Sustainable Apparel Manufacturing

Consumers care about sustainability more and more. The growing community of conscience consumers is completely changing the manufacturing industry. More companies are catching onto this trend every day, and entire sectors of the industry are fading out. Click here to read more about this shift and the death of fast-fashion.


Successful + Sustainable Apparel Brands

sustainable manufacturingAcross the board, brands are tapping into the growing market of consumers willing to pay a premium for long-lasting and sustainable goods. Some brands, like Patagonia, have been doing this for decades. The company built their environmentally conscious empire (worth more than 1 billion USD) by prioritizing the planet. The 2011 Patagonia ad campaign “Don’t Buy This Jacket” exposed consumers to the environmental cost of a popular product. This campaign encouraged the purchase of used Patagonia products. That year alone, the brand saw a revenue increase of 30%.

The company is now moving towards a goal of 100% reusable and recycled raw materials for new products. They recently launched the Worn Wear collection featuring apparel and gear made from 100% deconstructed and repurposed materials. Additionally, the brand has a huge activism community, committed to bringing awareness and change to our planet.





Newer brands and startups have also found success by tapping into sustainability. Cotopaxi quickly became a multi-million dollar brand by following a “do good” model of sustainability. The brand focuses on simple designs that are both high-quality and timeless. The Del Día Collection features bags made from the left over fabric from other companies’ large production runs. These one-of-a-kind bags empower factory workers with creative control while keeping perfectly good material out of landfills.

Cotopaxi’s “do good” model applies to more than just their products. They work with factories that maintain strict codes of conduct to promote fair labor practices. Cotopaxi also allocates 1% of their yearly revenue to the Cotopaxi Foundation.  This foundation gives grants to nonprofit partners, helping them improve the human condition and alleviate poverty.

Both Patagonia and Cotopaxi have joined thousands of other B Corp Certified businesses. This is the only certification that measures a company’s entire social and environmental performance, not just the profit bottom line. The B Corp Certification aims at balancing profit with purpose to create a better future for us and our planet.


How This Helps Our Planet

Manufacturing has a huge impact on the environment, but companies can be smart about it. Every step towards sustainability gets us closer to a healthier planet. High-quality products designed to outlive trends reduce the amount of clothing that gets thrown away. Making new products out of recycled and reusable materials also helps alleviate this burden. Repairing and repurposing old products extends their lifetime. Reducing air and water pollution in manufacturing lessens the negative impact of new products on the environment.


What Can Small Companies Do?

To small apparel brands, sustainability may seem out of reach. At the end of the day, you want your company to be able to profit and grow. So, take it one step at a time. Small changes over the course of years will end up having a huge positive impact. Here’s a few tips to get you started:

  • When designing a new product, ask yourself how you could incorporate recycled materials. Could you use the leftovers from something else to make something brand new?
  • When designing a new product, focus on creating a long-lasting product that continues to create value over its lifetime of use.
  • Consider a marketing campaign that focuses on sustainability.
  • Brainstorm ways that your brand can give back. Even donating a small portion of profit to charity can make a big difference.
  • Evaluate your supply chain. Are you working with factories that are controlling their pollution and treating their workers fairly?

If you’re not sure how to pursue sustainable practices in your supply chain and apparel manufacturing, Blacksmith International can help you find a sustainable solution. Contact us here.