Abiding by sustainable fashion's 5 pillars is not an easy feat

Abiding by sustainable fashion's 5 pillars is not an easy feat

By fijivillage
Thursday 04/03/2021
A look from Giyi's first sustainable collection. (Photo courtesy of Göknil Bigan)

If a fashion brand markets itself as “sustainable” or “ethical” but can't even provide you with a clear, traceable map of its supply chain and production processes then as a consumer, how can you be expected to pierce this veil of secrecy? And what about labels that claim they are sustainable but fall short when it comes to economic, ecological or social sustainability?

Being a 21st-century name in fashion requires a lot of thinking, and earning the right to call yourself "sustainable" does not come from using only organically grown cotton. Closed-loop production, fair trade and creating added social and economic value for society together build a strong foundation in a brand's journey toward real sustainability. In the world of fashion, brands and designers call these dimensions pillars and build their presence from the bottom up by focusing on even the smallest details.

One of these brands is Giyi, a young, independent Turkish brand that was established when the coronavirus pandemic broke out. On a sunny and tranquil Sunday, Göknil Bigan, the founder of Giyi, told me about her story over Zoom from her Istanbul flat.

"I started to show interest in the sustainable fashion scene four years ago. It was in 2018 when I went to the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, which centers around sustainability in fashion. I was very impressed with the whole organization, and the collection of pledges from brands to be more sustainable," she explained.

The takeaways from this summit for Bigan were that a brand needed to be green and clean, high-quality, ethical and fair while also caring about saving water and energy.

Based on her observations and research, Bigan decided to found her brand on these five pillars:

- Planet-friendly materials: To use biodegradable and stay away from plastics, harmful or pollutant chemicals.

- Fair and ethical labor: To give workers fair pay and ensure humane working conditions; to inform customers transparently about the whole process.

- Versatility: To create functional, timeless pieces that can withstand seasons and years instead of "wear-once and get-rid."

- Circularity: To be waste-conscious in clothing and packaging and promote upcycling and recycling.

- Inclusivity: To follow an inclusive business model that champions women's empowerment and to create social and economic benefits while helping continue craftsmanship.

Though this is not an exhaustive list and such pillars can be categorized differently, to be a sustainable brand one must think about wider impact, which is what Bigan strived for with Giyi. By choosing a lean production model that operates on minimum stock and leans more heavily toward custom and made-to-go orders at the end of last year, she continues to stand out as a small yet principled brand.

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