There’s much to criticise about the world today, whether it’s the eerie rise of fascism, the growing class divide, or the lack of women’s safety. One of the other most widely discussed subjects of the past decade has been climate change and the dearth of environmental care and preservation. While a lot can be said about how humanity has contributed to the poor state of the Earth today; people, governments, and societies have all begun their own initiatives to reverse the harm that has been done and fight the seemingly impending collapse of the planet. From reducing one’s carbon footprint to reforestation projects, the world is growing more eco-conscious and moving towards environment-friendly practices. One of the movements that have come up has been that of sustainable fashion, which aims to use ethical and ecological means to create, market, and consume clothing.
There’s a significant amount of confusion that arises when fashion sustainability is discussed. Its many aspects make it appear heavier to understand than it actually is. It can be divided into two parts- corporate responsibility and consumer responsibility- and mainly entails greener, cleaner and more ethical means of creation, and the recycling as well as upcycling of clothes.
According to BBC, fashion accounts for about 10 % of global carbon emissions. Most of these emissions come from factories and mills where fabric and clothes are made. The main step that a company or brand should take towards sustainability is reducing the amount of energy being consumed at their factories. Popular clothing brands like Levi’s and American Eagle have successfully managed to lower their carbon footprints, with several others following suit and pledging to work towards more eco-friendly means of production. Another problem lies in the sourcing of raw materials and methods by which certain fabrics are created, such as the growth of cotton, which involves the usage of pesticides and consumes an immense amount of water.
Apart from pushing for a greener clothing industry, the eco-fashion movement also tries to combat the substandard and exploitative conditions of the production workers of fast fashion brands. Most brands, regardless of industry, are on the lookout for cheap labour and the unfortunate truth is that cheap labour usually equals workers being paid below their minimum wage requirements or being from places where labour laws are close to non-existent. Companies will outsource their products from factories in third world countries in order to minimise their own costs, in turn leading to abysmal payment, endless working hours, and toxic health and safety conditions for the workers. Furthermore, it leads to the practice of child labour and the implementation of prohibiting workers’ unions.
Sustainable fashion involves ethical means of production and, consumer responsibility plays a huge role here because it’s the consumer who chooses to turn a blind eye to the process of creation behind the clothes they buy. As a consumer, one shouldn’t underestimate their power. If a brand’s target audience asks for change, they will be pushed into change sooner or later. This is one of the many ways by which an individual can contribute to sustainable fashion.
If you find yourself wondering how you can shop more sustainably, then there are a few options. Popular Indian labels like Fabindia and Anokhi are not only sustainable but will offer you a great range of artisanal prints and textiles to choose from. Other good options are Nicobar, Upasana, and No Nasties. As much as eco- fashion strives to do well, it is not devoid of its flaws. Due to the fact that mass production isn’t currently practiced, sustainable fashion brands are expensive and hence inaccessible to most people. That’s why online thrift stores are slowly gaining popularity in India, especially via Instagram. Buying and selling second-hand or vintage clothing is a great and simple method of doing your bit to help the environment. A few good Instagram thrift pages to follow are dodos_finds, pandapickedstore, and thesalvagestory.
In summary, companies that use sustainable energy resources, natural dyes, and eco-friendly fabrics, while providing humane working conditions to their labourers and not engaging in any form of animal cruelty, are eco-friendly brands and practitioners of the sustainable fashion philosophy. To be an eco-friendly consumer, try shopping from brands that support sustainability or buy, sell, or swap used clothes. There’s nothing wrong with criticising the world, but it’s equally important to push for the change we want to see.