Sustainable Fashion Glossary

This post is a sustainable fashion glossary to help you navigate the world of sustainable fashion.

sustainable fashion glossary

The sustainable fashion industry has developed many terms reflecting its principles and goals and it can be super confusing to understand the lingo sometimes.

So, here is a comprehensive list of key buzzwords to help you understand the world of sustainable fashion!

Sustainable Fashion Glossary

Fashion Industry 

The fashion industry encompasses the entire global fashion industry, design, production, and retail.

Fashion Houses

Fashion houses are prestigious and often high-end brands known for setting trends, some of which now embrace sustainability.

Fashion World

The global network of designers, brands, retailers, and consumers involved in the fashion industry.

Textile Industry

The sector involved in the production of fabrics and garments, the industry is increasingly adopting sustainable practices.

Fashion Supply Chain

The network of producers, suppliers, and retailers involved in creating and distributing fashion products.

Circular Economy

An economic system aimed at eliminating waste and continually using resources through reuse, repair, recycling, and upcycling.

Ethical Fashion 

Ethical fashion focuses on ethical practices in the production process, including fair wages, workers’ rights, and humane treatment of animals.

Circular Fashion 

The circular fashion approach works towards developing a business model focusing on keeping clothes in use and creating better products from the very first stage of design to be used again and again from recycled and renewable sources. This type of model will focus on maximising resources and minimising waste.

This is an amazing website for more information on the circular economy.

Slow Fashion 

The opposite of fast fashion; emphasizes quality over quantity, sustainable materials, and ethical production practices. Slow fashion in short is the ‘anti-fast fashion’ approach to clothing. Anything from refusing to buy cheap, low-quality clothing to making more conscious choices for your wardrobe is all part of the slow fashion model.

Fast Fashion

Fast fashion is clothing produced quickly to keep up with the latest trends. Usually, the clothes are made at breakneck speed by low-paid workers and the items are designed to be discarded after a few wears as the materials used are cheap and likely to break easily as they fall out of recent trends. Some fast fashion brands like H&M can take as little as 1 week from the design stage for an item to hit the shops!!

Green Fashion

Fashion that is environmentally friendly and promotes sustainable practices.

Fast Fashion Brands 

Companies that produce high volumes of inexpensive clothing, often at the expense of ethical labour practices and environmental sustainability.

Sustainable Fashion Brands

Companies that prioritise sustainability in their operations, from materials to production processes and social practices.

Ethical Fashion Brands

Fashion companies that prioritise ethical practices, including fair wages and environmentally friendly production.

Consumer Demand

The driving force behind the fashion industry is increasingly shifting towards sustainable products.

Business Model

The strategy and structure a company uses to operate, including how it integrates sustainability into its practices.

clothes manufacturing

Manufacturing Process

The methods and techniques used to produce garments.

Sustainable Line

A collection of clothing from a brand specifically designed with sustainability in mind.

Production Process

The steps involved in making a garment, from raw material sourcing to final product assembly.

Entire Supply Chain

The complete network involved in the production, distribution, and retail of fashion items.

Pre-Consumer Waste

Waste that is generated during the production process before the product reaches the consumer.

Vegan Fashion

Clothing and accessories are made without animal products, often using alternative materials like synthetic leather.

Organic Cotton 

Organic cotton is grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilisers to promote healthier ecosystems.

Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)

A certification for textiles made from organic fibres, ensuring sustainable and ethical production processes.

organic cotton plant

Fair Trade

A certification indicating that products were made under fair labour conditions, with fair wages and safe working environments.

Raw Materials

The unprocessed resources used to make fabrics. E.g. organic cotton, hemp, and recycled polyester.

Natural Materials

Materials sourced from nature, such as cotton, wool, and hemp. These are more sustainable than synthetics.

Sustainable Materials

Eco-friendly materials that have a lower environmental impact, such as organic cotton and recycled fibres.

Synthetic Fibers

Man-made fibres like polyester and nylon, are typically derived from fossil fuels and less sustainable than natural fibers.

