Anna Lappé once wrote, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”
Although she was referring to the food industry, the same principle can be applied to the world of fashion. Little is known about the sustainability of the production of our clothes, accessories, and shoes. However, fashion is one of the most toxic industries in the world. Most don’t think of pollution when buying a new pair of shoes or wearing a new jacket. Inadvertently, though, the purchase of such items contribute to the destruction of the environment, especially in cases of fast fashion production. Fortunately, many people are becoming aware of this pernicious trend and are shopping more conscientiously; many even only support fashion brands whose clothes are ethically produced.
Clothes aren’t just made to be worn; they’re made to tell a story. Sadly, the story behind fast fashion is one of child labor, appalling factory conditions, overuse of harmful pesticides, and low wages. Fortunately, thousands of companies, big and small, have become aware of this issue and have taken a practical approach to address it; mainly by making their products in an ethical and organic way. These companies are now beginning to use recycled materials, sustainable fibers, and filtered water for the manufacturing of their products. Plastic water bottles are getting a second life; additionally, longer-lasting clothes and shoes are also being produced. The use of eco-friendly packaging, natural dyes, and biodegradable materials such as linen and cotton are beneficial to the world.
The people who manufacture these items is another important ethical factor. Several companies have factories in countries with looser labor regulations and have consequently put workers at risk. The Dhaka garment factory accident in Bangladesh from April 2013, in which over a thousand people died and three thousand others were injured, caused a rise of awareness of the conditions of these factories. Following this horrific disaster, a worldwide hashtag and movement called #whomademyclothes sparked. People realized that there needed to be transparency between companies and consumers.
When a person buys from a sustainable fashion brand, not only is he supporting fair trade and proper wages, but safer and cleaner working conditions as well, which helps to prevent fatal accidents such as the Bangladesh collapse from occurring again. More companies are also sharing publicly the country in which their clothes are produced, names and addresses of the factories, and the number of workers. This transparency benefits not only the retail facet of the fashion industry, but the environmental one as well.When big-name brands change their habits to environmentally friendly, other companies are often inspired to do the same.
Vogue Portugal’s September 2019 Issue was dedicated entirely to using images to speak in words about the reality of what is happening to our planet.
Too many companies overproduce every season with the advent of new trends, which leads to their merchandise residing in landfills. This problem can be decreased, even eliminated, if we advocate sustainability. Fashion will always have flaws and be critiqued by the public. Adopting a more environmentally-aware method of production doesn’t come without a higher price tag. But spending extra on these ethical brands will not only benefit us in the long run, but the world.