Let's Make Sustainability a Fashion Statement
Regardless of what your background is, we can all agree on some really basic things—we shouldn’t be pouring toxins into our planet.
As the world is transitioning to made-to-order apparel and sustainability, it calls for a shift in ideology and methods in apparel production. You’ve probably heard or used the term sustainable fashion at some point, but what does it mean?
Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in environmentally friendly ways. We first go over why most of the fashion is not sustainable today, and then we offer insights you can keep in mind to support a more environment-friendly fashion industry.
We live in a world where artisan coffee costs more than a T-shirt. This is the world of fast fashion and it’s a major problem.
Fast fashion can be defined as “an approach to the design, creation, and marketing of clothing fashions that emphasizes making fashion trends quickly and cheaply available to consumers.”
Fast fashion has essentially turned what was four seasons into 52, one for almost every week of the year. So designs go out of style as fast as they come in. And they’re so cheaply made it’s no surprise to find a hole after one wear. If it wears out, it’s a mere pocket change to just buy a new one.
While pulling back on consumption is one solution, conservative shopping habits alone aren’t enough to eliminate fashion’s unglamorous dark side that looms beneath all the satin and sequins.
Human Rights Violation
Fast fashion isn't free. Someone somewhere is paying. Approximately 150 million lives are touched by the global apparel industry daily. Most of these people do not receive a living wage and work in terrible conditions.
To name but a few of the ethical violations: unlivable wages, child labor, modern slavery, gender discrimination (the majority of these workers are females), verbal, sexual, and physical abuse, and forced overtime above the legal working hours.
Water waste and Water Pollution
The fashion industry contributes an estimated 20% of all industrial waste. All those chemicals don’t just disappear after dying and production. They spell an enormous amount of run-off and pollution for rivers and oceans.
In post-production, even we the consumers are still polluting waterways. Every time we wash clothes with synthetic fibers, tiny bits of microplastics make their way into our pipes, waterways, and eventually the ocean. There, they get eaten by fish and other marine life, which in turn gets eaten by us. Microplastics are becoming a huge issue.
SOLUTIONS: WHAT TO DO ABOUT FAST FASHION AS A CONSUMER?
We can use our buying power to make a difference. We (and so many others) have said this before but it’s so important to remember: Every time we make a purchase (of ANYTHING) we are casting a vote for the types of products we want to see made and subsequently the type of world we want to live in.
By supporting ethical brands that produce sustainable products, we are essentially saying we want more of those products. Fast fashion thrives only because we keep supporting it. Here are a few suggestions for impactful change.
Learn how to take care of your things. A few simple ways to extend the life of your wardrobe:
Wash your clothes less often: Did you know, one wear doesn’t necessarily mean something is dirty?! Shocking! Treat every item of clothes (except maybe your ethical undies) like your favorite pair of sustainable jeans… they just don’t feel the same after a wash.
Wash on cold: Saves energy and preserves the coloration of your clothing much longer.
Handwashing rather than machine washing: Again, save energy and won’t shred and stretch your clothes like washing machine agitators.
Line dry instead of machine dry: Probably the single biggest source of fabric wear-and-tear (far more than actual wear). Think about your dryer’s lint trap for a second; all that came from your clothes.
If you’re someone who likes to stay up on the latest trends, get creative with upcycling and repurposing things you own into fresh looks. You can become your own DIY fashion designer! Or again, commission a crafty friend to custom make something for you.
The capsule wardrobe concept demonstrates how few items of clothing you need to create a diverse and comprehensive closet. Remember, you can borrow, swap, and rent clothing
SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL FASHION
Sustainable fashion predominantly applies to environment-related things: How the textiles are made (e.g. avoiding the use of pesticides and insecticides by using organic methods), what materials are used (e.g. hemp vs nylon), whether the materials are upcycled and/or recycled, whether they make use of any energy-saving initiatives, how wastewater and pollutants are managed and treated
Ethical fashion deals with the moral side of the industry, namely, human rights, inclusivity, and supply chain transparency. It asks #WhoMadeMyClothes? and questions like: Where are textiles made? How much were the workers paid to make the garments? Are their working conditions acceptable? How are they treated by their employers?
Ethical fashion is not just concerned about who fashion could potentially harm, but who it benefits, as well. Namely, is a brand in it for themselves or do they give back?
- Do they give to charity and/or have any charitable initiatives and policies?
- Do they support their local communities?
In a nutshell, if we want to see fashion become a force for good, we’re going to have to change the way we think about what we wear and why we wear it. We need to love our clothes more. We need to look at them as precious inheritances and as trusted friends.