By Ella Wingfield
One way or another, we are all connected to fashion. Whether that be a conscious effort in what we choose to wear each morning, or an everyday necessity. Either way, our clothing extends beyond how we choose to look each day, and there is so much more behind an outfit than a simple purchase.
The fashion industry has countless environmental and ethical implications tied to it, making it difficult to enjoy knowing the detrimental impacts of a single garment. So, is it possible to find a balance when fashion is good for the heart, but bad for the environment?
Why do we like fashion?
First and foremost, fashion is an art form. An art form we all partake in, consciously or not. From Fashion Week to street style, any one outfit can have countless emotions attached to it. It can make you feel powerful, comforted, excited, happy or nostalgic.
Influencers, friends, advertisements and promoted posts provide a constant stream of beautifully curated outfits. Non-stop inspiration fuels our creativity, and in the age of social media, there’s no shortage of new trends to experiment with.
Fashion is fun. And it’s no wonder we’re all tempted to buy a new garment or two with thousands of aesthetically pleasing Instagram pages only a click away. But as we all become more aware of the colossal impact the fashion industry has on our planet, can we still enjoy fashion in the same way? And does our new purchase still possess the same appeal when we know the footprint of its production?
What is the footprint of our clothing?
Sustainability within the fashion industry is (thankfully) being recognised more and more by both brands and consumers, with ethical clothing shedding its outdated and false image of unappealing and unflattering clothing. Brands are launching on the basis of sustainability, proving environmentally friendly clothing in no way means a lack of on trend choices. Established brands are introducing sustainable policies into their manifestos, largely thanks to a growing consumer demand.
Choosing sustainability must also go hand in hand with social responsibility. As we browse the rails in our favourite stores or scroll the pages of online brands, we must remember the people behind our clothing. Garment workers provide a vital role within the fashion industry, but all too often are hugely underpaid and undervalued.
According to the UN, women are paid between 60 to 75% of men’s wages, and the fashion industry is no exception.
Female garment workers are facing inequality, extremely low pay and dangerous working conditions. It is so crucial we place more importance on the clothing these women are producing, and demand better for all working in these high-risk, frequently forgotten roles.
Can a love for fashion and sustainability coexist?
Fashion should be enjoyed. But to truly see the beauty in fashion, we must first take the time to understand, what, and who, is behind our clothes.
Mindful consumption is key. Will I still want to wear this in a year? What impacts has this garment had? It is not enough to trust a brand is providing us with sustainable, ethically made clothing purely because of an expensive price tag. Look for transparency across the whole supply chain – luxury doesn’t necessarily mean sustainable.
There is no one answer to fix all of the fashion industries many, many problems. We’re all learning, and shouldn’t feel guilty if our shopping habits aren’t 100% perfect. What we can do is respect the responsibility every one of us has in regard to our purchasing. So, lets recognise where progress is being made, and push for more from the brands who can do better.