Imagine standing in front of your wardrobe, wondering what to put on from the large expanse of clothes sprawled inside.
You tell yourself that most of the styles are out of fashion or no longer durable, but you still proceed to pick the one you consider the best option while mentally calculating how soon you need to go shopping. This is the reality of most consumers who rarely consider the story behind the clothes they wear.
We’re always on the lookout for the latest trends and ever-changing styles without giving much thought to the impact of our choices, ethically and environmentally.
The recent shift from simply looking good to doing good, especially environmentally, came into play after the cons of fast fashion started to outweigh its pros, overwhelmingly. This shift towards sustainable fashion and ethical consumption is gradually taking root in the fashion industry which promises a more eco-friendly future.
In this article, we aim to provide thorough insights into the evolution and definition of sustainable fashion and ethical consumption, and why they matter in this age and time.
The Growing Movement: A Look into the Past Before Sustainable Fashion and Ethical Consumption
Whenever the word fashion comes up, what comes to mind is change. Before the fashion industry started the race for “faster, cheaper, and trendier” wear, clothes were designed to be long-lasting and of high quality. We’ve seen how different clothes of decades ago were compared to after fast fashion industries took over.
One can say a major reason for these industries was affordability. These brands could generally produce clothes at a much lower cost than sustainable fashion brands, allowing them to sell at a cheaper price and to a wider audience.
Unfortunately, as the industries expanded, they started prioritising rapid turnover and low prices over quality and durability which had negative consequences ranging from exploitative labour practices to environmental degradation. But with the emergence of sustainable fashion and ethical consumption, we are once more faced with a hopeful future for our fashion industry.
Sustainable fashion involves a holistic approach to clothing production and consumption to minimise its impact on the environment and maximise the well-being of all involved in the process. It involves the use of eco-friendly products, ethical labour practices, reduced waste in production, etc. that considers the lifecycle of a garment.
Ethical consumption involves making informed choices about what we buy. It promotes the prioritisation of quality over quantity and talks about considering the social and environmental implications of our purchases. One way we can contribute to ethical consumption is by supporting brands and products that align with our values.
Why Does Sustainable Fashion and Ethical Consumption Matter?
The fashion industry is known as the second largest polluter in the world, contributing to about 8% of global carbon emissions. By engaging in sustainable fashion and ethical consumption, we not only address critical global issues like the reduction of carbon footprint but also contribute to saving humanity by ensuring workers in the fashion industry are treated with dignity and respect.
Factors Influencing the Growing Movement Towards Sustainable Fashion and Ethical Consumption
- Environmental concerns: Increased awareness of climate change, resource depletion, and pollution has made consumers consider going for eco-friendly materials and processes.
- Ethical labour practices: Owing to concerns about poor treatment/ exploitation of labour workers, consumers are increasingly gravitating towards brands that prioritise fair wages, safe working conditions, and worker rights.
- Innovative technologies: Technology is promoting sustainable fashion through innovations like 3D printing, digital design tools, and AI-driven supply chain optimisation, thereby helping to reduce waste, improve efficiency, and lower the carbon footprint of the fashion industry.
- Transparency: Consumers are becoming drawn to brands that are committed to ethical practices. A major aspect that influences consumers’ choice when it comes to ethical consumption and sustainable fashion is transparency such as blockchain and supply chain tracking apps, which allows consumers to trace the origins of their clothing.
- Innovation in materials: Advancements from traditional materials to eco-friendly alternatives such as sustainable textiles (e.g. organic cotton and recycled fabrics) offer better options to consumers.
- Consumer behaviour shifts: Changing consumer preferences are influencing fashion brands to adapt. As more people prioritise sustainability, brands are compelled to incorporate eco-friendly practices into their business models. Consumers are increasingly looking for ways to make their fashion choices more sustainable and ethical. This has greatly influenced how fashion brands are starting to adapt to becoming more ethical and sustainable.
Benefits of Sustainable Fashion and Ethical Consumption
- Environmental preservation: Sustainable fashion and ethical consumption reduce pollution and aid in resource conservation. While the former stops the use of chemicals used in conventional textile production, the latter reduces the overuse of natural resources like water and land.
- Ethical labour practices: Ethical fashion and consumption advocates for fair wages and safe working conditions for fashion workers as well as promotes their rights to dignified labour.
- Reduced waste: Sustainable fashion reduces waste through recycling, upcycling, and waste reduction efforts. It also promotes a circular economy and exploration of eco-friendly materials.
- Longevity and quality: The end goal of sustainable fashion is the production of long-lasting clothing. On the issue of quality, it will appear cost-effective in the long run if one invests in quality pieces despite their higher prices.
- Consumer awareness: Ethical consumption raises consumer awareness about the impact of their choices and empowers them to make informed decisions aligned with their values.
The movement towards sustainable fashion and ethical consumption is multifaceted. It is driven by several factors and offers a range of benefits from environmental and social impacts to longevity and consumer awareness. The movement empowers individuals to make informed choices that can revamp the fashion industry and, by extension, the world.
So, when next you decide to go shopping, it’s important to always take into consideration questions like: “Is this a step towards a better, more sustainable future?” The journey to a more ethical world begins with the daily, conscious choices you and I make. The changes begin with us. Think sustainability. Think ethically.
Researcher: Iloh chioma sandra