Sustainable Fashion in the Current Context
Sustainable fashion is a comparatively new buzzword in the fashion industry and it emphasizes developing fashion standards towards greater social justice and ecological integrity. The concept is not restricted to fashion textiles and product portfolios. It focuses on all interdependencies in the ecological, cultural, social, and financial systems.
An example of eco-fashion is replacing a fiber type with another less environmentally harmful option. The proponents of sustainable fashion believe that the fashion industry can play a pivotal role in protecting the environment. They should focus on extending the life cycle of the products, enhancing the value of local products, decreasing industrial waste, and promoting the notion of a ‘green consumer.’ The temporal aspect of fashion creates a challenge for incorporating sustainability. People want to look trendy and wear the latest brands.
This negates the spirit of the long life cycle of products and the reusability of the materials. The fashion brands should develop a mechanism where the used products could be resold to the original manufacturers for a less price. The manufacturers may use these products for recreation or selling them to the low-income class. In this way, the lower class will also be able to use the products of affluent people.
Another strategy for implementing sustainability in the fashion industry is the replacement of fast fashion with slow fashion. When new products are introduced after an extended time, loyal customers will continue using the old product. However, the issue is that the fashion brands have to face tough competition, and if competitors offer a new product, they have to introduce an innovative product as well to remain competitive. The adoption of the concept of slow fashion is only possible if there is a consensus reached among the leading brands in a particular country or region. The quality of the fabric and other manufacturing material also contributes to the cause of sustainable fashion. Earlier, garments were usable even for 10 years. However, with the deterioration in the quality of fabrics, even after one year, a person feels like replacing the old clothes with the new ones. There are huge environmental impacts of the work of the fashion industry. The clothing industry consumes a high amount of water and cotton. It also generates pollution from chemical treatments used in the preparation and dyeing of clothes.
From the employment perspective, the fashion industry is a good source of generating employment opportunities. This sector has particularly contributed to employing women and also made women entrepreneurs. However, if the concept of sustainable fashion is fully implemented, there will be lower production of fashion products, lower purchasing, and it will eventually reduce the employment opportunities in this sector. Therefore, the governments, while implementing this concept should also consider the negative impacts of the sustainable fashion movement.
Another aspect of sustainable fashion is to derive fabrics for clothes from eco-friendly resources. Examples include recycled materials and sustainably grown fiber crops. The three pillars of sustainability are society, environment, and economy. In this context, sustainable fashion also includes buying clothes and other fashion items from second-hand clothing shops and thrift stores. It also means donating used clothes to second-hand shopping stores for reusing and reselling. The broader objectives of sustainable fashion include reducing the trend of discarding the used clothes and minimizing the environmental impact of manufacturing operations. These objectives are nicely aligned with the overall sustainability goals of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle that are popularly known as Three R’s of the Environment. Sustainable fashion also encompasses the notion of upcycling. In this process, the discarded materials are reused to make new materials of the same quality. Upcycling works the best when the reused material creates even a better product. This is in contrast to downcycling where only some portion of the discarded material is utilized such as cleaning rags from worn t-shirts.
In short, sustainable fashion in the current context can provide good quality fashion items at a lower price. However, it requires the combined effort from the whole society. Only if the consumers do not discard the used fashion items, the objective of sustainable fashion can be implemented in practice.