ETHICAL FASHION-IS IT REALLY WORTH IT?
"With its promise of never-ending trends and low-cost accessibility, fast fashion has captivated the world. We've grown accustomed to receiving cheaper and cheaper clothing in new trends every week, all at the touch of a button. We're creating houses with closets the size of bedrooms and consuming goods at a rate never-seen-before. The problem is fast fashion, and the answer is ethical fashion."
The general definition of ethical fashion is fashion that aims to reduce the negative impact on people, animals, and the planet. Producing an item of clothing involves design, labour, and materials. Ethical fashion is kind to the planet and people in every step - from seed to garment.
What makes Ethical Fashion different?
It's all too simple to look at clothes and assume it's always been that way. T-shirts unfortunately, aren't manufactured by nature. Our clothes begin as a material that has no resemblance to the things we wear. Ethical fashion analyses the environmental impact of the materials used to create garments. Linen, cotton, polyester, denim; each fabric has a different impact on the environment, and choosing the lesser impact is what ethical fashion is all about. Wages of those who generate the item, such as those who harvest cotton crops, are also taken into account.
When statistics like the fact that 250,000 cotton farmers have committed suicide in the previous 15 years come to light, the importance of ethical fashion rises to the top. Brands begin considering the depth of the issue and the impact of our consumer decisions.
People Tree has been sustainable for 26 years and counting, making them a pioneer in ethical fashion. They buy the majority of their Fair-Trade products from marginalised producer groups in developing countries, and they utilise natural resources throughout the manufacturing process to encourage ecologically responsible efforts for a long-term future. SUSTAINABLE & FAIR-TRADE FASHION is their business tagline's obvious brand promise.
Reformation issued a provocative slogan- “Being naked is the most sustainable option.” The brand uses new-age materials such as Tencel, manufactured from Eucalyptus trees that uses 20% of the land that is needed for a cotton plantation. Sustainability is at the heart of Reformation’s mission. They are fully committed to environmental stewardship, down to the paper and pens they use in their office which are 100% recycled!
Brands like LEVIS, EVERLANE, LIVA and the like are now concentrating more on Ethical Fashions.
What is Fast Fashion?
Apparel shopping used to be a once-in-a-while event, something we did a few times a year when the seasons changed or we outgrew our current wardrobe. Something changed, however, about 20 years ago. Clothes became less expensive, trend cycles accelerated, and shopping became a pastime.
Fast fashion and global chains have taken over our high streets and online stores. All of these shops sell cool, trendy clothing, people could buy with their spare change, wear a few times, and then discard. Everyone could suddenly afford to dress like their favourite celebrity or to wear the latest catwalk trends.
When an eight-story building in Dhaka collapsed in 2013, killing 1132 garment workers, the clothes we were wearing took on a new shape.
Our skin became heavy, itchy, and suffocating as the soft fabric became heavy, itchy, and suffocating. We realised there were faces, families, and stories woven into what we wore as limp, sooty figures were being carried from the rubble. That’s when consumers really started questioning fast fashion and wondering at the true cost of those $5 t-shirts. All of a sudden consumers interrogated- who made my clothes?
Fast fashion is defined as low-cost, trendy clothing that is modelled after the catwalk or celebrity culture and sold in high-street stores at a breakneck speed to meet customer needs. The goal is to get the newest styles out as quickly as possible so that shoppers can flaunt them while they're still hot, and then toss them out after a few wears. It plays into the idea that if you want to stay relevant, you have to sport the latest looks as they happen.
Ethical Fashion and Fast Fashion-the extremes of the fashion industry
The differences between ethical and fast fashion are found in the manufacturing processes and the consideration given to the garments' lifespan. Any ethical fashion garment's ability to withstand trends, multi functionality, and endurance are always considered during the design process. The fast fashion model, on the other hand, is built on the notion that there are 52 seasons rather than 4, and is designed to sell the most in the shortest amount of time.
The two sectors majorly vary in treatment of labour. In ethical fashion supply chains, there is no mistreatment or manipulation, no sweatshops, and no child labour, but the same cannot be said for fast fashion. Fast fashion factory workers are subjected to a variety of forms of abuse in the workplace, and according to Oxfam, only 4% of the money spent on clothing actually goes to pay garment factory workers' wages.
The environmental concerns of the two are vastly different. It is common for fast fashion companies to turn a blind eye to the environmental impact of their operations. According to Oxfam, a new shirt has a carbon footprint equivalent to driving 35 miles. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation says less than one percent of clothing material is recycled into new textiles.
As an alternative that the majority of the world's population chooses is completely unsustainable making ethical fashion critical to be practised.
According to The True Cost, the global population consumes 400% more apparel than it did at the millennium's commencement. Cotton production uses 18% of the world's pesticides and 25% of its insecticides, and the quantity of resources used to grow cattle for leather manufacture has a significant impact on our planet's health. The production of Fast fashion contaminates all types of water bodies. Fast fashion garments are made in 97 percent of cases in other countries, with a focus on developing nations. These are only a handful of the reasons why ethical fashion is crucial.
To achieve the right colour of garments that are trendy, clothes are often coloured with chemicals and contaminants. These dyes seep into waterways when industries fail to properly contain and manage their waste, poisoning the drinking and bathing water of nearby villages. Stillbirths, mutations, and other life changing conditions, along with the destruction of plant life and ecosystems, are the repercussions of the same.
Ethical fashion, on the other hand, refers to clothing that has been dyed using natural dyes, closed loop methods, recycling dyes, or no colour change at all.
The only flaw in ethical fashion is the fact that it is more expensive than fast fashion. Ethical fashion is more expensive because of the process it went through in order to get to our doorsteps. It is expensive because every care imaginable, from the materials used to the wage of the garment workers, is taken into account. The motive of ethical fashion is garments that fit into the category will last a lot longer than any fast fashion imitations, whilst retaining their signature element of timelessness.
How to practice ethical fashion?
Rent, Swap, Exchange/Buy second hand Renting may be the way of the future in terms of fashion. We're fine with staying in strangers' homes (Air BnB), driving other people's cars (Uber), and now we're all becoming used to wearing other people's clothes. Besides, renting is affordable as you pay a sum as long as you have an item and once you give it back, you have your money back.
Repair and Upcycle By repairing and restoring your old clothes—filling holes, fixing rips and removing stains—you can simultaneously save money and keeping unnecessary waste out of landfills. Upcycling or customising old clothes to new ones is also a great way of creating something new and avoid fast fashion as well. Nowadays, social media shows influencers DIY(Do-It-Yourself) almost everything within a budget.
Ethical fashion is the only fashion model that should be followed from a social and environmental standpoint.
We should cultivate ethical fashion because we are human. We should be concerned about ethical fashion if we are to live. Our current rate of resource consumption is unsustainable.
The cost Fast Fashion imposes is not worth its effects, therefore, ethical fashion should be the new normal
(Written by Siddhipriya Chatterjee)