Updated: Jan 25, 2020
What is sustainability? And why is it important in the fashion industry? Sustainability to me means enabling that humans, economies and the environment remain productive and healthy. Sustainable fashion can include recycled clothing, shoes, and accessories that are manufactured and marketed in the most environmentally friendly way.
My favorite part of fashion is the cycles of trends that evolve over time. I began to thrift because I love seeing clothing that's recycled and back in style again. Although, with starting my blog I began to educate myself more on the impact the fashion industry is having on our world today. What I discovered has forever changed the way I think about what I wear and purchase. I hope that I can influence others to do the same.
The Fashion industry is the second-most polluted industry in the world. It is also the second-largest user of water, currently contributing 20% of the industrial water waste on the planet. Many people do not realize the effects this has on the world. The issue that is arising is plastic microfibers, which are like tiny pieces of plastic lint that come off synthetic clothing in the washing machine, are entering the oceans at a rate of about half a million tons every year. That’s equivalent to more than 50 billion plastic bottles. Once it makes it in the water this microfiber is ingested by aquatic wildlife and travel up the food chain where they eventually end up being consumed by humans. We must make the changes that are necessary now to see a sustainable future ahead.
Sustainability in fashion includes ethical fabrics, low-waste production, fair wages, safe labor conditions, recycling, and so much more. Although, the most talked-about component of sustainability is arguably the use of animal fur and skins. Also, the fast fashion industry that is being outsourced from impoverished places. The largest apparel exporters are China and Bangladesh because unlike its competitor’s, manufacturing there remains dirt cheap, the factory workers have limited power and no voice in the industry.
Fast fashion is a business model that offers fashionable clothes at affordable prices. With new trends coming out every week the goal of fast fashion is for consumers to buy as many garments as possible, as quickly as possible. It’s important to become aware of the brands that are incorporated in fast fashion. These fast fashion giants include H&M, Forever21, Zara, and TopShop, along with many other companies. Their business model is dependent on low-cost high fashion that is made cheap and designed to fall apart. I have to admit I use to shop at these stores but I will never walk in one of these stores again and support these companies that are drastically affecting our economy and environment.
Today we purchase over 80 billion pieces of NEW clothing each year. This is 400% more than what we bought almost two decades ago. The way we buy clothes has shifted so much and so fast that people have not taken a step back to realize the effects of this new model or the consequences of such an increase in consumption. People don’t even think about the people who are producing them. Think about it, every garment has been touched by human hands. What they don’t know is most of these humans are factory workers that are mistreated and paid nearly nothing to create these clothes! Over 85% of these workers are women and making a minimum wage of fewer than 3 dollars an hour. Not only that, but these women are overworked and abused.
I believe more fashion startups and brands built around the business idea of sustainable fashion will become more influential in 2018. Recently, sustainable fashion has had growing awareness among consumers and younger generations. More fashion companies are starting to embrace the importance of sustainability, with 42 out of 100 fashion brands in 2017 disclosing supplier information. Until a few years ago, sustainability rarely came up in the fashion conversation, but in 2017, more brands incorporated sustainability in their campaigns. Some designers have given their production cycles a rethink, and some made the switch from real fur to faux. Such as Versace who just announced they will no longer produce real fur in their fashion. Thank you, Donatella for making a difference in the International Fashion industry. Although, this is just the beginning and there is so much more work to be done to create a change in the industry.
There are many ways we can make a difference in the fashion industry. Sustainable fashion has many forms in which some individuals emphasize the importance of making clothes in a more environmentally friendly manner, and others advocate secondhand/vintage clothing or support swapping clothing or even renting or borrowing clothes as opposed to purchasing newly produced clothes. All strategies promoting more environmentally, socially and ethically conscious production and consumption. They are all important steps towards a more sustainable industry. It’s important for us to recognize that we as consumers are the problem because we are continuing to buy these clothes from these companies. Make sure to be conscious of the clothes you buy.
For the summer every year I make my own jean shorts and support local thrift shops by buying recycled denim jeans. This summer, I am taking a bigger step in making a difference in the fashion industry by purchasing less fast fashion and making fashion last! I am committing to banning the fast fashion companies and buying no new clothes for 3 months! I will get inventive with swapping and secondhand clothing. It’s the smallest steps that we can take to make a difference in the world we live in today. Through this movement, I hope to reduce the stereotype of recycled clothing..
What will you do to make a difference?