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By Anna Van Der Heijden
For me, the realization of just how bad the fashion industry’s impact on the environment is hit me after I saw the Dutch documentary series De slag om de klerewereld and the film “The True Cost.” I had always known that practices in the fast fashion industry weren’t fair, but I didn’t know just how bad it was – like many others, I was blinded by cheap clothing prices and that happy feeling you get when you buy something new.
But…“What if this outfit could talk?” That was the tagline of this year’s Dutch Sustainable Fashion Week, provoking people to start thinking about the real stories behind who made their clothing. This annual event was born three years ago with the goal to get people talking about the fashion industry’s impact. For one autumnal week in Holland, shopping routes, events, discussions, shows, and exhibitions in the name of sustainable fashion are organized throughout the country.
The week kicked off with the Sustainable Fashion Week in Amsterdam. After having lived in London for a while, I didn’t know what to expect of the Dutch sustainable fashion market, so I was very curious – and maybe even a bit anxious. But I must say, I was pretty excited about what I saw.
There were two shows: one for everyday wear and one more focused on designer clothing. The casual wear show highlighted knitwear, organic cotton, denim and fake fur. Who said working with sustainable materials was limiting? The evening show had a combination of more extravagant items and artsy statement pieces. Both shows were evidence that style doesn’t have to suffer when you choose for consciously made clothing.
The schedule for the rest of the week made that pretty clear. There was so much going on. After the shows in Amsterdam, I went to a panel discussion about the question “is it possible to make sustainable fashion mainstream?” in The Hague and the Fair Fashion Festival in Utrecht, where a fair, talks and shows were organized.
The week was a perfect way to get to know interesting people and learn about great initiatives and brands. Here are a few I thought are worth mentioning.
The designs of this Dutch brand suit everyone’s style. It focuses on the classic basics, all made with organic materials. Their goal is pretty simple: make organic clothing accessible for everyone, without being pretentious and preachy about it.
For years Enschede was the textile city of The Netherlands and a huge textile hub in Europe. In the Seventies this changed because a lot of labor was shipped abroad. Organization Enschede Textielstad wants to bring the textile industry back to the city in a good and innovative way. They for instance, the picture below shows an eco friendly yarn made of old recycled denim.
We often don’t consider this, but washing our clothes has an environmental cost, too. Of course, dry cleaning is by far the worst, but frequent washes in your machine pollute waterways and take loads of energy, too.
Seepje’s credo is: “let nature do your laundry.” That is possible with their 100 percent plant based laundry detergent, which works quite fascinating. The shell of the Sapinds Mukorossi fruit contains a natural kind of soap. Put the nuts in water, shake it, and the water will become foamy and cleansing. Thanks to crowd funding Seepje now also sells a few natural liquid detergents. This laundry detergent, from the ingredients to the packaging, is about as clean as it gets. Cleaner laundry, cleaner planet!
Lingerie and basic casual wear brand Saint Basics started working with innovative, sustainable fabrics long before it became ‘a thing’. Their star fabric is tencel, the super sustainable product made of eucalyptus wood pulp. This fabric has the wonderful characteristics of being soft, durable and anti-bacterial, therefore it never has an unpleasant pong, even when it’s used for exercise gear or underwear!
The angels behind the brand have armed their clothes with timeless designs, organic fabrics and recycled materials. And all of that is made in an ethical and fair way. The designs are young and simple, meant to never go out of style.
Studio Jux is a really popular Dutch brand and store. They create clothes themselves and sell a wide range of other good brands in their store. They are headquartered in Amsterdam and that can be seen in their cool laid-back style. Behind the brand lies the motto that fashion should be fun for everyone, from the people who wear it to the ones who make it.
Denim is normally one of the least eco friendly fabrics. I can’t even count the amount of times I read about the thousands of liters of water that it takes to create one pair of jeans. But Kings of Indigo is devoted to the good kinds of denim. They are even ranked number 1 most sustainable denim brand in Europe! They reduced their water usage by at least 50 percent, they use organic and recycled cottons, and their core value is to be completely transparent about everything they do. Way to go!