When it comes to sustainable fashion, it can be hard to know where to start. With an endless barrage of information, countless new and established brands to research, and a mass of confusing terminology out there, it's understandable that anyone might feel a little overwhelmed.
In light of this, every month we will focus on a brand that knows exactly what it means to be a sustainable force for good in fashion today. From debunking inaccuracies to advice for aspiring designers and tips for consumers on how to be kinder to the planet, we cut through the noise so that you don’t have to.
This month we’re getting to know Yasmina Q, a thoughtfully created womenswear brand that is likely behind many of the most beautiful dresses you've seen on Instagram of late.
The label works to protect our world and to be kind, while focusing on becoming a circular, sustainable company. With any part of the process, the brand asks itself a series of questions to ensure this happens, like does it have a positive social impact? Will it damage the environment or the community? Can we do better? It's this constant questioning that strengthens a brand's sustainable credentials; as the industry is learning more and more about the process every day, it's only right that the brands evolve with that knowledge.
We caught up with Saudi designer Yasmina Qanzal, the woman behind Yasmina Q, to learn more about her label and what we can all be doing to help the planet.
What makes a truly sustainable brand?
"A truly sustainable brand must cover many areas across a business. In the case of a fashion brand, you must look at your supply chain, your sourcing, your product, your waste, your carbon footprint and the community and environment around you."
How do you successfully run a sustainable business?
"It's a real challenge. At Yasmina Q, we have set goals to achieve along our journey - and we are only at the start. We are the first to say that we are learning as we go. But we believe that to become sustainable you must challenge and find alternative solutions - there's a huge amount of learning along the way. Our brand values are to always consider the more responsible option available when it comes to producing our styles."
What do you think needs to change in the industry?
"A lot. For one, we believe every new business should come to the table with this as a requirement. We would also love to see the larger fast-fashion retailers push back and set a new path for sustainable goals. In doing so, this would support the smaller businesses. The supply chain is governed by the bigger companies and their profit margins.
"The sooner they shift their goals to focus on our environment and the structure of their supply chains and the communities who manufacture for them, and the role they play, the sooner the supply chain will be supported in real change. For us, if our supply chain is forced to change for the large companies it means we can be supported, too. It would help so many brands to do their part."
What is the industry doing right?
"There are many amazing brands who are all working sustainably. The industry is applying more and more pressure and there is certainly a shift in consumers wanting to know far more about what they are buying and backing."
What do you want to achieve personally with your brand, in terms of sustainability?
"I would love to eventually work with a supply base that supports local communities, regeneration, and women. This requires a lot of time and resources, but I feel I have a responsibility to try my best and develop a supply chain that can become circular."
What advice would you give to those wanting to make their business sustainable?
"Research, connect and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Share contacts, share information and help each other."
What’s the smallest change a consumer could make to become more eco-conscious?
"With regards to fashion: buy less and buy better. Rewear, recycle and shop smart. Be more willing to put your money into clothes that are going to last longer."
What’s the most common inaccurate “fact” about sustainability you see promoted?
"The hardest part about sustainability is the misunderstanding that certain ‘eco’ processes are better than others.
"For example, yes natural dyes are the way forward, but any wet dyeing process still uses a vast amount of water, and this creates waste. That said, it's far better to use chemical-free dye. There are often downsides to so many practices; it comes down to weighing up the best option and each situation is different. It’s about finding the balance."
What should consumers look out for when shopping sustainably?
"Transparency of the garment, the brand, the brand values. More brands that are trying to be responsible will tell you about their practices."
What’s the biggest misconception about sustainable clothing and what would you say to counteract this?
"Probably the word itself ‘sustainable’ - it's something not everyone understands. There is an assumption that products will be too natural, or unflattering. The irony is, if all brands put sustainability at the forefront of their agenda, we could be so proud of buying and supporting our environment and wider network. Sustainability is a beautiful and exciting process. It connects you in more ways than you imagine. It allows you to learn, to change, to be proactive and to protect our wonderful world."
Where do you turn to when you feel confused about sustainability and need more detail?
"We cross-check and research mainly online and by connecting with other brands. For us (and many others we expect), sustainability should be shared. We can all learn and adapt from others and the quicker we share and collaborate the quicker we can progress."
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