Fashion has always been regarded as a form of self-expression.
In reality, however, fashion is so much more than that. For years, people have used fashion to portray a picture of their wealth, status, and style. Therefore, essentially, fashion has incorporated itself into the foundation of our economy and our society.
Fast fashion embraces new trends. As refreshing as it may be, there is no denying the fact that fast fashion is disposable. Ethical fashion, on the other hand, adopts a more responsible approach. Ironically enough, sustainability happens to be the latest trend in the market. As our generation becomes more conscious, both environmentally and socially, ethical fashion continues to make waves instigating permanent change.
If you are new to the concepts of fast and ethical fashion, let us enlighten you with the basics.
- Fast Fashion and its Implications
There is no sugarcoating this – we are a materialistic bunch. Trends change by the minute. People continue to swarm malls and snag clothes off the racks only to wear them once. Designers continue to launch new collections to lure consumers into buying more clothes. While we may seem to enjoy wearing a brand new outfit, we tend to overlook the harsh realities of fast fashion and its impact on the environment.
The apparel industry is to blame for 8% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. If production continues at this rate, carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the fashion industry are expected to increase to 2.8 billion tons by 2030.
- How does fast fashion influence the environment negatively?
- Chemical Volume: Cotton harvesting generates 16% of the world’s total insecticides and 7% of all herbicides despite only covering 3% of the globe’s agricultural landscape. The chemicals used to manufacture clothes are incredibly detrimental to the environment as well as your skin and health.
- Social Outcome: The fashion industry has earned quite a reputation for maintaining poor working conditions for its employees. Half of the workforce works under the minimum wage, and child labor continues to plague society.
- Resource Utilization: Agriculture is very resource-intensive. It takes approximately 2700 liters of water to manufacture a simple cotton shirt – the amount of water used by a human being in three years. The fashion industry continues to overuse our resources at an alarming rate.
- Pollution Burden: Owing to the heavy use of dyes used in water treatment, statistics note that garment manufacture accounts for approximately 20% of the global water pollution burden. This polluted water drains into our oceans, which is further resulting in damage to our marine life and, subsequently, us.
- Waste Increase: As trends change, old items make their way into the trash. This recent progression has resulted in a massive increase in waste volume, as nearly 60% of all clothing ends up being destroyed.
- Health Risk: 30% of the chemicals used to manufacture clothing pose a risk to human health. Some of these chemicals have been studied to lead to long-term health issues owing to constant exposure. Farmers and factory workers are at even higher health risks for they are not provided with necessary health facilities in most parts of the world.
- Monetary Expenses: Fast fashion is expensive because you are continually buying new clothes and throwing out old ones. The inclination to stay on trend is to blame for the recent financial issues that most of our youth find themselves struggling with.
Fast fashion may seem like a quick fix. However, if you study it in detail, you will realize that it does more damage than it brings good.
- Ethical Fashion: The Basics
Ethical or sustainable fashion refers to clothing that works to reduce the impact of fashion on our health and environment. Sustainable fashion aims to prolong the life of materials, reduce waste, and increase the value of garments. It works to produce eco-friendly clothing that is long-lasting and prevents waste.
Ethical fashion entails certain elements that enable it to influence our wardrobe, society, and our environment. Here is how the following seven critical aspects of sustainable fashion are changing the world:
- Clean and Green:
Ethical fashion focuses on environmentally friendly practices. Production forms the cornerstone of sustainability. Ethical fashion uses organic and eco-friendly textiles made without pesticides or chemicals. The plants used for manufacture are grown using techniques with minimal carbon emissions. Additionally, shipment is also made using local means such as trains that contribute to reduced environmental emissions.
- Long-Lasting Quality
There is a reason why quality clothing is always priced much higher than others are. Quality clothing lasts you through the years. Such timeless pieces steer clear of disposable trends. Instead, they focus on creating a high-value wardrobe. Not only does this add to the feel of wearing a collector’s piece, but it also helps reduce wastage and textile turnover. Items like wool shoes for men and vegan leather jackets are in high demand because they are manufactured responsibly and promote eco-friendly attitudes.
Additionally, increased production leads to chemical usage, which is detrimental to health. The lesser the number of products you buy, the more money you will save, and the lower of a threat you will be to yourself and the environment.
- Fair and Justa
Ethical fashion stresses not only environmental sustainability but social sustainability as well. Consumerism is a global phenomenon. Whatever we wear harbors an impact on a hundred others. If a clothing item has been labeled under the Fair Trade Act, it means that the product has been made in a healthy work environment, produced by people who earn fair wages and are sweatshop-free. Ethical fashion propagates fair trade and justice to the workforce.
- Vintage Hand-me-downs
Vintage fashion is all the rage right now partly because it is perceived to be very fashionable but also because they are high in quality. Vintage apparel also helps reduce waste because instead of ending up in a landfill, they are being reused. Hand-me-downs are also excellent from a monetary point of view as they cost a fraction of the original cost.
- Repair and Recycle
How many times have you thrown out a perfectly good shirt just because of a small rip? Damage is a very regular occurrence, especially in lower quality clothing, like fast-fashion. High-quality pieces, however, are less prone to damage. Additionally, repairing minimal damages helps prolong their lifespan. If the damage is beyond repair, you should recycle them by turning them into something different. Seek inspiration from Pinterest and Instagram and learn how to upcycle or recycle old clothing to reduce waste.
- Rent and Swap
There is no harm in renting or swapping clothes. Ethical fashion dumps trends into the trash and instead propagates minimizing waste by renting or swapping. If you wish to wear something once to an event, why should you go out and buy an outfit for the occasion specifically knowing that it will not come in use? Just rent it instead.
- Customized and Tailored
Ethical fashion focuses on customized and tailored clothing. Although pricey, it is much higher in quality, and therefore, the owner is much less likely to toss it away after a few uses. A good fit can make or break your look. For this reason, ethical fashion stresses producing tailored and customized fits, so when the consumer wears it, they feel great and treasure that article.
- How can you make a difference?
- Recycle your clothing
- Repair your clothes
- Pass on clothes to someone instead of dumping them
- Upcycle vintage pieces with new designs
- Shop at thrift and vintage stores
- Support sustainable brands
- Research before buying and shop responsibly
- Parting Thoughts
Ethical fashion, although a relatively new evolution, is making waves with its mantra of transforming consumers into responsible global citizens who work to reduce waste by opting for high-quality pieces instead of cheap fast-fashion alternatives. Big labels, including Adidas and Stella McCartney, are now embracing sustainability and have become the poster brands for ethical fashion.
The concept of fashion is not as easy or straightforward as we once perceived it to be. It involves long production chains, raw material, textile manufacturing, shipping, retail, and much more. Each decision we make reflects on what we wish the future to be like. It is time we make our mark.
About Michelle Joe: Michelle Joe is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences, and express herself through her blogs. You can find her on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook