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Sustainable Fashion: Trend or Tactic (07-06-2014) 

By Devika Jadhav

Fashion is seldom associated with being environment friendly. Most times, it is accused of being wasteful inconsiderate or even indifferent to the environment. The fashion industry accounted to US$ 284 billion in sales within USA in 2012 alone as well as contributing £20.92 billion to the UK GDP according to the British Fashion Council. A majority of which, again is earned through retail.  Globally, experts have identified a tendency of a life cycle of a clothing product which they have termed as ‘fast fashion’. Customers prefer to spend money on low quality cheap clothing which can be discarded within 7 to 10 washes rather than expensive high quality garments which can last generations. There is a yearning hunger within consumers to look different each time, more often now than in the past thus putting pressures on retailers to change shelf stocks at a dangerously fast pace. Many high street retailers like Zara and H&M products now have a shelf life of as few as two weeks if they want to be on top of their competitors.  Clothing often reaches the dump yard before it is fit to be discarded as new ‘in’ styles make their way onto freshly made up bodies of Kate Moss and Beyonce. Wrap.org reviles that there is £30 billion worth of unused clothing hanging in people’s wardrobes in the UK. Magazines, hoardings and advertisements are all made to make you think you do not have enough, and that you will be more desirable if you buy a certain product. One does not however see a lot of people walking down Juhu Chawpati or Oxford circus wearing runway clothing, rather a good impression of them made popular by the more affordable High Street. Even brands like Dior, Versace or Channel make most of their money via cosmetics and perfumes rather than their expensive clothing.

It is impossible to ignore the impact of factories in India, Bangladesh and China have had on clothing industries in the west. It is simply deemed impossible to keep up with the demand, its appropriate pricing and timing if they were to be produced in the west owing to their high wage rate, health and safety regulations and transportation costs. There was a shaking of conscience in the psyche of people after the Rana Plaza collapse in April where more than 1200 paid their lives for a pair of cheap jeans. Even with a disappointing outcome of change, it definitely raised several questions and if nothing, made designers and consumers more aware of the gravity of the issue and the seriousness of inducing change.  As a result of fast fashion there is a huge amount of waste being generated in the world which needs immediate attention. According to the British environmental charity Global Action Plan, 7.5 billion items of clothing are sent to landfills each year worldwide. However lately, there is been a diversion of designers to produce more ethically and sustainably. Designers like Stella McCartney and Edun have been historically famous for their eco- awareness  by their use of organically produced cotton, low wastage of fabrics, bio degradable products and much more. This ideology is now being slowly adopted by the high street as well, with concepts like ‘buying back’ from the consumers, recycling fibres and producing ethically becoming a part of their marketing techniques. Brands like Marks and Spencer’s, Topshop, H&M, River Island are all becoming a part in some way of this new trend. The big question is whether it is just another marketing tactic or are these consumers actually focusing to make their products sustainable. For producing organically and ethically, there main challenge would be to keep the pricing low as costs of production will be much higher and the consumer will automatically feel the pinch. Another challenge would be to create alternative aesthetically appealing clothing without the use of harmful dyes and synthetic fibres that seem to give a distinctive look, feel and fall to popular clothing today.

There is a need therefore for a collective change in ideology from consumers, produces as well as people of the media. We simply cannot compromise our planet to look better for a few hours, there are many success stories and sustainable and ethical production of fashion is indeed possible, if we ultimately all decide make a choice. Or should we say, THE choice.

Source:

  1. http://britishfashioncouncil.com/content.aspx?CategoryID=1745
  2. http://www.britishfashioncouncil.com/uploads/media/62/16356.pdf
  3. http://www.fashionunited.com/global-fashion-industry-statistics-international-apparel
  4. http://www.wrap.org.uk/content/wrap-reveals-uks-%C2%A330-billion-unused-wardrobe
  5. http://www.ethicalfashionforum.com/the-issues/energy-and-waste
Devika Jadhav is a fashion Designer Studying at London College of Fashion, with a devotion to food, a passion for travelling and a yearning to learn about different cultures. Devika is keen to take everything an exciting city like London has to offer, and believes in living moments rather than days. Uniquely placed in an environment where she meets more than 30 people from different countries each day that still manage to make it on one dinner table, oh what eventful conversations that gives rise to!

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Source:theindianeconomist.com



 
 

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