Defining Green Fashion: 10 Buzz Words You Should Know

There are lots of buzz words in the sustainable, I mean, eco, I mean, green world of fashion and who is really to say which one is better than the other? You. Thanks to the world getting ever the more politically correct, you need to have a reference guide to be sure you know what you’re saying – and not offending.

Though we praise the hippies of the ‘60s for getting us thinking about more sustainable ways to groove in our hemps and organic cottons, only in the late-‘90s and early 2000 did the idea of eco fashion even hit mainstream or have sites dedicated to following it.

Why not take a look at the eco-fashion-lingo lineage through the years to catch us all up to speed?

1. Recycled: Back in the ‘90s, designers were popping up all over Etsy like ticks in the face of climate change. They cut apart old jeans and made pencil skirts, they sewed together silk scarves to make thin halters and they slashed T-shirts and sewed together fragments of each, recycling clothes in droves and creating the beginning of a renaissance. Another term that snuck in during this time was “one-of-a-kind,” which just meant the local thrift shop was limiting.

2. Hemp Sacks: This term was funny up until about 2004 when people referred to responsibly created clothing as “those there hemp sacks.” Of course there were never hemp sacks that people were wearing, even if the dumpy designs of that time very closely resembled them. Shapeless, colorless and ready for corn husking, the first stabs at the new eco-fashion trend wasn’t a pretty time in the history of fashion. (See pregnant Shaker Village attire for more examples.)

3. Eco-Fashion: Nowadays, use the term in “eco-fashion” in seasoned crowds and you’ll hear a muffled laugh (as in “what a jackass”). Eco-fashion now represents a long look back at a time where people were excited about the new earth-friendly fabrics coming in. Anything made from bamboo was gold and designers created entire collections from the fabric. Organic cotton was bought by small designers and even Walmart, who began to see that this new earth-conscious fabric could be a nice selling point in their mega stores.

4. Organic: The idea of eco-fashion is getting serious. Designers across the board, as well as consumers, are starting to see that eco has to mean a lot more than a fabric made from a plant not doused in pesticide. It has to be certified organic and god help the people making clothing out of it if it’s not.

Still, there’s the niche group that is now buying at Walmart and even H&M, thriving in the “organic” goodness of super chains touting celebrity faces showing how much fun this green goodness can be. Oh, and you can buy tons of it and it’s still ok.

5. Sustainable: What is sustainable fashion and how do we find it? Consumers of “new fashion” now want a lot more before dropping a hefty amount of cash in an online shopping cart or indie boutique. They want to be sure that the product is made with consideration for how it will affect the environment and society in the long-term. Sustainable fashion is all about creating products that support the designers, the local economy and the planet beyond just the immediate future. No more are the days of trusting that the designers are doing the homework though; the “new consumer” wants to do their homework.

6. Vegan: Vegan fashion has grown a lot over the past few years due to the fusion of sustainability and vegan practices. Some would beg to differ that vegan is sustainable at all but when you look at the amount of nitrogen saved from waterways and soil, global warming, ohm and saving our animal friends by not wearing them, you get where they’re coming from. Still it’s still worth discussing, how are most of these man-made, petroleum-based products really helping the environment?

7. Fair Trade: A growing niche of fashion consumers want to be fully aware of where their clothes are coming from and that the people making them are not being exploited. Thanks to Fair Trade certifications, as well as more companies investing money in making sure people are paid a fair wage and not working 18 hours a day, Fair Trade might even be of more worth than “sustainably” designed clothing.

8. Socially Responsible: Sister To Fair Trade, socially responsible fashion encompasses everything from fair wages to low carbon footprints, certified-organic fabrics to closed loop manufacturing.

9. Conscious: Conscious is probably the newest term derived from the fact that we can wear new clothing, as long as we have some sort of consciousness about where it came from, how it was made or what materials it was made from. Consuming consciously means buying less and assessing what we already have.

10. Made in the U.S.A.: A growing trend is clothing made in the U.S. that not only supports the U.S. economy and job growth, but offers a smaller carbon footprint. Garment districts from New York City to Los Angeles are experiencing a new renaissance in designers who manufacture smaller runs of clothing within the U.S. instead of outsourcing.

Amy DuFault is the editor-in-chief of EcoSalon, a site focused on conscious culture and fashion.