Top 10 Trends in Zero-Waste Fashion in 2023

As more people become deeply concerned about climate change, industries respond, and that includes the fashion industry. One crucial overall trend in the fashion industry in 2023 is a move toward sustainable and zero-waste articles.

We already see that manifest in several ways that have a broad impact. Below, read about the ten most prominent trends in zero-waste fashion in 2023. That way, you can stay on the cutting edge.

Before we delve into these trends, we'd like to thank author Nicolle Portilla for her guest post. She's the marketing manager for Zero Waste.

1. Preference for Sustainable and “Next-Gen” Fabrics

Because of growing concern for the environment, consumers are becoming more conscious about the products they buy. Many people are even willing to pay a little bit more money for items produced ethically from sustainable materials.

That includes clothing and other fabric items. “Next-Gen” fabrics are becoming increasingly popular. These materials are entirely vegan, contain no plastics or microplastics, and no synthetic ingredients, either.

In fact, companies have gotten creative when it comes to developing sustainable fabrics. They use fruits, vegetables, microbes, or other natural materials to weave into gorgeous textiles.

2. Better Recycling Techniques

Along with Next-Gen fabrics, the fashion industry has made significant efforts to recycle its materials, too. And in truth, it needs to; historically, only about 1% of clothing is made from recycled materials.

Recycling is distinctly different from vintage or used clothing. Instead of re-selling and wearing, manufacturers break down old pieces to use the material to make new clothing.

It’s also a key component to achieving circularity within the industry. The Swedish company Renewcell is leading the way, but other entities are also getting on board.

Shopping for vintage clothes

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3. What’s Old is New (Again)

Wearing vintage couture has always been popular, and thrift stores have been trendy for years. But in 2023, you can expect the used clothing market to expand.

We’ve already seen thrifting move online with the enormous success of stores like thredUP. They make it simple for customers to ship their unwanted clothing. Then, unique software tracks those pieces, and the previous owner gets a payout (or you can redeem them in the store).

Their website and app are also super simple to browse. You can sort their millions of items by brand, size, type, style, color, price, and more.

Don’t dismiss in-person consignment stores, either. Especially in cities, you can find real treasures.

4. You’ll Hear More About Greenwashing

“Greenwashing” is the term used to describe actions taken by a company to make themselves and their practices appear more earth-friendly than they are.

It can include anything from over-emphasizing the beneficial ingredients in foods (while downplaying or even hiding the harmful ones) to actual crimes, such as falsifying environmental reports.

Consumers are savvy, and they don’t like corporate lies. In an environment where brand and image mean so much, greenwashing can be disastrous for public relations.

“Fast fashion” is practically synonymous with being bad for the environment. Companies who have made attempts to hide their fast fashion practices should be nervous in 2023. Whistleblowers, environmental activists, and investigative journalists have already called out several companies.

5. Stricter Legislation

Along with greater media attention on greenwashing, governments globally may respond. Especially across Europe, many nations now enforce specific practices in manufacturing, including textiles.

Those laws may expand, and there is already a greater call for government and legislative attention to manufacturing textiles.

The fashion industry may also be impacted by legislation in other environmental areas. One is emissions, as producing inexpensive synthetic fabrics releases many chemicals. Laws concerning recycling and greenwashing may also have an effect.

6. Fashion Rentals

Rent the Runway has seen fabulous success in making high-end fashion more accessible to the masses. Not only have other companies emulated their business model, but brands themselves are getting in on the action.

Several name brands and department stores have begun reselling since vintage couture is in such high demand. But many have also started reserving luxury pieces for rental, as well. This includes the legendary London department store Harrods.

Cotton string bag held by woman shopper

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7. A Lot of Cotton

We’ve talked quite a bit about materials, and cotton is one of the most sustainable on earth, especially organic cotton.

Organic cotton is a game-changer in the fashion industry due to its many benefits. Unlike conventionally grown cotton, organic cotton is grown using sustainable farming practices that promote soil health and biodiversity. This reduces its environmental impact by using 71% less water and producing 46% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than conventional cotton. Organic cotton is also grown without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, which pollute soil, water, and air.

Using organic cotton benefits consumers too. It's free from harmful chemicals, making it a healthier choice for individuals with sensitive skin or allergies. Organic cotton products are often of higher quality and durability, meaning they last longer and require less frequent replacement, which reduces textile waste.

Overall, adopting organic cotton as a next-gen material is a significant step towards a more sustainable and zero-waste future in fashion. By supporting eco-friendly farming practices and using natural materials, the fashion industry can reduce its environmental impact and offer consumers healthier and longer-lasting products.

The organic designation already carries serious marketing power. Typically, brands can command higher prices with it.

8. Growing Concern for Garment Workers

Human rights are closely tied to environmental justice. Very often, the same companies committing natural atrocities are committing human ones, too.

Young people comprise a considerable share of the fashion market and are particularly concerned about social justice issues. Not only do they have personal convictions, but peer pressure can make certain items or brands taboo, too.

Social media also makes it much easier for justice-seekers to spread the word and destroy a brand within a matter of days. We hope this trend will lead to better treatment for everyone and clothes we feel good about wearing.

9. Clean Couture

In most cases, couture clothing and accessories already utilize the best materials. That has often meant greater sustainability, but only sometimes.

Luckily, high-end designers opt for more sustainable materials and practices on their own. In large part, this is in response to pressure from their customers, but it’s also a recognition of their role as industry leaders.

Some have even started to move away from using animal products, including leather. Stella McCartney, Nanushka, and LaSeine&Moi are just three high-end brands that are entirely vegan.

10. Moving Closer to Circularity

All of these measures move the fashion industry closer to the ultimate goal, which is circularity. Circularity, or a circular economy, entails a drastic reduction in waste while taking steps to offset necessary damage.

Wear Your Heart on Your Sleeve with Sustainable Fashion

Clothing has always been about who you are. If you feel passionate about saving the environment, the fashion industry is right there with you.

Even if not, you’ll hear a lot more about sustainability in the clothing industry in 2023. Stay on top of these ten most crucial trends.

-- Written by Nicolle Portillamarketing manager for Zero Waste.

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