8 Reasons Why You Won't Find A More Sustainable Lingerie Brand Than ColieCo
There, we've said it...
It's a brave statement to make, for sure. And if you're going make such a grand claim, you'd better have the ammunition to back it up.
Well, we believe that we do. We've spent twelve years refining our products, processes and practices to ensure that we're always offering a collection of lingerie, underwear and swimwear which is as outstanding in its environmental credentials as it is diverse, bold and inspiring.
In this article we've unpacked our unique, eco-centric slow fashion model to examine eight of the most important aspects of our sustainable approach, one which in sum we believe stands out amongst lingerie brands.
So without further ado, let's dive into those all-important details which we say set ColieCo apart from the rest...
1. We make all of your garments to order
The most significant factor contributing to any given fashion brand's environmental footprint is described not by the fabrics the brand uses, nor the raw materials those fabrics are made from, nor where their lines are manufactured. The single most influential variable is the business model for their garment production.
This is the factor which carries the greatest weight in determining the sustainability of any given fashion brand. Put simply, if you're looking for truly eco-conscious brands, the first question you should ask is, "Does the brand mass or batch produce their garments, or do they produce to order?"
There are several compelling reasons why made-to-order fashion is inherently vastly more sustainable than ready-to-wear fashion.
First and foremost, made-to-order fashion tackles the chronic issue of overproduction head-on.
In the traditional ready-to-wear fashion model, brands mass-produce garments in anticipation of consumer demand. This process inevitably leads to an overproduction for one of two reasons.
Firstly, lines very often aren't nearly as successful as ready-to-wear brands' trend forecasters predict, leaving huge stockpiles of garments unsold, even after discounts have been applied and sales have run.
Secondly, even those more successful lines commonly see large numbers of garments unsold, as given their retail pricing models, which see huge markups on the production cost of each and every garment, fast fashion brands would rather be left with additional unsold stock than risk missing out on sales due to stock shortages.
The ready-to-wear fashion model inevitably results in wasteful overproduction
This overproduction, resulting in excess, unsold inventory, has severe environmental consequences. Unsold items are commonly either incinerated or end up in landfill sites, contributing to the pollution of the air, water and land, as well as representing a huge waste of resources.
Made-to-order fashion eliminates this problem by producing garments only when there is a confirmed customer order. This not only prevents the accumulation of unsold stock - which ultimately becomes waste -, it also completely eliminates the environmental footprint associated with unnecessary production.
What's more, the made-to-order model significantly minimizes waste during the garment production process. In conventional manufacturing, batch fabric cutting processes lead to substantial textile waste, as patterns are optimized for mass production, and production speed and cost are prioritised over a more mindful use of fabric.
Made-to-order fashion, on the other hand, employs more fabric-efficient manual cutting methods, precisely tailored to each individual order. This reduces fabric waste, conserves resources, and lessens the environmental impact associated with textile disposal.
At ColieCo, we use intelligent pattern design, share fabrics across our collection, and retain even the smallest offcuts in order to make use of every last possible square centimetre of fabric in the creation of your sustainable lingerie, underwear and swimwear.
Our cutting process reduces textile waste to the very minimum amount possible
2. We make your garments to your requirements, and to last
There are various ways in which made-to-order fashion encourages responsible consumption, and this is both one of the most fun and one of our favourites at ColieCo.
When customers have the option to customize their garments - for example, requesting custom measurements, small design modifications or fabric substitutions - they are more likely to invest in pieces they will genuinely love and feel an attachment to, and will wear more frequently over a longer period.
When clothes fit us well, they feel good; when garments can be customised with our own colour combinations, they feel special. And when our clothes feel good and they feel special, we're going to wear them more often.
This shift from make-do, disposable fast fashion to thoughtful, longer-lasting choices contributes to a reduction in the overall consumption of clothing - the longer a garment is worn, the longer it will be before it needs replacing - aligning with the principles of the circular economy, where products are designed to have longer lifecycles and are less likely to end up as waste before their time.
