Regenerative is the new buzz word! Have you ever wondered what it actually means in the context of fashion specially for slow fashion brands? Regenerative fashion is essentially fashion that does more good than harm.
The global fashion industry is immensely resource dependent and unsustainable, harming both people and the planet. It also emits a significant amount of carbon emissions contributing to the climate crisis. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions. Textile production alone contributes more to climate change than international aviation and shipping combined!
Creating regenerative fashion products means going beyond just reducing fashion’s negative environmental impact to becoming net positive by regenerating nature in the process of creating these products.
To understand what regenerative fashion is, we need to start by first understanding where our clothing comes from. Raw materials, particularly natural fibres such as cotton, found in our clothing come from farms and forests. Producing these materials at scale to meet the demands of the global fashion market has led to negative environmental impacts such as soil degradation and biodiversity loss. Regenerative agriculture aims to address this problem through holistic land management practices that maximises the ability of plants to draw down carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis while improving soil health and crop resilience. This means that this nature-based solution can effectively contribute to addressing the climate crisis. These regenerative farming practices can be traced back to farming methods adopted by indigenous communities that involve working in harmony with nature. This involves techniques such as crop rotation and no-till farming, that actively restore soil and build its resilience.
There is a growing movement encouraging industry to shift to regenerative farming practices. Although, it can be very challenging for farmers to transition to adopting these practices, especially after years of conventional farming. In order to increase adoption of regenerative farming practices, farmers need more incentives and financial support.
DECENTRALISING PRODUCTION & CREATING CLIMATE BENEFICIAL TEXTILES FOR FASHION
Thankfully, organisations such as Fibershed, have created a successful model for supporting regional producers in adopting regenerative agriculture to ultimately produce natural fibre textiles and clothing. Fibershed has found a way to bring together local yarn manufacturers, textile producers and designers to create what they call climate beneficial textiles. It is through the support of organisations like Fibershed and fashion brands committed to supporting farms that produce regenerative natural fibres that regenerative fashion is made a reality.
Fibershed has shown us that fashion can indeed have a positive impact and it is scalable. But rather than increasing production in one particular area in the world, they envision a world where regional textile communities can produce textiles/products with the aim of providing climate beneficial clothing for their local community. This reduces the pressure on polluted and ecologically undermined areas of the world, where the majority of the world's fashion is currently being made. There is also an opportunity for fashion brands to ensure greater transparency to their customers and suppliers.
SOIL TO SOIL
Regenerative fashion is also about creating clothing that can safely return to the Earth at the end of its life. Truly compostable clothing is good for the soil, reduces waste and pollution and keeps toxic chemicals off our skin. It also ensures that workers across the supply chain are not exposed to toxic chemicals in the process. In order to achieve this, it is important that no harmful chemicals or synthetic materials were used in the process of creating the garment. This includes taking into consideration the type of dyes that were used, the material content of the thread used to stitch the garment together as well as the buttons, zips and labels. Every detail needs to be taken into consideration.
REGENERATIVE FASHION & OUR WORK AT KINABUHI
At Kinabuhi, we can’t claim to create regenerative fashion but we do aim to help regenerate the planet through our work.
We are far from achieving our goal of producing 100% regenerative fashion because of the limitations of our local supply chain in the Philippines. But we are working towards it! We are committed to working with and supporting local partners that are working towards making the regenerative farming of natural fibres a reality. We have also committed to donating 10% of our net profits to Center for Sustainability, a non-profit working towards protecting and regenerating the Philippines’ forests.
Since we are not yet in a position to create 100% regenerative fashion products, we have decided to use damaged secondhand garments, fabric scraps and deadstock fabric as our main input material. By extending the life of clothes by just 9 months of active use, we would reduce carbon, water and waste footprints by 20-30%. In using textile waste, we can also make our products more accessible in terms of price (creating 100% regenerative handcrafted fashion is expensive!) and extend the life of discarded materials in the process.
The handwoven textiles in our clothing are made of Philippine natural fibres such as Philippine cotton and Abaca. Around 70% of the yarn used to create the handwoven textiles in our first collection are produced in the Philippines while the remaining are produced by eco-conscious yarn manufacturers in the UK and Taiwan. We also collaborate with local makers to naturally dye our yarn without harmful chemicals. Then we work with an indigenous weaving community in Cebu to weave these textiles on traditional handlooms. Finally our finished products are created by independent makers based in Cebu.
We are committed to supporting regional textile and garment production from fibre to finish.