“Isn’t it expensive?” “Why should I care about the impact of fast fashion? The clothes are easier to purchase, trendier and more affordable.” These are the common phrases one would hear when sustainable fashion would come up.
Sustainable fashion. Sustainably made. What does it all mean? Sustainable fashion means that as a consumer, you need to take into account the social good, producing the most planet-friendly items, and ensuring that these products are animal-cruelty free, according to Compare Good. From the start to the finish, the many hands that contribute to developing, producing and disseminating the product, are well-regulated and cared for.
Ever since the 2013 Bangladesh Factory collapse and the shifting demand for corporates to adhere to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), businesses and individuals have realised that it is not just the clothes that need to be made sustainable, but the entire supply chain itself. Sustainable fashion means that the entire process of making that very jacket is clean, not just the material itself.
While clothing items of all sorts have made our lives feel more luxurious, little do we know that behind the curtain of owning the latest tech and the coolest items, the very hands that make these items undergo a less-than luxurious working lifestyle. This is because workers are often faced with issues such as violation of labor guidelines, working conditions or even forced labor. Not to mention, for consumers and producers to practice purchasing from brands who adhere to sustainable practices, enabling a clean production process has been disrupted due to the economic impact of the pandemic.
Why Sustainable Fashion in the Middle of COVID-19
The pandemic has spearheaded digitalisation and economic impact, but it has also highlighted to corporate organisations just how the effects of fast fashion has finally caught up. Fast fashion has been notorious for driving up the level of carbon emissions, violating labor guidelines in their manufacturing facilities, contributing to sweatshop labor and animal cruelty.
While COVID-19 has lowered the level of carbon emissions and given us clearer skies, the impact towards the employees that make the clothes have been deeply affected. Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that orders of about $1.5 billion of Bangladesh garments had been cancelled due to the outbreak. With the shift for consumers to shop online, factories had to shut down indefinitely, with workers either given less than a month’s severance pay or nothing at all.
Although the fashion industry had been heading towards its sustainable transformational step, the pandemic has put it on pause, according to Forbes, where in terms of consumer goods, the fashion and luxury industries were the most negatively impacted. BCG stated that they were looking at sales being down from 30%-40% globally. They aren’t the only ones, businesses have been looking at ways to reinvent their business models and protect their cash flow.
Staying on Track
The push for sustainability among corporate organisations has never been fiercer, as they realise that sustainable practices not only meet the shifting needs of consumers, but helps them prolong business sustainability. In 2015, Nielsen published a sustainability report that showed 66% of consumers will pay more for a sustainably made product.
Consumers which consist of the millennial and generation Z will continue to demand product transparency and whether it contributes to the increase of carbon emissions. This demographic is slowly empowering industry leaders to ensure the fashion industry takes more responsibility to how they generate, create and manufacture products. In turn, producers themselves will be able to produce higher quality products, build a safer work environment for many, conserve the earth’s resources and fulfil the current consumer habits.
First Time for Everything
Taking the first step towards being a consumer or producer of sustainable fashion is never walk in the park. Here are things that you as a consumer can start doing:
DO look the brands up to check their stance on sustainability.
DON’T just buy something because it is cheap, ask yourself, do you really need this?
DO buy pre-loved garments. They are just looking for a home that is not the pile of textile waste.
DON’T throw your clothes away. If you have no use for some garments, drop it off a clothing donation box in a store that provides it or at the nearest community center (foster home, refugee center, etc.)
DO buy handmade handiwork which support an inclusive environment and empower the fashion industry.
While these steps can seem small, they provide employees with safer, healthier and more
Sustainable fashion has been at the forefront of building a greener and cleaner business production process. This movement encourages brands to take a step back and reevaluate the impact of their practices and produce products with higher quality in a cleaner way.
Not to mention, with sustainable fashion, both the producer and end user are able to give back to the community with zero waste and provide a safer work environment for many.