The clothing industry is one of the dirtiest in the world, especially fast fashion. My These Isles handweaving business was designed to complement what I deem the most sustainable lifestyle in the world: smallholding. It will probably never earn me a smallholding in any country I know well, but the fundamental principle of providing sustainable clothing still very much applies.
As of August 2021, all new These Isles garments have a star rating (out of 5) for sustainability. This will be a form of self-certification according to my own strict environmental and social standards as detailed in the table below.
My terms are stringent: you can see, on the left in dark green, that a 5 star rating would only be achieved with a zero-carbon footprint and a post-capitalist monetary system. You can also see, in the yellow columns, that I’m phasing out my use of less ecological yarn sources – which are typically the softest. And then there are various degrees of sustainability in between. Note that, if you’re a British buyer, you can add an extra quarter star to the given overall rating for buying more locally.
Take a look at the detail in the table here, as you’ll begin to see how sustainable production is usually more labour-intensive and therefore almost always more expensive. Though they don’t feel it to most of us, my prices are actually still modest! The most expensive soft AND sustainable yarns will be introduced if and when I think you and I both can stand the cost increase.
Clearly the damning indictment I make of commercial clothing companies on the right here in orange and red is broad brush and there are, increasingly, exceptions: economies of scale don’t always entail economies of ethics – just usually. Whilst the once and future village of perfect sustainability should ideally constitute sole-trading craftspeople and teency cottage industries, sometimes a larger but super-conscientious cottage industry can perform even better, for instance on efficiency of water use – though they may be worse on chemical use (formaldehyde, chlorine, to name but two). Avoid sweatshops, obviously. Check with every brand you buy. Or, for peace of mind, just support a highly principled artisan here.