Of course, this principle also requires that garments are made with the right materials and are constructed to last. It's for this reason that all ColieCo designs are exclusively made in our own in-house design studio by highly-skilled workers, and are only made with the highest quality materials, from our hand-selected fabrics, through our durable European-knit elastics and RPET thread.
3. We only use sustainable and sustainably-sourced fabrics
The fashion industry's transition from unsustainable legacy fabrics to more sustainable alternatives is not just a choice; it's an imperative for a sustainable future for the planet.
Legacy fabrics commonly used in the production of underwear and lingerie, such as conventional cotton and virgin polyester, are resource-intensive to produce. Generally speaking, their production requires huge amounts of water, chemicals and energy, contributing to water pollution and scarcity, deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions, amongst other issues.
Thankfully, there is already a strong and growing public awareness that transitioning to more environmentally-friendly alternatives is essential to reducing the fashion industry's ecological footprint, conserving resources, and mitigating climate change. But it is important to recognise the spectre of greenwashing.
In recent years, many brands have taken to creating a single sustainable line or collection as a marketing ploy, whilst quietly maintaining their often spectacularly unsustainable business-as-usual practices elsewhere. I'm sure we don't need to mention some of the more (in)famous names involved...
Such strategies, actively designed to mislead consumers, are a threat to genuine progress, and it's important that we work towards holding brands to account for their claims on sustainable practices.
Our Pledge on Sustainable Fabrics
At ColieCo, we have made customers a Pledge on Sustainable Fabrics. Our Pledge requires that every single fabric used to create every single ColieCo garment will meet one of the following criteria:
- The fabric is made from an inherently sustainable and sustainably processed natural fibre
- The fabric is made primarily from recycled materials
- The fabric is reclaimed from fashion industry deadstock, line-ends or off-cuts otherwise destined for landfill.
We have also committed to tracing and publishing details of the supply chains of all of the virgin and recycled fabrics we use. You can find information about each and every one of the fabrics we use to create your ethical lingerie, underwear and swimwear here.
4. We source locally, controlling the transport footprint of our materials
The transportation of raw materials and fabrics plays a significant role in the carbon footprint of clothing production. As we've written about previously, this aspect of the fashion industry's supply chain contributes heavily to industrial greenhouse gas emissions, air pollution and energy consumption.
The significance of transportation in the carbon footprint of clothing lies in the long distances materials can travel before reaching production facilities. Raw materials for textiles originate from all corners of the globe, and can travel from place to place during the various stages of fabric production, requiring extensive shipping and transportation. This can involve freight by truck, ships and other modes of transportation which rely heavily on fossil fuels. These journeys generate substantial emissions, contributing to man made climate change.
To mitigate this environmental impact, brands can adopt a more conscientious approach to sourcing fabrics. One effective strategy is to trace supply chains during the procurement process and prioritize local sourcing whenever possible. By working with closer raw material suppliers and producers, brands can significantly reduce the distances materials need to travel.
At ColieCo, we endeavour to work with local manufacturers and suppliers as much as possible in order to limit the transit of materials from source to the point of production, and 90% of our virgin and recycled fabrics are now manufactured within Europe.
This includes all of the TENCEL™ Lyocell used in our TENCEL™ Intimate collection. The raw material for this fabric - wood harvested from sustainably managed forests - is grown in Central Europe. The harvested wood travels the short distance to Austria, where the wood is pulped and cellulose fibres extracted from the pulp using an environmentally-friendly closed-loop system are processed and spun.
The process Austrian company LENZING AG uses to produce TENCEL™ Lyocell
And the final stages of the fabric production process, in which the spun fibres are woven and the resulting fabric is dyed, is undertaken in ColieCo's home country of Portugal.
