility to leave the natural environment in a better way than we find it today," said Nick Drake, Chief Marketing Officer of Quiksilver, Inc. "We are proud to be launching our initiative to eliminate endangered forest from our products and look forward to implementing our policy with integrated solutions and product lines we have been championing, including recycled fabrics.”  

Thanks to the prompting of NGOs such as Greenpeace and the commitments of dozens of major brands, the fashion industry has made great strides in the past year in cleaning up its act in various aspects of its supply chains — from eliminating toxic chemicals to enacting better worker safety standards and protocols to dramatically reducing water and energy use in textile production. If the industry as a whole continues to work to eliminate its hazardous effects on the people and communities involved in its production, fashionistas can soon feel good about their pretty new clothes in every way.

 


Jennifer Elks is Managing Editor at Sustainable Brands. She is a writer, editor and foodie who is passionate about improving food systems, closing loops and creating more livable cities. She loves cooking, wine, cooking with wine, correcting spelling errors in… [Read more about Jennifer Elks]


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