Ethical Fashion Focus

Sustainable Fashion. What does it mean?

Posted on May 16, 2015 by Noorin Khamisani

The term "sustainable fashion" means different things to different people and brands.

For Outsider it means the following:

1. Only manufacture with sustainable, organic, eco-friendly or recycled fabrics

We use the following fabrics to make our clothes: 
• Organic cotton
• Bamboo silk
• Merino wool
• Hemp silk
• Peace silk
• Tencel
• Milk fibre 

You can read about these fabrics in more detail on the Ethical & Sustainable fabrics page but to a greater or lesser extent, they are more environmentally friendly than cheaper, lower quality or synthetic, oil based alternatives.  

2. Reduce our carbon footprint

When talking about climate change, footprint is a metaphor for the total impact that something has. And carbon is a shorthand for all the different greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.

We source fabrics as close as possible to the factories and our European market to cut down on "fabric miles". Fabrics sourced in the UK and Europe are manufactured into garments in either England or Macedonia (FYROM).

Fabrics sourced in India are manufactured into garments there. We also source trims and buttons as close to the factory as possible.

We sometimes compromise on this but only for fabrics but scores highly on other sustainability factors.  Merino wool is an example. It comes from New Zealand but it redeems itself by being soft yet durable, it doesn't bobble, it can be machine washed and it's bio-degradebable.  We have not found a merino wool fabric made to the same high quality closer to home. However, we are always looking.

3. Use low impact dyes 

We only use two types of dye:
• low impact azo free
• natural
We use mainly the low impact azo free dyes, which is more environmentally friendly than the chemical alternatives widely used in the industry.

Ideally though, we would like to use more natural dyes. We love woad. We first started using it in 2013 and we will be featuring it more and more in future production runs. 

We have also started to experiment with weld and dyed our first pieces earlier this year.

4. Recycling or upcycling of discarded materials

We minimise waste during production. For example, we always check our lay plans to see if small pattern adjustments can reduce fabric wastage at the cutting stage. Styles that have pockets generally use off-cuts or parts of fabric for this. 

5. Make garments made to last longer

This is the opposite of what we see happening on the high street or with fast fashion brands, where garments are often created with a lifespan of three months in mind. 

This happens when the the garment is trend driven. Consumers often tire of these styles as soon as they have saturated the market. but even if they want to continue wearing it they can't. These pieces are generally of low quality and don't stand up to repeated wear and washing.

Outsider design with versatility and longevity in mind. We make items that last. They are well constructed and made from durable fabrics. We want our clothes to be valued and treasured by their owners for a long time.

If we all buy better quality products and consume a little less because those items work harder for us then we are approaching consumption in a more sustainable way.

6. Versatility

Our pieces can be mixed and matched with other pieces to create new looks that work throughout the day. For example, our hero style is the shirt dress. It works from day to night and can complete the transformation from formal to casual with a simple change of accessories and styling. 

Our designer Noorin Khamisani explains “It’s so inspiring to see how our styles are worn in real life, and how many different looks can be created from one item.”  This is something we document through our regular blog post “Who’s Wearing Outsider?”.  

7. Better after care of clothes

Many of our clothes can be washed at 30 degress centigrade and dried on a washing line. 

We only recommend eco-dry cleaning where necessary, for example on tailored wool styles or silk styles where another wash method would reduce the lifespan of the garment. 

This often means people wear their garments many times and clean them less. Most of the styles that need dry cleaning can be refreshed with a light steam, with your iron or by hanging in the bathroom while you shower. 


As we try to balance design, manufacturing, commercial and sustainable considerations we aren't always 100% happy with the choices that we have to make. This is why we are constantly researching and looking for new, more sustainable ways of doing what we do.  

Outsider. The home of sustainable and ethical fashion since 2009.



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Outsider Fashion is the Ethical Fashion clothing destination for all things sustainable. We pride ourselves on our use of Natural, Sustainable Fabrics - Organic Cotton, Merino Wool, Hemp, Bamboo and Tencel. Outsider Fashion is a UK based company, with the option of Worldwide postage. Stay up to date through our Ethical Fashion Blog. Now also offering Sustainable & Organic fabrics by the metre and a range of Natural Beauty.

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