This means that from the very birth of the source material to the completion of our TENCEL™ garments, the fabric's constituents have travelled in the region of only 3,000km. This is a shorter distance than cotton can commonly travel as a baled raw material, before it is even spun into thread.
5. Even our elastics and threads are sustainably manufactured
Because the details matter, our commitment to using eco-friendly materials to produce your sustainable lingerie, underwear and swimwear reaches beyond the fabrics we use.
All of our elastics are manufactured in Europe by suppliers carrying OEKO-TEX STeP certification. OEKO-TEX STeP, which stands for Sustainable Textile & Leather Production, is a gold-standard certification system for environmentally-friendly and socially-responsible production.
The STeP programme employs an holistic assessment of six discrete attributes of production - chemical management, environmental performance, environmental management, social responsibility, quality management and workplace safety - and aims to continually improve production conditions and health and safety in all business areas across supply chains. You can find out more about OEKO-TEX STeP in our blog post on the programme here.
The six elements of the STeP programme by OEKO-TEX
And in 2021, we began the transition to 100% recycled polyester thread.
The super high quality, Global Recycled Standard-certified thread we use is manufactured in Europe from recycled PET plastic drink bottles, ensuring that even the stitches in your garments have been placed with the environment in mind.
6. We're powered by 100% renewable energy
This year, with the help of our energy partner, EDP Commercial, we completed the switch to 100% renewable energy to power both the ColieCo Studio, where each and every ColieCo garment is made, and the ColieCo office.
This means that the cut-and-sew production of all of your cherished ColieCo pieces is powered entirely by renewable energy.
Our energy mix for 2023 to date has comprised 73% hydroelectric power, 9% wind power, and 18% from other renewable sources, including solar power.
7. We offset all of our shipping emissions
ColieCo works with Carbonfund.org to offset all of our shipping-related emissions, leaving the delivery of your order carbon-neutral.
Carbonfund help us calculate these emissions, which we offset by funding their reforestation and forest preservation programme. All of the projects supported by Carbonfund are subject to their Quality Assurance Protocol and subject to third party certification standards, including Gold Standard and Climate, Community & Biodiversity Standard.
What's more, all ColieCo orders are shipped directly from the ColieCo studio, further limiting their transport footprint.
8. Our packaging is 100% recycled and plastic free
The fashion industry's extensive use of plastic packaging poses several well-documented problems.
Most plastics take hundreds of years to decompose, contributing to long-term environmental pollution. And when not disposed of properly, these plastics often find their way into waterways and eventually oceans, causing significant harm to marine life. More widely, the persistence of plastic pollution disrupts ecosystems, as well as posing risks to human health through the food chain.
Transitioning to eco-friendly packaging alternatives is crucial to mitigate these environmental and ecological impacts, as plastic waste remains a pervasive threat to our planet.
At ColieCo, we exclusively use recycled paper and card across all of our supplies, and we ship your sustainable lingerie, underwear and swimwear in lightweight, reusable, recycled-and-recyclable packaging.
And all of our packaging is proudly 100% plastic free.
You won't catch us resting on our laurels
Because sustainability is a process, and not an outcome.
At ColieCo, we've always been driven to learn and discover, to innovate, and to push ourselves further and harder in meeting our three equally-important core values.
In the last twelve months, we've formally launched our Free Repairs service - a sister to our Free Alterations service - with both resources designed to help extend the lifespans of your favourite ColieCo garments.
We've also entered into a new partnership with our friends at LANGBRETT to offer customers GUPPYFRIEND washing bags, which we believe are *the* leading solution to microfibre shedding during washing machine cycles.
And as always, we will continue to follow developments in textile science and manufacturing closely to ensure that we continue to source environmentally best-in-class virgin and recycled fabrics for the ColieCo collection.
So think of this as a work-in-progress list!
To keep up with developments at ColieCo HQ, be sure to sign up to our newsletter via our homepage and follow us on social media. And please reach out with your questions and suggestions - we always love hearing from anyone and everyone interested in joining the conversation.