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!
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.