• Sarah Hudson

Sustainable fashion glossary

As the mother of two fashion-conscious teenage girls who like to hang out in fast fashion stores at the weekends, I have been feeling increasingly uneasy about excessive consumption and its environmental impact. This has led me to follow the subject of sustainable fashion with increasing interest.

The documentary ‘The True Cost’ really brought the issues home to me. I was horrified to see images and hear first-hand accounts that reflected the scale of environmental devastation and the human rights abuses that are carried out in the name of fashion. I wanted to know more, so I enrolled on an online course run by the Centre for Sustainable Fashion at the London College of Fashion https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/fashion-and-sustainability during which I learned about the role the fashion industry is playing in climate change, water scarcity, pollution, species loss and economic injustice.

After all the gloom and doom, it was then good to learn about individuals and organisations that are working hard to effect positive change. Shining examples include Stella McCartney, who has championed sustainable fashion for many years, and the Kering Group, which is promoting the use of the Environmental Profit and Loss system. The course gave me the opportunity to reflect on my own consumer habits and to think of ways I can support the sustainable fashion industry.

There is a lot of jargon associated with the subject of sustainable fashion. Here are a few examples from a glossary I have compiled:


Otherwise known as ‘peace silk’, this is a type of silk that is produced without killing any silkworms.


The tightly curled fleece of the foetal or newborn karakul lamb – also referred to as ‘foetal fur’.


A pest that decimates cotton crops in India leading to the overuse of pesticides which has affected the health and wellbeing of thousands of cotton farmers.

capsule wardrobe

A minimalist wardrobe made up of mix-and-match essentials.


Mixing designer brands with cheap fast fashion.

circular fashion

Fashion that is designed to be durable, is derived from organic sources, is produced in a way that does not exploit workers, pollute the environment or waste resources, and is used in a considerate way.


Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora is an international agreement between governments and is a UN Convention.


A term used to express wool yield.

closed-loop recycling

A product that can be recycled back into itself.


The thermal property of an item of clothing.


‘Cut-make-and-trim’ – shorthand for the millions of (usually low paid) workers who make the

clothing, usually in developing countries.


Merchandise that was never sold to or used by consumers before being removed from sale.


The process by which fertile land becomes desert, often due to intensive agriculture, a notable example being the Aral Sea between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan which has dried up due to intensive cotton production.


Recycling products into other types of products e.g. water bottles into fabrics.


Also known as local extinction, this is the condition of a species that ceases to exist in a chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere.

GHG emitter

A production process that emits greenhouse gases.


The place where raw cotton is taken for processing straight from the field.


Global Organic Textile Standards comprises four member-organisations from the US, Germany, the UK and Japan, which promote environmentally and socially responsible textile production and processing.


Conveying a false impression that are company or its products are more environmentally sound than they really are.


Semi-processed unfinished fabric.


Also known as scouring, a process in cotton production in which the fabric boiled in an in alkaline solution.


Cotton production process which gives the fabric its shine.


Small particles of plastics derived from synthetic fibres which find their way into rivers and oceans where they harm plant and animal life.


An inhuman practice used in wool production involving the removal of strips of wool-bearing skin from around the breech of a sheep to prevent the parasitic infection flystrike.

open-loop recycling

Also known as downcycling – a product that can be recycled into other types of products (e.g. a water bottle that is turned into a type of fabric).

post-consumer clothing

Clothing that has already been worn.

resale disrupters

Platforms such as eBay and Depop that help consumers to resell their clothes thus contributing to the circular economy in a positive way.

slow fashion

Also known as post-growth fashion or craft of use.


Standard Minute Value – the time that garment workers are expected to complete their work on a garment.


The (sometimes mistaken) belief that technology is going to provide an easy fix to complex problems.

time to market

The period in which factories sew garments to meet orders and then deliver them to stores.


Harmful compounds often emitted from factories that are known to cause lung conditions and cancer.


The discoloured stripes that are added to jeans to give them a worn look.