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Guilt-free fast fashion

Zara, the largest global fashion brand, wants to save the planet one blouson at a time. Its chief communications and corporate affairs officer Jesus Echevarria tells NICOLA WATSON how it is done.

Zara wants to be sustainable at every production stage

It practises Right To Wear, a code of conduct that ensures the Spanish high-street giant operates as sustainably as possible, from design and factory to shop floor.

It explores every part of the brand machine, from the composition of materials and chemicals used - Zara has a pre-approved list of eco-friendly ones - to the factory emissions, workers' safety and minimum wage. It also ensures the least amount of fabric wastage.

Zara's designers find ways to fully utilise the materials for each garment, and the factory staff who process the cutting stage try to fit as many segmented pieces of a garment as possible into a sheet that is ready for the cutting machine.

Fabric scraps - not cable tie, rope or ribbon - bind the garment pieces together for the sewing machines.

The staff also detail how many pieces of each garment are sold before placing more orders.

"A full-time team whose sole purpose is to audit these key elements also ensures the brand's ethos is consistently upheld," said Mr Echevarria.

Zara uses recycled materials as much as possible

Earlier this year, Zara launched Join Life, a capsule collection focusing on fashion made from recycled and eco-friendly materials.

For instance, the cotton used is ecologically grown, produced using practices that help to protect biodiversity. These practices include crop rotation and choosing natural fertilisers.

Zara aims to use more cotton, an oft-used material, that comes from environmentally and socially sustainable sources.

In conventional recycling, textile scraps are ground up and mixed with pure fibres to create new fabrics.

Currently, only a certain amount of second-hand clothing can be transformed into new fabrics.

So, Zara is collaborating with entities such as Caritas, the Red Cross and MIT, as well as its own providers, to develop new technology that will allow it to recycle more garments in the future.

Zara does not do fur

"We are a part of the Fur Free Alliance and have been fur-free for more than 20 years," said Mr Echevarria.

Its stores worldwide are constructed and run on four pillars, one being sustainability.

To ensure that each store cuts 30 per cent of emissions and saves 50 per cent of water by 2020, Zara plans to install new software to measure air and water wastage and provide methods to lower these figures.

This story first appeared in 
Her World magazine.