sustainable fashion glossary

An ever-growing glossary for sustainable fashion terms + resources to learn more

Eco fashion or Eco-friendly fashion

Most people tend to use the terms sustainable and eco friendly interchangeably, but they’re not quite the same.

Whereas sustainable fashion is a broader concept that can include environmental, ethical and social elements, eco-friendly fashion focuses more on the environmental side. Things like:

  • with materials can we use to avoid creating pollution?
  • can we use zero waste design techniques and patterns?
  • how can we save energy and water? Which producing techniques are more water and energy-efficient?
  • can we use recycled materials?
  • how can we take care of the environment around our factories? Can we improve it? Leave it cleaner?

Remember that in order to produce a truly eco-friendly garment, all steps of production should respect the environment, from the extraction of textiles to design, assembly and even transportation.

More about eco-friendly fashion

Ethical fashion

We can say that ethical fashion is about the social implications of sustainable fashion.

The fashion industry is one of the main contributors to modern slavery and this heartbreaking fact is just one of the many reasons why we need ethical fashion. So, generally, when we talk about ethical fashion we’re talking about respect to worker and human rights.

We want to make sure that these rights are respected throughout the whole supply chain and that all workers, from textile producers to sales teams, are granted great conditions regardless of their location. And of course, we can’t forget that principles suchas diversity, workplace safety, transparency and respect are protected.

The ideal situation is that in which workers are not only granted their basic rights, but they’re also empowered by their employers.

We can’t forget that there’s yet another growing side to ethical fashion: vegan and cruelty free fashion.

More about ethical fashion

Fast fashion

Fast fashion is a business model that appeared during the 90s and has reached its heyday during the 00s. It benefits on underpaid overseas labour and the use of low-quality materials as a way of increasing profit.

It’s based on the quick and constant mass-creation of new models and collections – sometimes even weekly –, which promotes an unhealthy and unsustainable consumer behavior and ultimately a disproportionate increase in textile waste.

This has made the fashion industry one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, waste producers and inequality promoters in the world.

More about fast fashion:


Greenwashing is a misleading marketing technique used to try to persuade consumers that a product is sustainable when it isn’t.

Certain companies use things as misleading and vague language, images evoking nature, irrelevant data and shallow information about the sustainability of their operations. Sometimes this trick looks quite obvious, like when the product is unsustainable per se (bottled water, fast fashion brands or fuel companies), but marketers are getting better and better at greenwashing, so it’s getting harder to detect it.

Knowing how to spot and avoid greenwashing is crucial if we want to support truly green and ethical businesses. These are a couple of posts on how to do that:

Second hand

Clothes that are second hand have been owned before. I love calling this pre-loved fashion.

Second hand is sustainable because by buying products that already exist you’re helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste.

More about second hand fashion

Sustainable fashion

Defining sustainable fashion is more complicated than it may seem at first glance. Essentially, it’s all about balancing profit with values (environmental protection and ethics).

It also defines a lot more than just the production of clothes. It includes everything from design to production, marketing, consumption and disposal of fashion – and that’s why everyone from designers to manufacturers, marketers and consumers should be included in the conversation about sustainable fashion.

It’s a very wide topic that includes ethical fashion, eco-friendly fashion, slow fashion,… you get the gist of it. And it can be practiced in a million different ways too, from buying second hand, to shopping local or revamping what you already own.

Remember that fashion can have a huge social impact, so cultural elements must also be taken into account and respected.

It’s a complex subject because it’s hard to agree on where to draw the line, but in general we consider sustainable those brands that have the planet’s best interest in mind, that have ethical business practices, and that aspire to revolutionize the industry through innovation and efficiency for long term solutions.

More on sustainable fashion

Movies/Books to get started on sustainable fashion


Vintage clothes are those that have been produced more than 20 years ago but less than 100 years ago (anything over that is antique).

Vintage fashion can be second hand (if it has been worn or used before), but there’s also new vintage (called new old stock).

Vintage fashion is usually more expensive than second hand because it often includes valuable designer or high fashion pieces. In the case of new old stock, the pieces are more expensive because they have never been sold in retail, which means that their price hasn’t been devalued (clothes lose about 50% of their original price once they’re bought).

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