Spanish fast-fashion retailer Mango’s latest collection is a nod to biodegradable materials. But what are their sustainable goals?
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Mango has a new objective. Profit and a “passion for fashion” may have been the ethos behind the retailer’s debut in 1984. But, since 2002, the fast fashion retailer has shouted a new ethos- fashion and responsibility can go hand in hand. On World Ocean Day, the Spanish retailer released a limited-edition collection of t-shirts and trousers made from seaweed and wood cellulose fibers and cotton. In theory, natural materials are better than plastic-based polyester and nylon. Yet, for a shirt that is still mostly made from conventional cotton (a crop known for its high water waste) and isn’t certified for being made with clean dyes, the fashion retailer’s attempt at highlighting Ocean Day feels more like a show of greenwashing than circular or responsible design. And, despite the website’s claims to use more sustainable materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and cellulose fibers, a majority of the brand’s Summertime Bliss collection is made from polyester and cotton. So, exactly how is the fast fashion retailer sustainable?
There are sustainable brands. These brands use organic, regenerated, recycled, or natural materials. They’re certified by organizations for using clean dyes. They share information about factory workers’ wages, paid time off, and other efforts. And, they’re transparent about how they aren’t sustainable and will oftentimes share their goals to meet these setbacks.
Unfortunately, fast fashion brands mimic these efforts with manifestos and limited-edition sustainable collections. Without clear objectives that translate to sustainable products, these misrepresentations are greenwashing tactics. They negate the real change happening in the industry and perpetuate the fast fashion cycle without changing it. Coca-Cola’s aspirational comments about being sustainable were accused of being greenwashing in 2021. In 2022, H&M was accused of greenwashing for its limited-edition “sustainable” collection.
When a brand creates a product to highlight the environmental problems impacting our oceans, should it be called sustainable when it’s made from less than 50% of the sustainable material? What’s the impact of a “sustainable” capsule collection versus full collections that feature materials like polyester that are known to break apart into tiny pieces of plastic that pollute our oceans and harm marine life?
On a good note, all profits from sales go to Asociación Vellmarí, an organization that promotes replanting Posidonia (Neptune grass), an aquatic plant local to the Mediterranean Sea that is in danger of extinction. But is giving back to an organization enough when a product is still designed unsustainably?
Alternatives To Fast Fashion
As mentioned before, there are sustainable brands making changes toward reducing their environmental impact. Reformation calculates its CO2 output and water use to determine ways to reduce both. For instance, using organic cotton saves water when compared with conventional cotton. Some brands focus on regenerative crops that are grown to nourish and replenish the soil. Other brands publish sustainability or impact reports annually. Most importantly, these actions aren’t regulated to one-off collections but are woven into the brand’s ethos and future collections. As a retailer with a strong presence worldwide, it would be more impactful to see these same initiatives instead of a t-shirt partially made with sustainable materials. So, it’s always better to support and spend our dollars on sustainable brands rather than one-off editions.