Sustainable fashion is one of the hottest topics in the industry right now. Fashion is one of the most wasteful industries in terms of mass consumption, water pollution and overall negative impact on the Earth. However, it is also one of the biggest multi billionaire industries in the world, and it shows no sign of closing down.
Many industry leaders worry that if we do not do something soon to counteract the effect fashion has on the world. If sustainability does not become the new norm, then there might not be anything left to save in centuries to come. The change has to start with our generation otherwise we risk continuing down a dark path.
Fast fashion is one of the worst commodities of our time. People want hundreds of options in clothing, and they want them for cheap. Brands like Forever 21 can whip up a concept and take it into production within a matter of weeks. The old fashion cycle used to take a minimum of 6 months. Now, thanks to fast fashion, the options of items are endless and infinite. Most of the items are made of cheap, synthetic material to make matters worse. The average millennial thinks nothing of buying a cheap dress for a night out knowing it may be only worn once. Multiple clothing options used to be reserved only for the rich, but now that fashion has been democratized this is no longer the case.
The chance to really change the fashion industry for the better will ultimately depend on the consumer. It is up to the fickle attitudes of the customer that alone will help put an end to the endless supply of fashion. However, that can’t happen unless the customer is educated, and they will only be educated if the industry teaches them what they need to know. As you can see, there is a vicious circle of who influences who within the industry. Perhaps the best place to start is to hold companies accountable themselves.
In fact, there are many brands that aim to be eco-friendly by lowering their impact on the environment. It helps when smaller brands are willing to make a statement by standing up to mass retailers. Their small impact all together can make a huge difference and potentially help change the system for the better. In fact, clothing manufacturers for small businesses are often better controlled in terms of waste production as well as with employees.
Many large are notorious for hiring factories where people are mistreated and overworked. Look at Raina Plaza for an example that should have changed the industry completely. However, there is still much work to be done. As a result, smaller companies have had to lead the way when it comes to making serious changes in terms of production and design. They are the ones creating one off pieces or smaller collections for a target demographic. In turn, this creates more buzz and a better impact in both marketing terms, but for the environment as well.
It is important to remind businesses on the lasting impact that they have on the world with their waste from chemicals used in production to the leftover textiles used when cutting patterns. The industry is an incredibly wasteful one, and there seems to be little done when it comes to cutting down on this problem.
Of course, there are the luxury brands who aim to use every part of their expensive materials. They often create items by hand and for custom orders to the point that materials used are specially sourced in small quantities. As a result, there is less waste, and there is an incredible amount of quality and craftsmanship put into the item. Fast fashion leaves no room for quality anything.
In fact, many retailers like Zara even steal ideas from luxury houses or independent designers only to produce shoddy knockoff versions of original idea. This needs to stop, but it won’t happen unless the industry itself holds everyone accountable from the consumer to the editor to the CEO.
We are entering a digital world where the answer may be found within an algorithm. However, fashion still requires the use of hands, and it will be a long time before we are wearing computer generated clothing. If people are able to understand a blockchain system, then sustainability in fashion has a fighting chance. However, it will take everyone working together to make a true difference.