Recently, Rasha Alomar and I met through my husband and her brother, who are business partners. After a very interesting conversation, we had regarding sustainability and the fashion industry I knew I had to invite her to share her knowledge with the Love of Mode community.
Hi Rasha, can you please introduce yourself and your work to the LOM community?
Thank you for having me on your platform. I am a Sustainability and Raw Materials specialist in the Apparel industry. I have 25+ years of experience and have worked on multiple fashion brands in most categories.
Sustainability in the fashion industry has become mainstream in the last decade or so, but you’ve been working in this field for a while now. Can you tell us how far the industry has come and the positive changes you’ve seen since you started your career?
Well, we can always improve and do better. However, the fashion industry has come a long way. Many factories are more socially and ecologically conscious. We have a history of human rights abuse in this industry and when you learn the details it can be heartbreaking. In addition, factories seem to be investing in cleaner energy and more conscious water and chemical usage. At one point in time, you would know the color of the season by the color of that country’s rivers!
Do you think the overconsumption in the fashion industry, which leads to tons of disregarded garments in the landfill, is the consumer’s responsibility or the brands’? or is it a shared responsibility?
I think this is everyone’s responsibility. Sustainability is about joining forces and working together as one people and one planet. We need each other to combat this issue. I want to encourage consumers to buy more responsibly. Try to make your products last longer by buying quality instead of quantity. Focus on items that you really need and don’t overbuy. Creative stylists like yourself Tamara can help shoppers mix and match and use the same item in so many different ways. Be creative!
There are programs now that have reduced dumping in landfills. Many stores are creating revenue through service models like rentals, take-back programs, or repairs. Some designers are using deadstock raw materials which divert waste from the landfill. I often find special pieces in vintage thrift stores that I can mix and match.
Most of the sustainable fashion brands have a higher price tag than the average consumer worldwide is willing to pay. What’s your advice to the consumer buying from fast fashion brands but still wants to be sustainable?
Sustainability can be found everywhere now. Fast fashion brands have made great progress. They are a big part of the original problem which means they can be a big part of the solution. H & M is a great example. If you search their sustainability program you will be surprised how many initiatives they have, and they are constantly trying to improve. Helena Helmersson held multiple roles prior to becoming CEO and was a sustainability Manager at one point so she is very well versed in the topic. Sustainability is for all sectors of society. Whatever brand you buy from, look at their website to understand their sustainability strategy.
We know that not all fabrics are made the same, and some are more sustainable than others. Which fabrics should we choose when shopping for garments that have a more sustainable footprint?
Some fabrics are truly sustainable, and some fabrics are more responsibly sourced. You should check certifications and make sure any brand is not just “Green Washing”. There are so many fabrics and yarns so I will mention the most commonly used:
Certified Organic Cotton or Certified Regenerative Organic Cotton is the sustainability gold standard for cotton. This has a clear set of criteria part of which does not allow the use of synthetic pesticides or GMO seeds. It also considers soil health, animal welfare, and social fairness. If Organic is not an option in some stores then search for more responsible cotton. Consider things like Fair Trade etc.
All polys at a minimum should be certified recycled. There is a massive microplastics problem, so we want to stop plastic waste as much as possible. Generic plastic does not biodegrade which means it can live forever in the water and soil. The fish eat it and it ends up in our food etc. There are textile advancements in the market to combat this issue but they are not mainstream yet. Keep an eye out for these exciting developments!!!
Any wood-based product from paper to closed-loop Rayon (Traditional Rayon has extremely toxic processing) should have forest stewardship certification indicating responsible management of forestry. The Amazon is considered the lungs of our earth and it is shrinking!
There are wool certifications and down certifications too. This helps protect the 5 freedoms of the animals and the land. We don’t want animals suffering and we want to protect Biodiversity and soil health.
How should one balance their love for fashion & trends and their commitment to sustainability?
I’m so happy you asked this question because voting with our dollars is the strongest movement consumers can make to help create positive change.
When you make choices, think twice and try to make the more conscious choice. Be curious. Ask yourself, did something or someone suffer for me to have this item? I believe you can still be fashionable with style and be a responsible consumer. Do not strive for perfection, just strive to make better choices continually where possible. Together as a people, we can make a difference.