Ethical Fashion is Changing the Industry for the Better
The world is more eco-conscious than ever before. With emission control now crucial to our longevity as a species, global leaders are finally starting to enforce positive steps towards tackling climate change. With the advent of this newfound awareness breeding a generation of environmentally alert consumers, it comes as no surprise that the fashion industry has taken notice.
In modern society ethical fashion is no longer reserved for liberal counter-cultures kicking against the establishment, it’s a movement that’s gaining significant traction among the world’s most regarded brands and designers. Nowadays socially conscious, fair trade fashion companies are springing up left and right, with the aim of not only supporting domestic talent, but abiding by the world’s new sustainable ethos. Change is on the horizon, and it’s going to be better for everybody.
What’s Wrong with the Industry?
The Danish Fashion Institute estimates that the fashion industry is the second most environmentally damaging industry in the world: one fifth of water pollution is caused by fabric treatment; 25 percent of the world’s pesticides are used for cotton growth; between 15 and 30 percent of fabric is discarded when creating designer cuts. Fundamentally, the fashion industry needs just as much attention as the burning of fossil fuels and reduction of cattle farming. Methods of design, popular opinion, and manufacturing processes need significant attention if we, as a global society, are to tackle carbon emissions effectively.
The trend-driven nature of the fashion industry can make the economical benefits troublesome, causing products to become out-of-vogue and virtually unsaleable on a seasonal basis. With low profit margins (sometimes as little as four percent) key decision makers often have no choice but to outsource labour abroad. This has caused many large-scale fashion companies to receive criticism. But it doesn’t have to be this way…
Is Slow Fashion the Answer?
Slow fashion is a philosophy that encourages people to buy longer lasting items, rather than multiple cheaper items that get binned to make way for the next hot trend – post-purchase waste is currently a major issue. The term itself was coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre of Sustainable Fashion, an organization devised to “question and challenge reactionary fashion cultures, which reflect and re-enforce patterns of excessive consumption and disconnection.” Innovative designers, such as Dan Vo, are spearheading the movement by creating stylish high-end clothing that’s cut from a single piece of fabric. This limits/eliminates offcuts during the pre-consumer stage.
Changing the industry is no easy feat as slow fashion directly counters the current business model. However, “ethical” and “zero waste” business practices aren’t just marketing tools, they also have substantial economic benefits. For example, Marks and Spencer’s Plan A initiative – a road map designed to meet 100 ethical goals – has generated 625 million pounds of growth since implementing changes. Part of the plan included raising wages for its Vietnamese workers, which has led to greater productivity, better products and a boost in sales.
Slow fashion is all about the bigger picture. It’s an investment in the product, consumers, and most importantly, the environment. It’s a system that alleviates pressure on the natural world, secures fair treatment of workers, aids independent businesses, and encourages designers to be more creative. But at the very heart of it, slow fashion is about doing what’s right.