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Is the ethical fashion trend a fleeting drift or will it “slow” overtake the fast-producing industry? As people get more motivated to support brands that are doing good for people, the planet, and animals, here we share with you the reasons why sustainable fashion is the only way possible.
When we think about the rise of the ethical fashion trend, we really cannot over the fact the real impact of fast fashion is affecting millions of people worldwide, both socially and environmentally.
Clothes are a major contributor to the environmental crisis. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of global carbon emissions every year (source Nature), uses 1.5 trillion liters of water, and pollutes the earth with chemical waste and microplastics. Consumers are starting to take notice, and commonly are asking #WhoMadeMyClothes
Furthermore, 40.3 million people are trapped in modern slavery in the fashion industry, for which 71% are women. If this wasn’t enough, $127.7 billion worth of garments at risk of including modern slavery in their supply chain is imported annually by G20 countries. Tackling one of the world’s largest and most complex human rights issues requires serious strategic thinking.
Because of all this, we’re starting to see a shift in fashion businesses becoming more sustainable. Many brands have aligned their long-term priorities and, instead of ruthlessly pursuing profit margins, they are starting to look at ways they can minimize the harm they do to the environment and the negative impact on people’s lives.
Here are some of the major categories we can see in this current ethical fashion trend, that small to large size businesses are striving for to create a slow Fashion Revolution.
While this might not have been the intention of streetwear brands in the first place, strictly limiting the amount of product they release has proved to be a success for the environment. By limiting supply, streetwear brands like Supreme, Noah, and Palace have created a massive demand for their product. It also allows them to charge much more.
But, an unintended consequence of the hype and demand is the extended lifespan of every piece of clothing they create. When the original owner is finished with the piece, they often change hands through sites like Grailed – preventing them from ending up on the landfill.
Different reaction when brands claiming sustainability, such as the mass-commercialized fast-fashion brand H&M, is sitting on a pile of unsold clothes worth $4.3 billion. In one of their quarterly reports, the company revealed that its profits are the lowest they’ve been in 16 years. The 62% decline in sales means that the company has been unable to move stock, even after marking it down at clearance sales, leaving them with billions of dollars worth of deadstock (unsold stock). This is the picture of how it looks like:
Thrifting has always been an underappreciated way to build an outfit for a fraction of the cost of brand new materials. Second-hand stores like Cow are a fixture on high streets across the country and give pieces a second chance. As well as thrift shops, there are a number of flourishing second-hand markets online. Depop, as an example, has grown to take a chunk of the e-commerce clothing sector. And, with the next generation of young people more steeped in environmental issues than their forebears, they’re more open to buying second-hand than ever before.
For example, Depop is easy to use and puts interested buyers and sellers in touch. It functions in a similar way to Instagram. Users can scroll through a grid of an almost endless supply of different items before stumbling upon something they like. For buyers, it allows them to purchase clothes they like without feeling burdened by the environmental cost of producing them. For sellers, it allows them to profit from clothes they don’t wear anymore and gives their clothing a second lease of life with a new owner. All importantly, it stops unused and unwanted clothing from ending up in the landfills.
Environmentally aware brands finding their way into the mainstream
Some of the biggest brands in the world make sustainability a core part of their messaging. Patagonia stands out as an innovator in that respect and a new collection of environmentally aware designers are sprouting up in their wake. Bode, created by New York-based designer Emily Bode, is building a cult following and her upcycled wares have adorned fashion fixtures Bella Hadid, Jay-Z, and Harry Styles.
On social media, there is mounting pressure to project a morally sound purview at all times. Celebrities feel most obliged to put their privileged positions to good use – participating in protests, donating to charities, as well as shining a light on independent, local businesses. The same moral incentive applies to environmentalism.
And, with a large number of the most influential accounts on social media involved in the fashion industry to some extent – from musical artists to models – it is only a matter of time before they start to tag greener brands in their photos. When those with a sizeable platform commit to consuming fashion ethically and sustainably, their followings will do so too.
Turning against fast fashion
Fast fashion retailer Missguided’s release of a £1 bikini was a watershed event. It attracted a lot of publicity – but for the wrong reasons. Clothes shouldn’t be designed to be disposable. To limit garments’ environmental impact, they need to be kept for as long as possible.
Consumers are no longer taking brands’ public messaging at face value. Boohoo, a fast-fashion brand based in the UK released a capsule titled #forthefuture. It was intended to be a more environmentally friendly line but it was made from polyester – and recycled polyester still ends up on landfill sites.
Per head, the UK is Europe’s leading clothing consumer. And while many items are designed in the UK or the US, they are primarily manufactured in developing countries where it is less expensive and less regulated. Lax restrictions mean that massive amounts of water are wasted in inefficient manufacturing processes with toxic dyes and textiles.
The discussion around environmental issues in the clothing industry is one that isn’t going away any time soon. Consumers’ attitudes are changing and brand identities are changing with it.