Community

Sustainability in Fashion: What Does It Look Like?

Sustainability has always been a pillar of what we do – our mission is to #ChangeBeyondTextiles – to make rural artisanship sustainable, shift designers’ approach to their process, and inspire customers to value provenance.

As a purpose-driven business that exists within the fashion world, we believe it is our responsibility to stay informed about the movements happening around us – be it social, environmental, ethical or political – and to do our part in conversations that matter. This is why we are writing a series on Sustainability in Fashion to dive deeper into what sustainable fashion really means.


To start with, let’s examine the fundamentals of sustainability.

 

SUSTAINABILITY IS THE BIG UMBRELLA

Sustainability is a huge buzzword used across industries. This seems to perpetuate the perception that its meaning is context dependent. For example, from the food to the oil industry, “sustainability” is commonly used synonymously with the term “eco-friendly” but in the fashion industry, it is addressed mostly in terms of fair trade and ethical consumerism. But ethics and the environment are actually subcategories of sustainability. True sustainability is really a balancing combination of three things:

1. Environment – The planet and its ecosystem we rely on
2. Ethics – Worker’s rights and respects for the community
3. Economy – Affordability for consumers and profitability for economy

What this means for sustainable fashion is that there needs to be a balance between how our clothes are made, what it is made with, who it is made by, and who can afford it.

So, why is sustainable fashion so expensive? Right now it does seem as if sustainable fashion is an esoteric practice, in which only those with large amounts of disposable cash can afford to buy sustainable clothing. We understand this. It is easy to want to start buying ethically made clothes that are also friendly towards the environment, but the price tag can hold us back, and we end up buying more affordable fast fashion. But there are reasons for high prices, and at this moment, as the world is still getting up to speed with sustainability, we should understand that every genuine sustainable company has their own way of pushing for sustainability, even if that means that sustainable fashion cannot be priced for the masses yet.

That said, this is why we must move beyond only ethical and eco-friendly fashion. Making sustainable fashion mainstream so that it can become affordable is important too.

SUSTAINABILITY IS A MOVEMENT, NOT A TREND

One could say that the sustainability movement is about shifting trends over time. Even though more brands are jumping on the sustainability bandwagon, and companies are trying to make sustainable wear stylish, we have to be sure we are not into sustainable fashion because we see it only as a new fashion style that is to be replaced by something else in the future. Sustainable fashion is the future, and when it comes to sustainability, timelessness is key. We should support it because we recognize the importance of designing and buying for the long run, for the bigger picture, where clothes can be worn for all seasons, and for many years to come. This timeline goes far beyond a single life cycle of an apparel – we want clothes to be made with material that can be broken down and remade into something new. While the style of a sustainable garment may change over time, the principle of how and why it is made shouldn’t change.

As the fashion world continues to refine its sustainability efforts, we should also do our part as consumers to understand what that means and how we can help. Using sustainability terms interchangeably diminishes the power and importance of the ideas behind them, relays false information and generates mistrust for the entire industry. We can change this by staying informed on the topic ourselves, reading up, and sharing what we’ve learnt with those around us.


We would love to hear more about what you think. Let us know in the comments below.