Responsible Fashion Production: The journey to a sustainable lifestyle.

The fashion industry employs over 60 million people world-wide, mostly women. A 2.4 trillion dollar industry with the numbers expected to rise over the coming years. given its global reach, the fashion industry should be exemplary in ethical and sustainable practises, however, they still struggle to manage their waste streams. It is important for any industry to recognise its shortfalls and rectify them accordingly. It has, therefore, been observed that many of the fashion industry’s shortfalls come from its production methods which will be unpacked by studying the processes used to achieve a more holistic solution for the Industry.

The apparel manufacturing process involves three stages in which garments are made. The first stage involves the designer who designs the product, selects the fabric and inspects it to ensure quality. In the second stage we are introduced to the role played by the designer in conjunction with the factory and in this stage we can see processes such as pattern making, grading, marking, spreading, cutting and the bundling of the garment. The final stage is the work done by factory workers including sewing, pressing or folding, detailing, dyeing and washing. Any conscious fashion consumer can agree that some of these processes are unnecessary and can be done away with. Although this is the method that has been used for centuries to produce clothing, the time for innovative thinking has arrived forcing us to do more with less natural resources to ensure a brighter future for our beloved earth. We are at a point where everyone, consumers, designers and fashion producers globally, have to start using a different method of business and communication within the fashion industry.

The Business Council of Sustainable Development (BCSD) was built with the expectation that maintaining a sustainable world meant that consumers would request competitively priced goods  and services that would satisfy their needs and bring quality of life. Producers, designers and fashion experts would ensure that ecological impacts and resource waste are reduced throughout the garment’s life cycle. The United Nations has challenged 195 countries to address the needs of their people in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) global movement to be achieved by 2030. SDG12 directly address the issues of responsible production and consumption. This goal will work harmoniously with the lean production system because it is most waste free. 

The Textile and Clothing Industry (TCI) consumes large amounts of natural resources and releases chemicals into the atmosphere, water and soil. Lean Production, an organisational methodology whose main key idea is to do more with less, has since been adopted by the Textile and Clothing Industry (TCI). The TCI industry has long been faced with developing sustainable methods of production and under the guidance of the lean production method, developed PESO. The PESO methodology is based on four dimensions; people, ergonomics, sustainability and operational performances. PESO as a production method is meant to create a natural awareness to consume less through eco-efficient systems. This however, is still a work in progress as we still need to work hard to bring many companies to the realisation that the implementation of the methodologies is a continuous process that requires a continued attention to sustain a healthy and sustainable working environment.

The fashion industry, like many other industries, is defined by its customers. However, the value of any product that goes through the industry is defined by the producer. This means that before the product is even introduced to the customer, there are already people deciding on how sustainable, fashionable or cheaply made and harmful to the environment a product can be. This is why it is important for designers and fashion producers to adopt a sustainable methodology that will curb waste in the production phase and encourage less consumption by making products  that have a circular life. Production processes can be cut shorter by ensuring unsustainable impacts, such as dyes, are done away with. Achieving the SDG12 is possible, however, we need to work together to bring responsible production and consumption by making sustainable choices an everyday reality and lifestyle.  

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