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Sustainable Fashion: the Ideal of Eco and Human-Friendly Fashion

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Exeter Cornwall chapter.

The fashion industry never ceases to influence people’s choices when it comes to the purchase and consumption of clothing and accessories. Undeniably, this can be related to our inner desire to be “on trend”, to be fashionable and constantly attracted to what is novel and catchy. Basically, fashion promoters and designers know how to adequately seize their opportunity and spread their designs right from the catwalk to the large public. Catchy designs, smart promotions, celebrities, magazines and loads of editing are strategies the fashion companies and designers use to intensely attract potential customers and make large and successful sales.

It is a competition after all; a race to achieve higher sales and accumulate considerable financial capital. However, in the current era of the “Anthropocene” where the growing number of human industrial activities exercise heavy and critical impacts on the environment, the growth of the fashion markets and industry – or as preferably called, “the fast fashion” – has begun to receive a lot of criticism due to the heavy impact it is having on our environment, as well as for the treatment of their workers who experience harsh and sometimes inhuman working conditions.

Following the growing interest in eco-friendly and sustainable projects in such fields as agriculture, recycling and manufacturing, a similar interest in promoting and maintaining sustainable and eco-friendly fashions is now on the rise. Sustainable fashion can be seen as a significant and influential jump that would steer our conceptions towards the definition of fashion; is it a fair or unfair industry? And how could it be improved?

According to the Green Strategy website, it is a little bit challenging to accurately define what “sustainable fashion” is, yet the website states that sustainable fashion is “the production of clothes, shoes, and accessories in eco and socio-economically sustainable ways.” It is also about holding up sustainable consumption values, which means important changes have to take place in individual conceptions and behaviours towards the consumption of fashion. Consequently, it could be initially argued that there are several possible advantages and disadvantages to this emerging industry despite the fact that it would seem drastically beneficial.

On one hand, sustainable fashion offers smart, eco and socio-economic solutions to the constant and inconsiderate consumption of clothes and wearable items. Part of the advantages offered by this kind of fashion would be the possible positive impact on individual consumption culture, where people would start considering the sources of the products they buy and purchase clothes reasonably so as to prevent the disposal of huge amounts of clothes and accessories. Interestingly, sustainable fashion ideals aim to promote the culture of “recycling” unwanted clothes, in order to keep the number of clothes and other wearable items in your wardrobe under control, instead of getting rid of them. Additionally, the promoters of this eco and human-friendly industry strive to encourage the use of natural materials such as naturally produced colours and pigments to avoid the prevalence of synthetic and chemical colours found on the market. 

However, the ideas supported by the growing interest in sustainable fashion have a number of underlying drawbacks that if not addressed properly could potentially thwart the development of this new idea. Initially, it is rather challenging to control and affect people’s choices and inclinations. Namely, many people would prefer to adhere to the notion of “fast fashion” due to its product availability, its relatively affordable prices and brands. Moreover, the companies and designers likewise would find it challenging to shift their work criteria due to their fear of jeopardizing their customers’ confidence, incurring other additional costs, or facing the difficulty of asking for the required materials to produce sustainable items. Therefore, the main setback to sustainable fashion would be the costliness of these same sustainably produced fashion items. This is made obvious when one considers the difficulty of obtaining natural materials and pigments in larger quantities, in order to meet the large demand in the market and production process. 

By and large, as individual consumers, it is always tempting to look fashionable and trendy, yet we must be responsible customers. We must be aware that the items we wear, despite their appeal, do have a critical impact on the environment, and accordingly, on us. Needless to say, several ordinary workers working long hours, and enduring extensive and often unethical work conditions, to produce indulging items should be significantly highlighted in this equation of fashion. The vast hedonistic ideal of wearing and then simply disposing of a garment, without responsibly thinking of its ecological footprint, must be brought to an end.