Introduction to the world of Sustainable fashion
What does ‘sustainable fashion’ mean?
‘Sustainable fashion’, the use of this term has increased manifold since the last decade. So what is sustainable fashion? Let’s break down this term. ‘Sustainable’ means to maintain something at a certain rate or level, while ‘fashion’ includes popular or latest styles for everything like clothing, hair, makeup, etc. So together the term means maintaining the production and consumption of fashion at a certain rate. Most importantly, a level that does not become harmful to the environment. Sustainable fashion is the only way forward.
Some history of fashion:
In the late 1980s, countries started focusing on sustainable development. But in the 1990s the wave of globalization changed everything. These global markets were instrumental in making fashion cheaper and more accessible. The manufacturing processes moved offshores to third-world countries, which accelerated the production levels and was also cheap.
The knockoffs of designer pieces were made accessible for cheap. People started buying in large quantities as they wanted to keep up with the ever-changing trends. Being on top of the fashion game among your peers became a priority for many. The consumption of fashion increased in huge numbers. But all this was not possible unless there was enough availability in the market to consume. As the fashion corporations took notice of the increasing demand they made their moves. This was a good opportunity to capitalize for them. They started procuring raw materials and labour at cheap prices, especially from third-world countries like India, Bangladesh, etc.
This gave rise to the concept of ‘fast fashion’. The fashion industry became highly profit-oriented and an exploitative business model.
Looking at the current situation of the world, the threats of global warming and climate change are ever-increasing now. Pollution is one big contributor to this situation and the fashion industry is the second biggest contributor to pollution around the world.
To tackle this, concepts like ‘sustainable’, ‘green’,’ eco’ fashion came to life. The obvious counter to fast fashion could be ‘slow fashion’, but sustainability is one factor that needs to be taken care of. This factor aims at changing the process right from the core, ecologically, economically and socially.
Environmentally/Ecologically sustainable fashion means:
Environmentally, the sustainable fashion industry is very different. Normally cotton or polyester is used as clothing fibers which are very dangerous for the environment. Where else, sustainability uses fibers like organic cotton, hemp, soy, bamboo and other bio-composite or cellulose fibers. These fibers not only use fewer resources but are also bio-degradable to a greater extent. This not only helps the environment by saving water and being organic but prolonged usage helps reduce the waste.
One of its factors is sustainable fashion is circular fashion. Circular fashion can be contextualized with the help of ‘Three R’s’- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This kind of circular fashion reduces the need for raw materials, creates eco-friendly industries and helps better use of resources. Reducing the use of resources and also waste. Reuse means making multi-disciplinary use of products. Recycling to upgrade the products for further use.
Economically sustainable fashion means:
Sustainable fashion promotes ‘responsible consumption’. This reduced austerity makes cheap availability for even the poor. As there are many corporations in the fashion market, there is cut-throat competition as well. So, they need to cut down on prices to survive. One area where they can mercilessly do so is the production stage. Sustainable clothing promotes a circular economy. Here, they promote to keep the cycle going on with the same raw materials until it is completely exhausted. New resources need to enter the fashion cycle only when extremely necessary. Some ways to execute this idea are thrifting, upcycling, rentals, etc.
Socially sustainable fashion means:
Corporates don’t care about ethical fashion, they want profits. They guarantee themselves high profits by cutting margins at the production stage. Textile farmers get very low returns on their produce. Even working conditions in garment factories, especially in third world countries are near hell experiences. Some production activities also lead to a tremendous amount of toxic land and water pollution. Not only this but third-world countries are also treated as dumping grounds for all the worn-out fashion.
However, the concept of ‘green-washing is an anti-social factor where companies try to portray a false impression of them being sustainable or environmentally sound.
A sustainable and large-scale change is necessary for the fashion industry. Brands/ corporations should take responsibility globally. Even the consumers should be active participants in this and choose wisely. In conclusion, sustainable fashion might mean a lot for a positive change in the rapidly degrading world climate.