Sustainable Fashion 101

Introduction

Last week I decided to take out a survey to ensure that I was on the same page with my readers by asking them basic questions to gauge if my topics resonate with my readers. The responses were satisfactory because they gave me more than confirmation, they gave me a new attitude towards my reporting. I finally understand that I do not write for myself, I write for the people and assuming that people understand what I am talking about is presumptuous.

Question 1: Did you know that sustainable fashion is an umbrella term used to describe all responsible fashion practises?

Sustainable fashion; a term used to simplify and separate the complexities inherent in responsible production and consumption processes. In 1987, the UN defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. Sustainable fashion represents the design, manufacturing and consumption of clothing. This means that the 40% of respondents who answered no to this question are yet to understand the vastness of this concept, realising that it applies to more than one aspect.

Sustainability in fashion means maintaining a balance with designing, manufacturing and consuming clothes. It means avoiding the depletion of natural resources as well as the exploitation of individuals and vulnerable communities. Understanding this is important to achieving long lasting individual and collective attitudes to facilitate public policies, infrastructures, markets and culture around sustainable fashion. This concept ensures that all fashion industry practices are dedicated to creating good while avoiding harm to people, the planet and animals.

Question 2: What do you think sustainable fashion means?

Options:

  • Fair labour practises
  • Over-priced
  • Second-hand clothing
  • Recycled Fabrics
  • Devoid of colour and swag

This question was meant to source the most important association readers have with sustainable fashion. Recycled fabrics came first with 77.78% of respondents. It was also impressive that over-priced came in at 0%, people used to associate overly priced clothing in the past, and it is satisfying to see that people are moving past that mentality.

The question is suggestive, leaving it open to interpretation within the confines of the suggestions. The suggestions were also a mixture of physical and intellectual presentations of sustainable fashion, changing consumption patterns and learning about the social impacts involved. Labour practises and second-hand clothing also had their fair share, proving that sustainable fashion thinking is growing in our society and people are learning to become more conscious consumers by choosing different ways to contribute.

The devoid of swag and colour suggestion was a test, I wanted to know if people really associated this idea with sustainable fashion and 11% of the respondents did. Although a very small number of people have this idea, I believe it is still worth mentioning that I do not believe this is true. Sustainable clothes and fabrics can be very vibrant and provide lots of options. This mentality, however, exists because of the fast fashion model which encourages more consumption disguised as variety. Sustainable fashion consumers tend to choose more essential and necessary pieces of clothing which may come across as monotonous and boring when compared to fast fashion.

Question 3: Which of one these aspects is most important in eco-fashion practise? 

Options:

  • People
  • Planet
  • Profit
  • All of the above

The correct answer was all of the above, 60% responded people and 40% responded planet with profit receiving no votes. It is a common misconception that eco-fashion would not be driven by profit, but how are people who work within this industry expected to survive if there is no profit generated?

People, planet and profit together are the triple bottom line used to run eco-fashion practises. People is meant to represent the social equity bottom line pertains to fair and beneficial business practices toward labour and the community and region in which a corporation conducts its business. The planet aspect of the model represents the environmental aspect of eco-fashion, responsible production and consumption practises to reduce negative impacts on the earth. The profit aspect, therefore, represents the economic value created through sustainable efforts.

This concept demands that a company’s responsibility lie with the stakeholders, people who consume and make the products not executive board members. This theory ensures that the business entity is used as a channel for coordinating stakeholder interests, instead of maximising the owners’ profits.

Question 4: How do you dispose of unwanted clothes? (Choose all that apply)

Options:

  • Throw them in the bin
  • Hand them down to family and friends
  • Burn them
  • Donate to charity
  • Up-cycle them

There were wrong answers here and those were options 1 and 3. Throwing clothes away runs the risk of them ending up in a landfill causing waste generated by the fashion industry. Burning one’s clothes is also a bad idea because the chemicals in the clothes are released as gases into the atmosphere causing CO2 emissions.

The remaining options are the correct ways to dispose of clothing because they ensure a circular mode of production and consumption, the system we should be using to preserve the earth’s natural resources while preventing waste and pollution.

Q5: Reusable bags are directly linked to encouraging consumers to buy more organic products. The science behind this notion claims that consumers appreciate being included in a cultural shift, which essentially makes them willing participants in environmental preservation.Knowing these facts…..Are you willing to change from single use plastic to reusable bags?

This was a bonus question to include the consumer culture surrounding other products associated with fashion. The answer to this question was unanimous and it was interesting to see that given better options in our retail spaces, consumers would be willing to change their ways. This question was also meant to highlight responsibilities the governments and policy makers had to consumers.

Conclusion

I finally started understanding that effective content comes from interacting with my readers and implementing their suggestions. The above questions are the beginning of this effective communication I envision between me and my readers. Their responses also gave insight into the missing knowledge about sustainable fashion in mainstream media. Achieving mainstream sustainable fashion policies will require that different parties be involved in writing the policies that will govern everyone.

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