Discovering The Future Of Sustainable Streetwear

By Mike-Dave Ayeni
Sustainable Fashion Writer

At this point in the world of fashion, Streetwear has become one of the biggest buzzwords to grace the centre stage. Being one of the fastest-growing and most influential areas of the industry, streetwear fashion has become a multibillion-dollar industry. According to Strategy&, the estimated size of the global streetwear market rings in a whopping $185 billion in sales. The general perspective of streetwear goes thus: it is a fashion style marked by casual, urban clothes that are both stylish and edgy. This style of casual clothing originated sometime in the 90s and is deeply rooted in subcultures that are found in the New York hip hop fashion scene and Californian surf scene. The style encompasses elements of sportswear, punk, skateboarding and Japanese street fashion. The essence of streetwear itself finds life in the crossing of these cultures. So much so that the most basic of clothes could make a stunning statement outfit — a simple t-shirt, a beanie, baseball caps, and sneakers.

Basically, streetwear allows self-expression in the simplest of ways, but sadly, this industry thrives on bulk pricing for these basic items at fast turnaround times - all of which are notorious for not supporting eco-friendly and sustainable practices. Right alongside the pulsating buzz for streetwear is sustainability in fashion. Times are changing and industries are gradually realizing that there is a need to carry environmental responsibility. Our beloved continent has been at the forefront of sustainable fashion for many, many years as Australian fashion brands are joining the campaign against fast fashion and harmful fashion practices. The streetwear industry is teeming with potential and its prospects hold so much. In this article, we take you into the promising future of sustainable streetwear and show you what it holds.

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THE TRUTH BEHIND THE BASICS

As mentioned, streetwear thrives on the basics. As the global affection and desire for streetwear continue to escalate, so does the production rate required to keep up. Every year, over 2 billion t-shirts are produced and sold globally and it reportedly takes about 2900 litres of water (10 full bathtubs) to make one white t-shirt. Coloured t-shirts take even more water. The resulting math is scary, to say the least, and despite being so dependent on water, it seems that we are blind to how much of it we are wasting. With an industry that rests on the fast production of pieces like this, global sales come at an alarmingly steep environmental cost. These pieces are mostly made with plastic-based synthetics or blends that contain plastic and even GMO conventional cotton. Less than 1% of them are made with pure organic cotton, organic hemp, and an even lesser fraction are made from recycled cotton.

These garments are not degradable, leading to a worrisome increase in environmental pollution. From polluted waterways and oceans to unresolved landfills and the polluted atmosphere, there is much to be fixed. Alan Mak, the co-founder of sustainable basics pioneer brand Version Tomorrow and the managing director of the popular fashion brand Public School said to Coveteur:

 

“What we are seeing, for the most part, is that environmental responsibility is not a priority, and the issue is exacerbated by frequent product drops of goods made from unsustainable materials. 

 

The truth behind the basic pieces in streetwear is that if allowed to continue in their natural path, the industry as a whole will contribute far too devastatingly. This shortcoming of the industry needed handling yesterday and the world awaits the brands who will pick up and uphold the mantle.

 

WHERE THE REVOLUTION WILL BEGIN

This process goes beyond streetwear as activewear and athleisure clothing also rely heavily on environmentally insensitive materials like polyester, plastic, and nylon. The revolution begins when these heavily reliant industries find and implement better material production processes to build lower-impact supply chains. As such, streetwear brands will be able to create desirably recycled and organic clothing pieces thus decreasing water pollution, greenhouse emissions, and global water usage.This turnaround in practices also hinges on creating new types of materials altogether, from various sources. These materials won’t have the same harmful impact on the environment and they would be easier to recycle. Mak’s work in both Public School and Version Tomorrow is worth celebrating for the future of sustainable streetwear. Version Tomorrow is the world’s first basics and “blanks” platform. Nourished with the idea of making top-quality sustainable basics from a blend of recycled and organic cotton. These blanks cater to the needs of all creators out there, gradually overcoming the unethical and unsustainable processes churning across the fashion industry. 

 

As simple as it might seem, this production of blank pieces has bridged a crucial gap between streetwear and sustainability. An industry that was once associated with fast fashion and environmentally negative practices now face a future where it is synonymous with environmental consciousness.

 

THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE STREETWEAR

Version Tomorrow is an award-winning fashion company and is the first of its kind to usher in the new era of sustainability in streetwear. Having partnered with various streetwear brands globally including Futureworld and Kith, Version Tomorrow has expanded its scope to produce blank materials to any brand or creator. At the end of their life, these blank pieces and materials are biodegradable and can be recycled mechanically through already existing methods. 

Another contributor to this promising future is the new fashion brand UNLESS launched by former Adidas Chief of Brand, Erik Liedtke. This fresh streetwear name combines streetwear and sustainability by using plant-based items that leave zero plastic waste. The future of sustainable streetwear holds the prospects of global and local brands embracing environmentally conscious materials and production processes. Sustainability is the inevitable future of streetwear for many reasons, the first being its sparing effect on the environment. Sustainability in streetwear promises to give a better monetary value. Fast fashion has long been a ploy to increase profits without any fuss about the aftereffects on the planet. Items made from original and sustainable materials last a lot longer than fast fashion pieces. Purchasing a few sustainable pieces that will serve you for longer and with better quality offers more value than fast fashion pieces.  

 

WHO IS IN THE RACE TO THE FUTURE?

There is an encouraging increase in the number of Australian fashion brands that are prioritizing sustainability in streetwear. More streetwear brands are starting to distance themselves from fast fashion practices. While they understand that exclusivity and hype are pillars in the streetwear industry, they also agree that the reduction of impact, consumption, and waste should not be an afterthought. They are pillars of the industry and the future of the world at large. These brands include HoMie, MULR, Saint Rose, Raven, The Common Good Company, Bon Label, and Citizen Wolf.

 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The extent of the environmental harm from the fashion industry as a whole is shocking. From t-shirts that seem like the most basic of things to more complex items, the streetwear industry needs to make vital changes. Brands simply have to be more conscious of their materials and processes while consumers need to shop more consciously. Together, the future of sustainable streetwear is achievable and viable.

 

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