What is sustainable fashion and why it is important?

Online Certificate in Fashion Design

Someone who dedicatedly and closely follows the fashion industry will know about its latest buzzword i.e. sustainable fashion. Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed, and used in environmentally friendly ways. It involves using processes that are economical for the environment, economy and the society at large. Ethical fashion, a related term, refers to clothing made in ways that value social welfare and worker rights. The sustainable fashion movement was started to tackle this major issue of growing unethical practises in the industry, involving environmental degradation, animal cruelty, child labour, low wages etc. Many brands continue to engage in such practices, contributing to the growth of fast fashion that is intentionally designed to be consumed quickly at cheap prices and lead shoppers to view clothes as being disposable. Since they quickly move on to newer and trendier cheap clothes, it leads to heavy water usage, release of toxins, deforestation and so on. Fast fashion is produced on a large scale for the masses, hence its prices are low, leading to large profits for the company. Sustainable fashion aims at producing quality clothing that is durable and economical. Times are changing now and brands today are promoting sustainable fashion, pledging to not promote and engage in unethical fashion practices.

Let us dissect the benefits of sustainable fashion and its importance:

Fair wages for workers:
Fast fashion brands produce clothes and products on a large scale which is later sold at low prices for an average Indian, leading to the workers involved in the production being quite underpaid. Apart from working in poor conditions and unsafe conditions, the workers are made to work for longer hours as well, to produce clothing and products on a large scale. Sustainable fashion brands make sure that their workers are well paid which creates a conducive working environment, along with caring about their safety and health conditions. They produce high-quality, durable clothing, which provides customer satisfaction, making them long term customers of the brand.

Environmental conservation:
Natural materials such as hemp, linen, and cotton along with synthetically made fibers from plant sources, like viscose, rayon, lyocell, etc. are generally preferable over petroleum-derived synthetics like polyester, acrylic, and nylon. Sustainable fashion uses the former in their products, safeguarding and promoting environmental conservation while fast fashion involves using the latter, leading to harmful pollutants in the environment. Natural fibres are biodegradable and can compost cleanly back into the soil, unlike synthetic fibres that will not biodegrade and instead sit in landfills, continually leaching toxic chemicals and fumes. Brands using synthetic fibres for the production of their products, use water in large quantities, leading to heavy water usage. On the other hand, brands using natural fibres, require little to no water, during the production phase which helps in conservating the environment.

Being against animal cruelty
Leather bags, boots, and items produced from fur, leather, feathers, and wool, often have harmful effects on animal populations from which the materials are sourced. Some endangered species like the Sumatran Tiger and American Alligator still suffer severe depletion from being hunted for clothing. Sustainable fashion brands don’t have products having leather and fur in their collections, promoting cruelty-free clothing. – This means that switching to sustainable fashion can save animals. Human-made fibres, recycled materials, and bamboo are viable alternatives that these sustainable fashion brands rely on as an alternative to animal products.

In the fashion industry, a gradual shift can be seen, with many brands slowly incorporating ethical fashion practices in their production process and adopting sustainable fashion. The sustainable fashion movement is turning out to be revolutionary for the billion-dollar industry, creating systemic changes which still has a long way to go. Hence, we should support this by going green and choosing sustainable fashion.

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