The Future of Fashion with Sustainability
By Maija Baroni
Fashion is a visual representation of the way we want to present ourselves to the world, making it a personal means of self-expression. In other words, fashion is vital to our daily lives, our culture, and essentially, our identity. With that in mind, it’s no wonder fashion is one of the largest creative industries in the world.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most polluting.
According to The World Economic Forum, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of humanity’s total carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. To put that into perspective, the site notes fashion’s carbon emissions surpass those of all international flights and maritime shipping...combined.
Though there are environmental issues with nearly every step of manufacturing a garment, right as of its initial design down to its transportation into your closet, the genesis of this eco-problem seems to be fast fashion.
The beauty of fashion is its versatility, given how emerging runway trends are ever-changing and society-shaping. But the resulting culture of keeping up with these fleeting fads promotes a nasty habit of overconsumption, leading us to buy entirely new wardrobes at the start of every season. A pretty penny and full donation bin of discarded clothing later, our new outfits are already considered ‘out’ by the end of the same season, despite only having been worn once or twice.
These life-long social pressures to stay trendy and achieve our #stylegoals persuade us into routinely buying clothes that we don’t want or need, especially when those clothes don’t take too much of a toll on our bank account.
Besides, what’s the harm of buying eight new tank tops if each one only costs ten dollars? And they come with free shipping?
Well, the harm is severe, since they ultimately come at an environmental cost. The low price points of fast fashion pieces, layered with the impulse to keep up with shifting styles, has led to clothing production having roughly doubled since 2000, according to The World Economic Forum. Not to mention, people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than in 2000, but only kept them for half as long.
We justify constantly getting rid of all our garments by thinking they’ll go to thrift stores or charities and be given a second life, but the brutal reality is much less optimistic. Alas, the large majority of clothes end up dumped in a landfill or burned.
But there’s light at the end of this depressing tunnel: The true trend sweeping the fashion industry isn’t cropped sweater vests or the color brown, but the rapid rise of sustainable fashion and upcycling.
The online spread of information exposing the negative impacts of fast fashion has elicited a collective desire among young consumers to shop more sustainably. As a response, top clothing brands are starting to implement changes into their production and choice of textiles.
That might be great news, but a more exciting outcome of this eco-friendly fashion phenomenon is ethical brands. For example, Reformation (with their slogan “Being naked is the #1 most sustainable option. We’re #2”) uses vintage garments and sustainable fabrics to lower their amount of waste. While also posting yearly sustainability reports on their website and paying 100% of their employees living wages, they are an attractive option for those seeking to leave less of a carbon footprint with their style.
Another way these brands are taking steps toward combatting fast fashion is by designing with classic silhouettes and styles that will stay in fashion, and in your closet, for years, rather than profiting on short-lived trends. Consequently, their clothing might be significantly more pricey than fast fashion alternatives, but the quality garments have more longevity and are less likely to be thrown out.
Besides brands working towards more sustainable practices, people are starting to incorporate sustainability into their individual shopping habits.
Local and online thrift stores like ThredUP or Depop are increasing in popularity, with many online influencers posting ‘thrift hauls’ or selling items from their closet on these platforms. Some even alter thrifted pieces according to current fashion trends, making repurposed clothes that much more alluring.
Buying secondhand has therefore never been easier, and never been more chic.
Overall, the fashion industry seems to be moving towards a more sustainable path. By rejecting fast fashion and brief trends, ordinary people are finding new ways to style old garments. Or, by adding their own touches and upcyc
ling, they have the freedom to make their outfits funky and that much more personal.
And after all, isn’t that what fashion is all about?