6 Problems with ‘Sustainable Fashion’

Sustainable fashion has been the industry’s biggest buzz words in the last few years – forgive me for calling it a buzz word but what else can it be known as, when every single label seems to be using it in their publicity campaign?

As a prolific shopper, I’m woke enough to realize this is the future of fashion and I want to support the movement, but where do I start?

The biggest challenge has been to find clothes that are not just ethically made, but easy to find & buy and affordable too. And while we’re at it, am I allowed to say – not boring? Sure, I love organic cotton and the fact that I can keep my clothes for longer gives me a sense of satisfaction but what’s the point of having these ethically made clothes if I don’t love the way they look?

Here are 6 reasons it’s so hard to support the ethical fashion movement:

1. Hard to find brands: There are so many cool, homegrown labels that have taken leaps towards sustainability but the visibility is still very low. Sure, if you go looking, you’re sure to find it all, but it takes a lot more time and investment to seek out a brand that matches one’s aesthetic and price range.

2. Ethical fashion is considered a luxury: Speaking of affordability, sustainable fashion suffers from a perception issue – it is seen as a luxurious alternative, rather than the norm.

3. Ambiguity in fine print: While most labels today promote sustainability – whether through separate collections or even just as a PR campaign – there is no one standard we can hold any brand up to. The communication is rife with vague jargon and there is no indication of what a consumer can do to support the movement. Should I invest in only organic materials or should I support brands that advertise themselves as carbon-neutral? And what does carbon neutral even mean? It’s hard to find the right answers.

4. Perception of alternative or monotonous apparel: For a lot of people, ethical clothing is synonymous with boring clothes, but the fact is that there are many labels doing different interpretations of slow fashion with a distinct creative aesthetic.

5. Stigma around pre-loved clothes: Even as we’re definitely over-producing clothes, leading to irreversible damage to our eco-systems and exploitation of laborers, buying second hand is still considered a taboo, and renting clothes is the last resort when one is over-budget. Shedding this misconception is a huge step towards supporting the movement.

6. No quality certification: There is no standardization when it comes to sustainable fashion and often brands themselves have no awareness of what happens in their own supply chain. Organisations like Fair Trade and Global Organic Textile Standard are yet to permeate down to all labels. Beyond rallying for transparency, there’s not much we can do to understand who made the clothes we wear, and what exactly went into making them.

While challenges are many, the burden does fall on us, as consumers, to be more discerning and ask more of the clothes we buy. And unfortunately, there are no right answers. All we can do is understand what you and I can do. Simple measures like reducing buying, loving the clothes we own, and re-purposing them when needed can go a long way in supporting slow fashion.

As American author and sustainability advocate Anne Lappe said – ‘Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want’.

It makes you think doesn’t it, what is the kind of world you want to live in?

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