Sustainable fashion trends changing the face of the industry in 2021

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The fashion industry has not historically been seen as eco-friendly, but some of the best fashion trends for 2021 are bringing sustainability to the forefront.

By now, most people are attuned to how dirty the fashion industry can be Many have known for years, but the industry seems to have been the last to know or maybe the last to care.

Whether it was the pandemic that made them face reality or news that finally made its way to the few people in control of the multibillion-dollar industry, either way, things seem to be shifting. The last year has been a turning point in a lot of ways, and hopefully, that is also the case for the fashion industry.

As consumers are taking more actionable steps to demand better from the industry, improved business practices are being implemented and new sustainable trends are starting to emerge.
There are a lot of steps that need to happen to truly create a sustainable fashion industry, but these four emerging fashion trends are definitely a step in the right direction.

Vegan leather in the luxury market


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A post shared by Stella McCartney (@stellamccartney)

Gone are the days that the only animal-free option to leather was plastic. For years, oil-based synthetics made their rounds in the cruelty-free fashion world and we had little choice but to buy it (I mean, it was that or leather, right?).

The current day of leather-free alternatives looks much different, though. Not only are innovators turning wine, mangoes, cactus, pineapple and apples into leather, but big brands are taking note. And it would appear that mushroom leather is reigning supreme.

Earlier this year, iconic luxury house Hermes shocked everyone when it announced a cruelty-free twist to its popular Victoria duffle bag. The 184-year-old brand teamed up with American start-up MycoWorks to recreate its bag using Sylvania, a material made from mycelium or mushroom roots.

Additionally, sustainable design leader Stella McCartney introduced her first mushroom leather garments made in collaboration with Bolt Threads. Its material, called Mylo, is also created from the mushroom root.

With the best of the best turning to cruelty-free alternatives could the end of leather be near?

Read our story on why vegan leather truly trumps animal leather on sustainability.

Sustainability hits the runway


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A post shared by Prada (@prada)

Up until now, sustainable fashion seemed reserved to small, niche brands. More often than not, eco-friendly garments seemed to just come in flowy dresses, swimwear and the occasional activewear line. But as we took in the world’s runways from our couches the past few seasons, we may have done a double-take as sustainability made its way onto our screens.

From the collections of Marine Serre and Stuart Vevers’ Coach, we saw exquisite patchwork of upcycled fabric scraps crafted effortlessly into coats, dresses and tees. And at the Chloe runway show, Gabriela Hearst’s debut collection showed us a reinvented Chloe girl, and she was all about sustainability. A portion of the ready-to-wear collection was manufactured by World Fair Trade Organization members and a conscious shift was made in featuring earth-friendly raw materials over synthetic fibres.

Over at Prada, Muiccia Prada’s and Raf Simons’s collaboration collection included a sharp black skirt made from 100% recycled nylon, the same material Prada has been using in their backpacks and purses.

The undeniable fashion trend of sustainability on the runway is a great step in making green the new black.

Capsule and minimalist collections on trend

As we step out of the runways and into the newly opened department stores, their racks are notably different. The retailers who survived the pandemic are still just getting by with lower sales and tight budgets. The same could be said for the average consumer. Both stores and shoppers alike are resorting to ditching the seasonal fashion trends for the time being and opting for more evergreen clothing.

Where in the past consumers would be racing to grab the latest “it” items, this year, neutral colors and classics, such as t-shirts and jeans, are the new must-haves. It would appear that capsule wardrobes are finally having their moment.

Our seemingly better shopping habits are definitely good news for the environment. With continual overconsumption and a record 84% of all clothing ending up in landfills, switching to a more curated, minimalist closet will do the planet wonders.

As retailers are largely to blame for pushing one-season items at us, if they are coming around to a more sustainable approach, we will all win.

Secondhand becomes stylish


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A post shared by Vestiaire Collective (@vestiaireco)

If you still think of dingy thrift stores when someone mentions secondhand, it is time to rethink that. Somehow over the last year, secondhand clothing has become cool. Not only is this trend great for consumers as they can sell off their gently loved pieces for profit, but it is also quite helpful to the planet.

As mentioned, the amount of clothing that ends up in landfills is astounding and thrifting gives a new life to old clothes, keeping them from the trash. Additionally, buying used clothing versus new cuts the carbon footprint down dramatically, and ultimately the only point of new emissions comes from any shipping involved.

Luxury resale marketplaces The RealReal and Vestiaire Collective are owed partial credit in helping reinvent this once taboo niche. The RealReal raised over $350 million before its IPO in 2019, and this March, the French-founded brand Vestiaire Collective raised an eye-catching $218 million, further establishing the reach of the resale market and making secondhand an irrefutable fashion trend.

Read our story on the secondhand fashion debate.

While there may be quite a ways to go, it seems the fashion industry may be starting to see its failings. And after all, the path towards change starts with admitting there is a problem.

Jackie Lutze
Jackie Lutze
Jackie is a sustainable fashion designer and writer currently residing in Colorado Springs, CO with her rescue dog, Walter, and husband. She has been an ethical vegan for over 12 years and writes mostly about sustainable fashion, travel and lifestyle. She is currently working towards her Master's Degree in Corporate Sustainability with hopes to continue to educate and help create a more ethical fashion industry.