One can argue both sides of this question but if I didn't believe that sustainable fashion really can be sustainable then I wouldn't be as passionate about Slow Fashion and Sustainable Fashion as I am. There are many factors that contribute to the sustainable fashion industry and in order to ensure its longevity, it is important that each of these individual factors implement long-term sustainable practices. In the end, nothing can be black and white and it is the same with sustainable fashion. There will never be 100% sustainability in the fashion industry, but we can all work together to make it as sustainable as possible. Perhaps in the future, there will not be a divide between fast fashion and slow fashion, and there will just be fashion, which will be closer to the current idea of sustainable fashion, where everyone does their bit to create a more endurable, sustainable industry.
The role of the designer in the sustainable fashion industry is possibly the most important and impactful. It is essentially the decision of the designer how the garment is made. They choose the fabrics, the means of production and how much is produced and sold. It is important for sustainable designers and fast fashion designers alike to inform their customers about the lifecycle of these garments so that the customers can make well-educated decisions. It is more likely that the customer will invest in sustainable fashion if it is clear where all of our options are coming from and who they impact. If designers continue to enforce these practices in their work then there is no reason to believe it can't make long-term positive changes.
A lot of new developments have been made within the textile industry to create new sustainable fabrics such as Lyocell (made from wood pulp), Hemp, Pineapple leather (made from pineapple leaves), Bamboo etc. The use of these fabrics in our clothing ensures more environmental and ethical practices are being met. The way in which the fabrics are made, the raw materials and production process, is also ensuring the practice itself is sustainable in the long run.
A huge issue with non-sustainable fashion or fast fashion is its use of dangerous, uncertified warehouses and factories in the making of our garments. Apart from being highly unethical, they are also environmentally harmful due to their use of harmful chemicals polluting the air and our seas. In contrast, sustainably made garments are being made in certified and regulated factories ensuring that the workers are treated and paid fairly, harmful chemicals and toxins that would harm the workers or the environment are being used and overall they are reducing their carbon footprint. This is called low impact production. Laws and regulation regarding the treatment of workers, factory conditions and fair wages are being taken more seriously in recent years since the collapse of the Rana Plaza in 2013 so conditions should only continue to improve.
In order for fashion to be sustainable, we as consumers need to make changes to buy less and buy better. Many slow fashion brands are emerging which support the use of sustainable fabrics, ethical labour practices, and low impact designs, but until the consumers stop buying so much it won't matter how sustainably produced these pieces are. There is little difference between a landfill of unwanted clothing and a landfill of unwanted organic clothing, it is still wasteful and doesn't support sustainability within the industry. The information provided to us from brands and designers about how our clothing is being produced should be taken seriously and used to make well-informed decisions regarding our shopping habits.
Once these four factors continue to implement positive changes towards sustainability and once we realise that sustainable fashion isn't just a trend and is a practice that in itself is truly 'sustainable' then we can agree that sustainable fashion is not contradicting itself and has the potential to carry through on its promises of a fairer, more ethical and more environmentally friendly future.
What do you think of sustainable fashion? Do you think it can be a long-term solution? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments, whether you agree or disagree.