Can fashion be sustainable?
Fashion can be sustainable but Fast Fashion cannot. The first rule when it comes to consuming sustainable fashion is to consume more quality than quantity. So the first steps for a Fashion Brand that aims to be sustainable are avoiding overproduction, source eco-friendly materials, produce locally and offer fair working conditions to their employees and collaborators. At the same time, the use of high-quality materials is a must for all sustainable fashion brands because good materials extend the clothes life much longer and consumers who look for durable garments can enjoy these pieces for a very long time. So sustainable fashion brands contribute to promoting more responsible consuming habits.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is a movement that pretends to be an alternative to Fast Fashion. Sustainable Fashion aims to produce clothes reducing the impact on the environment, improving the working conditions of the employees, using efficient and logical design and production methods and transmitting values of responsibility in the consumption.
What is the origin of ethical and sustainable fashion?
It begins with the need to take care of animals, the environment and working conditions.
We can attribute the beginning of this sensitivity to the 60s and 70s when struggles and demands were the order of the day. Especially in the hippie era the claims were extended to the textile industry.
Since then, moments of inflexion have emerged when investigations, problems and catastrophes have arisen.
How the textile industry affects the environment?
One of the first people to explain the need for change was Rachel Carson in 1962. She was already talking about the use of chemicals in plantations. In fact, according to Earth Pledge, 8,000 chemical types are still used to create textile fabrics and 25% of pesticides are channeled into the production of non-organic cotton.
One of the turning points began in the mid-60s, Syukuro Manabe and James Hansen gave the first cries of alarm about global warming, giving real data on the temperature increase and showing prediction models. No one denies global warming anymore, and practically everyone assumes that behind it is the action of the human being.
The climatic consequences are demonstrated year after year with the rise of the average temperature and it is expected that in the next 40 years the global temperature will increase between 2 and 4 degrees.
If this is true we will suffer great droughts, floods, changes in the oceanic circulation and the decrease of ice in the Arctic. In fact, we are already witnessing the rapid modification that territories that were previously considered fertile are suffering.
How does the textile industry contribute to climate change?
The textile industry is the second most polluting after the oil industry. Its ranking is justified by its high impact on all natural aspects and human life.
Its consequences are serious and begin with:
1. Indiscriminate use of chemical substances
2. High water consumption
3. Strong energy consumption
4. Depletion of natural resources and incentive to monoculture
5. Generation of waste and discharges
6. Emission of CO2 and polluting gases
The most polluting industrial processes of the textile industry are degumming, dyeing, printing and fabric softening.
All this makes the textile industry one of the industries responsible for social and environmental modification.
Additionally, the lack of conscience and responsible consumption habits lead to the purchase of huge quantities of products that are quickly thrown away due to their lack of quality and their programmed obsolescence, in the case of clothes being old fashion.
How ethical is the fashion industry?
Image cleanup campaigns contrast with the shameful truth. We have seen it with our eyes and it is truly sad to see how big companies are buying governments to cover the harsh reality.
Currently, there is still slavery (https://www.globalslaveryindex.org/) in textile factories, working conditions are subhuman, basic factors such as human dignity and respect for life are not taken into consideration.
We have seen trucks arrive at the factories full of people on foot as if it were a concentration camp. In the open and full exposure to inclement weather.
Inside the factories, conditions are even worse. Strict security measures prevent the taking of images, this would be bad publicity.
Obviously, we did not see it and in the turn change, we could talk to some workers. They explain that the infrastructure where they work is modern, it is well lit, but the air vents do not work properly. Sometimes the fumes move around the factory, some of the colleagues have respiratory problems due to these practices.
The work shifts are long, there are no breaks, the pace is fast and the blackmail is constant. If you lower your guard tomorrow you do not go back to work.
Evidently, the salaries are so low that it does not allow them to think or act. They are forced to take extra turns sometimes without resting to earn more money and support the family. It is a dead end that has many people trapped.
How sustainable is the fashion industry?
The crude reality
The textile industry needs fast fashion to exist. The big fashion brands can not afford to reduce their sales and profits, shareholders and investment funds want their usual dividend.
This situation prevents it from being sustainable, basically because the excess of production generates tensions in all areas.
The workforce is becoming cheaper to stay competitive, more resources and more waste are consumed. The products have less quality and their shelf life is shorter.
In conclusion, this trend is destined to create a great human and environmental catastrophe.
It would be unfair to generalize for brands that if they are putting resources to solve it but the reality is that the current consumption of sustainable fashion is still a very low percentage in reality. However, the big brands occupy a still too large percentage.
How can fashion be more sustainable?
The Fashion Industry must try to be more sustainable by investing in more sustainable fabrics, dying and manufacturing processes. The fashion industry must also avoid overproduction.
Use of quality materials that allow keeping the clothes in good condition.
Another key factor is the quality of the materials the industry use when producing. A high-quality fabric prolongs a piece life and reduces the need to consume again substantially.
Although that excellence is expensive, the price is not always synonymous with quality, and how do you know? The price gives a clue, but it is not the only one. Touch is the best indication. Touch the garment and check, above all, its softness. If it looks like silk it is that it is of good quality.
A timeless design that involves the transmission of the piece for generations.
It is important to focus the designs so that they are valid for their useful life. One of the reasons that most devalues a garment is precisely to see that it is no longer fashionable.There are second-hand markets in many European cities. Even so, it is estimated that 80% of the clothing that is produced each year in the world is not recycled or transferred to another person.
Elimination of the excedents.
To manufacture just the demand of each moment.
Is all the clothing that is manufactured sold? It is well known that the big fashion brands destroy their excedent when they can not sell them. With this, they manage to avoid price reductions and maintain their reputable brand status.The manufacture of short runs allows us to know the degree of acceptance of the garment. Currently, these statistics are measured precisely to evaluate product acceptance and avoid overproduction.
What is slow fashion?
Why is slow fashion important?
How does sustainable fashion help the environment?
The manufacture must be carried out near where raw materials are used. Avoiding the double transit of merchandise.
Removal of highly contaminating textiles and chemical elements. Look for synthetic alternatives that can maintain the quality of fabrics for a long time.
Elimination of methods that involve deforestation, massive water consumption and loss of crop diversity.
Promote the use of recyclable packaging and eliminate the use of plastics.
How are sustainable fabrics made?
How to understand a clothing label
What's ethical clothing?
Ethical clothing is a movement that promotes to consume clothes crafted by companies that treat workers well and try to minimize their impact on the environment. This movement educates consumers to be more aware of the dangers of the industrial chemical in their clothing, of environmental damages from some mainstream industrial practices and of the unsafe working conditions and inferior quality associated with the “race of bottom” phenomenon.
What makes clothing ethical?
How to improve working conditions?
Promote fair working methods that involve decent work conditions and adequate salaries for the standard of living in each territory.
Promote equality between men and women.
Is sustainable fashion more expensive?
How to buy sustainable clothing?
What is organic clothing?
What is fair trade clothing?
Can Fashion transmit new values of sustainable consumption?
Awareness of slow fashion again is vital to making a responsible use of economic and environmental resources.
The fast fashion devalues the clothes, creates the need to consume quickly and constantly new. This situation does not allow us to enjoy or establish a value link.
We have stopped recycling and transmitting clothes as our mothers and grandmas did. This is not only an ecological disaster, it is also a nightmare for any brand that cares about its reputation.
In our understanding, the pieces must be designed as unique works of art, manufactured to be in good condition for many years and be inherited for the next generations.