Why is ethical and sustainable fashion important?
Updated: Mar 30, 2022
ETHICAL FASHION x TODAY's CONSUMERISM
WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Ethical fashion may mean different things to different people. In the main, it is an umbrella term that means shop more consciously. In order to achieve that ethical fashion, it may mean having to investigate a number of things about your favourite brand, for example: working conditions (from production to retail), exploitation, slavery conditions, fairtrade, sustainable production, animal welfare, paying conditions, retail monopolies etc. Dare I say that you may find some positive surprises but also shocking facts about your favourite brand that may make you cringe?
In addition, another item that is causing impact on the planet and in our ethical mindset is fast fashion and consumerism. Clothing and footwear have become somewhat cheap, easy to purchase and disposable. In reality, most of us have many more clothes than we actually need or sometimes want. That is when fast fashion plays a big part in this consumerism game. You went for a walk or for a coffee with a friend and that sale sign you see becomes a magnet for those brands that make the cheap versions of the celebrity clothing making it almost impossible to say no. The choices are so many, new designs, new styles and the desire to be on trend and ‘chic’ at all times.
It is all part of a marketing strategy to wet our appetite to desire more and make impulsive purchases. It is a human trait, the more we buy, the more we want, the more we want, the more we buy, then throw it away and buy some more - simply a vicious cycle that many of us get into. Unfortunately, with all this, our ethics are compromised and we buy and buy and buy some more without giving a thought to the sustainable factors (humanitarian, economic and environmental) involved in that purchase.
According to The University of Queensland, the world consumes 80 billion pieces of clothing per year – 400% more than we were consuming just two decades ago! It is worth reading the whole article here.
GUILTY AS CHARGED!
We may even dispose of our unwanted or unfashionable items in a conscious manner (charity shops, donations, passing it down, etc) but it still leaves us with an undeniable fact… too much goes to waste! Too much ends up in the landfill! Now, I ask myself and you – at what cost and why?
I do miss the days that I would only buy clothes for special occasions and some practical sets for work and leisure. I would cherish each purchase and get so excited to wear them. Somehow, there was a different excitement about shopping for clothes and shoes. Now it almost feels like a day-to-day thing as you can practically buy clothes anywhere at any time: on line, catalogues, high streets, malls, supermarkets, drugstores, TV shopping channels, social media (so tempting all those dresses on your feed on a daily basis) etc. It is just there in our faces all the time, pulling us in. I am guilty as charged!
When I started with my Instagram account on fashion (@mrsstrugnellboutique), I made a promise to myself that I would not buy new clothes; I would shop my wardrobe and be creative by attempting new combinations and new ideas on style.
Initially, I thought that after 3 months I would have worn my whole wardrobe and would not have new clothes or styles to post. How wrong I was, one year into it and the stark realisation daunted on me – I have too many clothes! There is stuff I bought years ago and have never worn or only worn a few times and completely forgot about. There are things I bought that I don’t even like but it was on the sale and I thought that maybe one day it would grow on me. Other things I bought a size bigger or smaller because it was my style but it wasn’t available in my size (somehow I thought I would get bigger or smaller – sad state of mind!). Some stuff I bought simply because it was there, staring at me, and I was not strong enough to say no!
Believe me it does not stop there, the reasons to why I/we buy something are endless.
FASHION IS A THIRSTY INDUSTRY
Did you know that it takes about 2,700 Litres of water to product one cotton t-shirt?
I was shocked! According to Good on You website, this is enough drinking water for 3 years.
On top of the water consumption to produce garments, there is an element of pollution The Dro4Drop website explains that dyeing and treatment of garments makes up roughly 17-20% of all industrial water pollution according to the World Bank, with water primarily being used in the dyeing process to remove excess dye. These chemicals often escape treatment and work their way back into freshwater sources.
The Refinery29 website states that A 2017 report revealed that, in 2015 alone, the fashion industry consumed 79 billion cubic metres of water – enough to fill 32 million Olympic-size swimming pools. That figure is expected to increase by 50% by 2030. It's a staggering amount but when you look closely at just how much water goes into every garment, it starts to add up.
I don’t think that I ever gave too much thought on how fast fashion can be quite disastrous for our environment and to the ethics applied to production standards. It involves so many things from child labour, absurd levels of water consumption, pollution, the way we dispose the clothes, pesticides used in cotton production etc. The environmental impact is too much for us to ignore.
That is where my Instagram account is playing a huge part in developing my awareness of fast fashion and ethical fashion. I dig dip, some soul searching stuff and realised that I need to make some drastic changes. I need to take responsibility! I am conscious that the changes won’t come all at the once, it will be a gradual process but I feel just happy that the light bulb moment happened. I am taking a number of actions to get educated in the fashion industry particularly on sustainability and ethical movements.
In the meantime, these are my personal actions to ensure my wardrobe aligns with this new ethical fashion (in development):
LET GO! Clearing all the items I know I will never use either because they do not fit or I do not like them in a first place.
SEAMSTRESS HELP! Some items are fixable: hem that needs doing, taking in on the waist, transform a dress into a skirt etc. I learnt that seamstress can be quite creative providing suggestions you may not have considered. Let’s fix some clothes and start wearing them.
DONATE - Donate the unwanted items – apparently, it is more sustainable than recycling!
BUY SMARTLY – I have been doing this for a while (one point for me!) When I do buy the odd item, I take into consideration few factors: a) Am I going to get plenty of wear? b) Is it good quality that will last? c) Is it versatile? d) What can I wear it with from my wardrobe?
BUY LESS – Do I really need it? Do I have similar items? What is the real why if I decide to purchase an item?
BUY ETHICALLY – This is a difficult one! Although I do want to buy ethically, my big question is: is it going to be possible to know the source of every garment and if it has been produced ethically? The answer is: probably not! However, there are several ways that we can learn more about ethical fashion and start making better choices. Get Google working, there is a lot of information out there.
WASH YOUR CLOTHES LESS – According to Wisebread website over washing our clothes not only impacts on the environment the clothes will certainly not last as long and will look worn out and old much quicker. Definitely worth a read on this Wisebread article and learn some tips to freshen up your clothes without washing them.
I feel I just scratched the surface in regard to the sustainable and ethical fashion issues. I realise that I have so much more to learn and my habits are still quite distant from being mainly ethical or sustainable, however I will make a start as there are quite few things that we can start now as I listed above.
I call all my fashionistas friends in and outside Instagram and Facebook to join me on baby steps towards sustainable and ethical fashion by doing things that are under our control. Any small change is a step forward towards tackling this huge issue.
Are you in?
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