Sustainable Fashion - What does it even mean?

Photo Courtesy of Shaina Mote

Photo Courtesy of Shaina Mote

Nowadays we keep hearing people talk about sustainable fashion, but what does it really even mean? We've come to a point where consumers are thinking twice about their purchases, new entrepreneurs are looking to "disrupt" fast fashion and more attention is being drawn to the negative manufacturing practices within the fashion industry.

Cause we all love Wikipedia... it states:

Sustainable fashion, also called eco fashion, is a part of the growing design philosophy and trend of sustainability, the goal of which is to create a system which can be supported indefinitely in terms of human impact on the environment and social responsibility. It can be seen as an alternative trend against fast fashion.

Keeping their overview in mind, let me break down the different ways I've seen people interpret "Sustainable Fashion."

Sustainable Fashion = Made in U.S.A

This interpretation is a bit weak in my opinion. I see the correlation that being made in the U.S can be argued to be sustainable for our country's economy, but it doesn't necessarily correlate with quality manufacturing practices or environmental benefits. Many U.S based manufacturers sometimes still have issues hiring illegal workforces with poor working conditions. Don't get me wrong, we have regulations and worker's rights in place to protect these U.S based manufacturing work forces, but these only protect legal workers. Hate to break the news but many manufacturing workers aren't necessarily legal citizens due to its unglamorous reputation so most of the time they aren't 100% protected. A "Made in U.S.A" tag is still questionable in my opinion, but I respect any designer or shop that advocates for this.

Sustainable Fashion = Organic & Ethically Sourced Materials

Photo Courtesy of Kow Tow

Photo Courtesy of Kow Tow

This is a stronger argument. The way materials and textiles are produced has caused huge environmental damage, whether through pollution or over consumption of our natural resources. So ensuring things are done in a more "planet friendly" way is a step forward. Especially when the materials can actually be recycled.

This interpretation also includes fair trade practices which ensure social, environmental and economic standards are upheld when working with developing countries. This is also extremely important as we see many developing countries being taken advantage of and not given the opportunity to do things ethically from their end in order to make a living.

Sustainable Fashion =  Secondhand, VINTAGE or Upcycled Clothing

Now this is speaking more my language. I believe this interpretation is the strongest. It highlights an alternative to our need to be constantly consuming new things..  Did you know that around 15.1 million tons of textile waste was sent to landfill in 2013? Can you imagine what 2016 will look like?

Second hand helps build a mindset that clothing isn’t as disposable as many people think. When one person is no longer interested, it doesn’t mean no one else will be interested insteadI'm inspired by the power of recontextualisation. Sometimes all it takes is an art directed photo to sell a top that was sitting at a thrift store.

In Conclusion

Sustainable Fashion is almost like a band-aid phrase that can be interpreted in many different ways as we figure out our shit in the fashion industry. Does sustainable fashion exist as a product, is it more a philosophy & trend as Wikipedia stated, or is it just an oxymoron since fashion wouldn’t exist without constant trend focused consumption?

Photo Courtesy of Petra Von Kant

Photo Courtesy of Petra Von Kant

These are questions I won’t answer, but instead hope you think about. As I mentioned before the other interpretations are all a step forward but they don’t address the fashion habits of the average consumer, which is supporting a fast paced cycle of consuming.

In the end, you should be more aware of your consumption. Think before you buy a $8 top from Forever 21 or honestly any new clothing piece in general. Consider second-hand as your main outlet for shopping. And remember, the future of fashion will be a different world & how we define it will change. The industry is going through some transitions with "successful" companies going bankrupt as a sign of change. 

Be a pioneer and get ahead of the curve in the change of how we view fashion.

Honestly, you're already ahead by following my project. (high five).