22nd July 2021
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is a movement and process of adaptation towards more ecologically and socially conscious clothing. This promotion of sustainable values covers aspects such as; the material used, packaging used, working conditions, and a reduction in environmental destruction.
The history of sustainable fashion
Sustainable fashion first emerged in the 1960s when consumers started to become more aware of the effects that the clothing industry had on the environment. Anti-fur campaigners emerged in the 1980s and an interest in ethical clothing surfaced in the 1990s.
The 2013 Rana Plaza Disaster, in Bangladesh, opened the eyes of many to the issues surrounding fast fashion. The building, housing five garment factories, collapsed in 2013 and resulted in at least 1,132 dead and more than 2,500 injured. This incident awoke many to the conditions of garment workers in Bangladesh and, by extension, to one of the largest issues in fast fashion.
Now, sustainability has become a mega-trend and changes are being made to the way in which fashion works. Many brands are adapting by introducing organic materials and promoting sustainable collections, such as H&M releasing their ‘conscious’ line. Aiming for sustainability is now a goal of many companies, old and new, as the industry strives for more ethical and responsible fashion.
Issues with fast fashion
There are numerous issues with fast fashion and its brands. These issues are not made widely aware, resulting in many people not understanding why they should turn to more sustainable fashion.
Water usage – It can take up to 200 tonnes of water to dye one ton of fabric. This waste water is then dumped directly into rivers, endangering the health of both people and wildlife.
Greenhouse Gasses -The rapid and high-demand production results in the use of vast amounts of energy, which is generated from fossil fuels.
Deforestation -The use of wood-based fabrics and fibres and chemicals degrade the soil and cause mass deforestation. This harms the earth, its wildlife and the indigenous communities.
Toxins – The level of chemicals used in fast fashion clothing is extreme, even those that claim to be 100% natural. The Greenpeace “Detox” campaign discovered 11 chemicals that cause cancer and disrupt hormones that are frequently present in clothing production.
Human Rights – Low pay, long hours and hazardous working conditions are just a few of the issues concerning human rights in the fashion industry. These conditions are so extreme it is considered a humanitarian crisis.
Difficulties with sustainable fashion
Despite sustainable fashion being the clear new way forward, there are many issues that the movement faces.
Staying Competitive – The competition on pricing creates issues for sustainable companies. The desire to lower their prices in order to compete with fast fashion brands results in a need to cut corners, therefore, reducing sustainability.
Production – The speed and level of production in sustainable items does not run parallel to that of fast fashion production. Most sustainable brands release seasonal drops in comparison to other brands which are constantly producing and releasing products.
Greenwashing – Greenwashing is defined as misleading information that advertises green credentials. Due to sustainability becoming a mega-trend, many companies engage in greenwashing by pretending that their values and practices align with those of sustainable fashion. The use of buzzwords such as ‘eco’ and ‘green’ are often in place to trick buyers. Not only does this lead to an increase in the purchasing of fast fashion but it also creates an atmosphere of mistrust in companies which are truly cohering to the practises of sustainable fashion.
Foxis Garms is a Liverpool based designer that utilises the deadstock fabric from companies who have overproduced such as Boohoo, ASOS and Collusion and up-cycles in order to create sustainable and gorgeous products. Foxis Garms focuses on a zero waste policy when it comes to fabrics, further promoting her brands complete sustainability. This Liverpool based designer releases her products in drops, as is custom to sustainable brands as they cannot consistently mass produce and release like fast fashion companies. When asked about her opinion on fast fashion, Foxis Garms stressed her dislike due to the negative impact on the planet and urges more people to buy from sustainable and eco-conscious brands. Asides from this, Foxis Garms highlights the beauty in having a piece of clothing that is 100% unique and has had love and effort in every stitch; this kind of individuality is something that is not found in fast fashion production.
What can students do to help? Charity shops, Depop, eBay, sustainable brands
As a student, it is important to be aware of the issues concerning fast fashion and the ways in which you can support sustainability and its brands. Despite the slightly higher price tag, these companies are helping the planet and the people behind the scenes of the fashion industry. Shopping in charity shops and second-hand places such as Depop and eBay are also ways in which you can shop for cheaper without supporting the harmful ways of fast fashion.