A Brief Introduction to What Is Sustainable Fashion
Everyone loves fashion- the glitzy outfits, glamorous clothes, and fun accessories. But what one does not realize is the devastating impact it has on the environment. Fashion is not simply clothes. It is more than that. It is about the whole industry that works to make just one pair of a dress. It is the toxic by-products of processes dumped carelessly in water bodies or on the land. Every year brands bring out seasonal collections which shoppers devour at low prices. It leads to the view that clothes are disposable and should be thrown out every time a new collection comes on the market. These practices not only jeopardize nature but also creates an imbalance in the ecological system.
(image source: The Guardian)
What is Sustainable Fashion?
'Sustainable' and 'Fashion'- these two words fused after the fashion industry became conscious of the negative impact they were having on nature. Ever since then, more and more designers, brands, and even consumers are gravitating towards maintaining ecological integrity, or in other words, towards sustainable fashion. But what is sustainable fashion?
It is a movement in the fashion industry to step away from 'fast fashion' and take a conscious step in manufacturing products that complies with nature. It means to do away with toxic chemicals, reduce non-biodegradable waste and produce natural but stylish clothes. Sustainable fashion strictly follows and lives by nature, ensuring that one's need for beauty does not make the world ugly.
Importance of Sustainable Fashion
While counting the areas or sectors that negatively impact nature, one must also include the fashion industry. The current model that exists in the industry is 'source, create and dispose'. When it comes to sustainability, four main issues are of colossal concern:
- Massive amount of water consumption and contamination
- High energy emission
- Use of harmful chemicals
- Enormous wastes
There are also several ethical aspects of fashion highlighted and prioritized as much as the need to producing nature-friendly products. The exploitation of workers is a big part of the moral aspect. In factories, they are made to work long hours and under bare minimum wage in an enclosed, suffocating environment. The exploitation of labour mostly happens in South-East Asian countries, including India, where cheap labour is readily available.
Fast fashion also has a devastating impact on indigenous art. When a product is manufactured in the factory, they are produced in bulks, leaving little to no time to dwell on the intricacies of the craft. This slowly leads to the indigenous skills and techniques fading making a considerable loss to human culture.
Methods of Sustainable Fashion
Here's a look at some of the methods used to craft natural apparel:
Low impact, natural materials like hemp, linen, silk, cotton, and cellulose fibers (viscose, lyocell, rayon, etc.) have gained popularity recently. Their popularity greatly rests on the sheer comfort and the fact they can be sustainably sourced, manufactured and sold. These are biodegradable and can be grown through regenerative farming.
(image source: Cultural Elements)
Recycling existing fabrics and apparel to create new ones is a great way to promote organic fashion. While it still requires new raw materials, it also utilizes what is already there and might have been discarded as waste. These also include dead-stock fabric, which are materials created but never sold or used and otherwise thrown away.
It is not only essential to consider natural materials but also natural dyes. The dyes and textile treatment process play a huge role in creating sustainable products. Many dyeing processes use vast amounts of water and use of toxic chemicals. Instead, dyes used in digital printing or natural, plant-based dyes are a great alternative when working on natural apparel.
Hope for a sustainable future
More than ever, it has become essential to manufacture apparel and accessories with certified textiles and strategize to promote more conscious consumption patterns in the buyer. Sustainable fashion does not end with producing sustainable products. It needs to be a conscious decision on the part of the consumer to use such products, understand their importance and shift their individual attitude. It is also important to learn what qualifies as sustainable fashion and what does not.
Many designers, brands, and particularly small businesses have come up in recent years who follow a slow fashion. They allow the process to flow organically and make conscious decisions not only for the sellers but also the buyers. Sustainable fashion at this point seems to be the future of fashion as more and more small brands, designers, and businesses are turning towards it in their bit to make a positive impact on the environment.