Why we should all care about sustainable fashion

I wrote about sustainable fashion and what it means to me here. I believe that everyone should be interested in this issue, not only because we all buy and wear clothes, but because the actions of the fashion industry have effects on all of us. 


Treatment and safety of workers in the industry 

Fashion is big business, and the industry is notorious for unsafe and unfair working conditions. Far from the sustainable, ethical ideal, the industry exploits workers in third-world countries, and exposes them to sometimes even life-threatening conditions – all for the production of a cheap T-shirt. Take for example the 2013 Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh, which had survivors still struggling physically, mentally and financially even a year later. 


Environmental and health effects 

The mass production of clothing also means mass use of resources: raw material like cotton, carbon, water. To grow the material, pesticides are used, and to work and dye fabric, more often than not, big factories rely on toxic chemicals. This is definitely not the most enjoyable thing you’ll read today! 


Waste 

Cyclically changing trends mean that fashion is also a fast and wasteful business. On the high street, consumers demand fashion be easily accessible, affordable, and interchangeable, with cuts, colours, designs changing in regular intervals. Trend items are bought at their peak and thrown away shortly after. 

  

 

Sadly, the fashion industry as a whole does not even come close to the “sustainable ideal”. To change this, consumers, trend-setters and designers would need to start a huge overhaul of attitudes within the industry. Sustainability needs to be profitable for the big businesses behind the high-street stores to change the way they produce their garments. 

However, there are many things we as consumers can do to source our clothing with less of a guilty conscience.

What is sustainable fashion?

To me, living sustainably means making an effort to minimise harm to the environment and to people, and making the most out of minimal resources. Ultimately, this means working towards a future where the things we own have been sourced ethically and produced in a way that is safe and environmentally friendly. And for me personally, it also means that these things should be sustainable for my bank account. 
  

Of course this should apply to fashion too. Sustainable fashion can mean that a garment has been produced in ethical and environmentally friendly conditions. It can mean shopping for pre-loved fashion. It can also mean avoiding waste and saving money by making the most of the items I already own. 

But maybe one of the most important aspects of sustainability for me is that it can and should mean striving for individuality and encouraging creativity. 

Far from offering unique style, it seems like every high street chain sells the same items, inspired by the fashion shows, but produced and sold cheaply so that the average consumer will bite. 

Inevitably, everyone ends up wearing the same. With its narrow focus on current trends, high street fashion is not making the individual consumer look their best because it misses an important point: fashion is art, is an expression of the self. 

And who better to decide what I want to express than myself?