Carbon Footprint

The total amount of carbon dioxide emissions produced by an entity, such as a fashion brand, throughout its lifecycle.

Fair Wages

Ensuring workers are paid a living wage that meets their basic needs (higher than the legal minimum wage in many cases).

Greater Transparency

The practice of fashion brands openly sharing information about their production processes, supply chains, and business practices.

Garment Workers

The individuals involved in the manufacturing of clothing. They often face issues like poor working conditions and low wages.

Living Wage 

A wage high enough to maintain a normal standard of living, surpassing the legal minimum wage.

Legal Minimum Wage

The lowest wage permitted by law. This is often insufficient for garment workers to live comfortably.

Conscious Consumer 

A conscious consumer thinks before making a purchase. Some questions you could ask yourself next time you want to buy something new:

  • Where has it come from?
  • Does the brand consider the environment?
  • Do they treat their garment workers well?
  • Will I wear this item of clothing 30 times or more?
  • Is it a necessity?

It doesn’t have to stop at clothes, being a conscious consumer means thinking carefully about anything you purchase.


Greenwashing refers to companies and organisations marketing themselves as environmentally friendly or sustainable when, in reality, they engage in practices that are harmful to the environment or do not make significant contributions to sustainability.

It’s difficult to know who is being genuine and who isn’t so I tend to look at the Good On You app to find more details on a brand’s sustainability.

Second Hand

The practice of buying and selling used clothing which extends the life of garments and reduces waste. Secondhand clothing is any item that has been owned before you.

You can buy secondhand clothes online, from charity shops, car boot sales and boutique secondhand stores.

what is secondhand fashion?


The word ‘vintage’ is commonly used to refer to older items. Generally, clothing made between 20-100 years ago is accepted as vintage if they represent the style or era they are from.

Vintage clothing is also seen as better quality than clothing made today as clothes were made to last back then unlike the ultra-fast fashion items sold and bought today.


Upcycled clothing is when old, worn out or damaged materials are transformed into brand-new pieces. These garments are becoming increasingly popular in the contemporary fashion industry.

More information on upcycling

Swap shop

A clothing swap is hosted by a business or brand specialising in secondhand fashion. People who attend the events take their no longer used clothes and swap them for ‘new’ items brought by other people.

I love these events and attended We Are Nuw‘s clothing swap at the Manchester Future Fashion Fair last year. Check out the links for more information on both events.

Rental Fashion

Renting fashion is a relatively new concept. There are several fashion rental websites here in the UK and it is so simple to use. Pick an outfit you want to rent, pay the money, receive the item then send it back.

Carbon Dioxide

A greenhouse gas produced by burning fossil fuels and is a major contributor to climate change.

Carbon Emissions

The release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Natural Resources

Resources like water, air, and minerals. They are used to produce fashion items, although sustainable fashion aims to conserve these.

Fossil Fuels

Non-renewable energy sources, such as coal and oil. Sustainable fashion seeks to minimise these by using renewable alternatives.

Renewable Energy

Energy sources that are sustainable and replenish naturally, such as solar and wind power.

Biodegradable Materials

Substances that can decompose naturally without harming the environment. These are often used in sustainable fashion products.

Climate Change

Long-term changes in temperature and weather patterns. Climate change is significantly impacted by the fashion industry’s carbon emissions.

Waste Materials

Byproducts and discarded materials from the fashion production process.

Fashion Revolution

A global movement advocating for greater transparency and ethical practices in the fashion industry.

Natural Fibres

Fibres derived from plants or animals, such as cotton, wool, and hemp. Natural fibres are typically more sustainable than synthetic fibres.

Carbon Neutrality

Carbon neutrality refers to achieving a balance between the amount of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere and the amount removed or offset, resulting in a net zero carbon footprint.

Closed-Loop Cycle

A production process where materials are reused and recycled, minimising waste.

sustainable fashion glossary

Sustainable Fashion Glossary

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