What is Sustainable Fashion – Exploring Essential Aspects of Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable fashion – is pretty much a buzzword these days. Everyone’s talking about it. Some, perhaps, with a pure leather jacket on or while flaunting a pure leather purse that might have cost an animal its life, also might be talking about it!
Nevertheless, what is sustainable fashion? Can the fashion industry, notorious for its practices, ever embrace sustainability? Let’s delve into a few essential facets associated with sustainable fashion in this blog.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
As the name itself suggests, sustainable fashion involves manufacturing fabrics and outfits in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible way. It involves the prudent use of resources like water, organic material, fewer chemicals (and if used, ensuring safe, responsible and eco-friendly disposal), and more.
In addition to the above, another dimension of sustainable fashion is treating the fashion industry’s ground-level workers humanely and being just towards them. It is saddening to see a labour, who works for 16-18 hours a day to produce an excellent T-shirt, not earning enough to provide two meals, education and shelter to their family! Thus, sustainable fashion also refers to responsible fashion that includes protecting the labour’s rights and paying them what they deserve.
Eye-Opening Facts and Statistics About the Fashion Industry’s Consumption of Resources
The fashion industry is known for being resource-intensive. It consumes a significant number of natural resources to produce even a single-piece of outfit. Let’s look at some mind-boggling statistics about the resource consumption of the fashion industry.
(All the below ranges are approximate)
- Textile production extract 90-94 billion cubic metres of water every year
- Again, it also extracts 97-99 million tonnes of non-renewable resources annually
- Manufacturing a single T-shirt consumes around 2300-2800 litres of water!
- Textiles have been deemed the fourth-largest cause of ecological pressure
- The fashion industry has an enormous impact on biodiversity loss
Difference Between Eco Fashion and Sustainable Fashion
Amidst discussions around sustainable fashion, you might have heard of eco-fashion. Also termed green fashion, the latter refers to textile production with minimal ecological stress. Or, if possible, with a positive impact on the only liveable planet we know!
On the other hand, sustainable fashion is a much more comprehensive term. It is a whole set encompassing environmental-friendliness and at the same time, social responsibility, an aspect of which is labour welfare that we’ve seen earlier.
The Significance of Sustainable Fashion
The importance of sustainable fashion is pretty obvious. While helping the fashion industry improve its social reputation, sustainable fashion can lead to many other advantages on the global scale and level of humanity.
- Fewer litres of water used – people from many regions otherwise deprived of drinking water would be able to quench their dry throats
- Sustainable practices like reusing and recycling will get traction
- Animals will be spared and not sacrificed only to make someone look manly!
- Reduced CO2 emissions, thus contributing to a cooler earth
- Using regenerative fibre systems can make the planet a better place to live.
- Labour-producing textiles will receive fair compensation for their hard work.
- Buying fewer clothes can reduce manufacturing volumes and lower the workload stress on the labour.
What is Fast Fashion?
The idea of buying branded clothes in bulk and that too at dirt cheap prices seems irresistible, right? Throngs of shoppers across malls don’t come as a surprise in such cases. But such seemingly incredible offers could be the result of fast fashion!
Now, what is fast fashion? Fast fashion is a cheap fashion produced rapidly in massive quantities. However, what makes it a threat to the planet is that it is built on a continual cycle of overproduction and overconsumption.
Brands manufacturing clothes on the principle of fast fashion can sell their products at a very low price. These companies might make fewer dollars per unit. But since they produce at scale, they make huge profits at the consignment level.
Besides, high volumes tempt factory owners, further cutting down on the production cost as well. While that’s like an intelligent move for the brands, working in three shifts proves a nightmare for the labour. But the bad story doesn’t end here. Extensive negotiations lead to pay cuts and a worse and more insecure manufacturing environment.
The more these brands produce, the more resources they consume. Looking at the number of resources they consume could leave you perplexed.
How Can the Fashion Industry Adopt Sustainability – Reduce, Recycle and Reuse!
The fashion industry doesn’t necessarily have to be what or how it is today when it comes to the environment. It can embrace a range of eco-friendly and sustainable measures. Some of them include but shouldn’t be limited to the following.
- Using organic cotton instead of its conventional counterpart due to the amount of water and pesticide used in growing the latter
- Leveraging the organic and low-impact nature of hemp and linen
- Employing regenerative fibres that are animal or plant-based fibres like wool or cotton cultivated via holistic management practices
- Making use of natural dyes
- Reducing production volumes (this could raise eyebrows!) to use fewer resources
- Ensuring fair wages, benefits, fixed and reasonable working hours, and safe working conditions that value their lives
Blaming the fashion industry alone cannot help. After all, it is the demand that drives supply. Accordingly, while advising the fashion industry to embrace sustainability practices, consumers also should introspect and see how they can contribute to the betterment of the planet through sustainable fashion. Some measures in this regard could include the following.
- Buying fewer clothes every year and purchasing only high-quality ones
- Reusing clothes used by a friend, sibling or cousin can help
- Considering alternative models like rental clothes
- Shopping from sites selling used clothes in excellent condition
- Purchasing clothes only when necessary
Of course, things wouldn’t change suddenly. They will take time. But we cannot take forever, considering the pace at which natural and non-renewable resources are depleting. While manufacturers make their efforts to embrace sustainable manufacturing, we also should contribute our bit by keeping our wardrobes to a minimal. Let’s keep contributing and hope to see some numbers, especially those concerning the use of natural resources, chemicals and water plummet in the future. You May also like INIFD's Other blog: How To Get Started With Sustainable Fashion