WORDS: REBECCA EVERETT
FEATURE IMAGE: GREEN CHAMELEON
As a Master’s student studying Fashion and Business, I have gradually became more unhopeful about the industry, of which has lead to the questioning of my future career and what the future holds for fashion.
Since initially studying Fashion Communication as my Bachelor’s Degree, I saw fashion as the ultimate channel of creativity. Thoughts and ideas channelled through the art of clothing captured me. However, when I began to study the business of fashion, I realised that behind-the-scenes the industry ultimately intends to reach a relentless, blinkered goal of economic prosperity. I discovered the real damage that mainstream fashion and clothing has on the environment and so my creative reigns were pulled.
The Ugly Side of Fashion
I recently wrote a business report focusing on the fashion supply chain; a complicated web of economically focused decisions made my brands that decide who supplies their garments, where they are made, how they are distributed and how much this all costs. Fast fashion brands dramatically cut corners in order to meet consumer demands, by supplying cotton from developing countries that do not earn enough to feed their families, who then use harmful pesticides to get the most out of their crops in order to make as much money as possible. They then manufacture clothes of cheap quality in factories that have low health and safety standards, made by garment workers who, again, barely earn enough to make a living. Separate components of singular garments, such as buttons, fastenings and materials are then distributed around the globe every single day, increasing the carbon footprint of the fashion industry on a huge scale.
Taking into consideration the horrifying fact that it takes 13 bathtubs of water to make one singular cotton t-shirt (including growing the cotton, dying process, etc) the environmental effects that we may be unaware of when purchasing clothing is incomprehensible. So much so, that drastic effects on the earth are becoming increasingly apparent, causing lakes to dry up and rivers to increasingly become polluted. All of this damage due to the unnecessary demands of the fashion industry is ultimately straining the precious water sources from developing countries.
“it takes 13 bathtubs of water to make one singular cotton t-shirt”
Knowledge is Power
Thinking about these issues intensely on a daily basis as I wrote the report flicked a switch in my brain, causing me to question and re-think my whole future within the fashion industry. This dramatically fuelled my passion to do more to change the way myself, and others, view and consume clothing. Being aware of a problem simply isn’t enough, as the pressure for society to change continues to increase indefinitely. The new ideology of fashion and clothing must be engrained enough to influence purchasing decisions on a mass scale, which I feel is the step that many people have yet to reach. Facing the ugly truth is hard; but knowledge is power, and I feel the more we know about the products that we consume within any industry, it allows us to make better choices. By refusing to ignore the issues we face, we can question our own decisions as well as questioning the brands we love as a community of fashion lovers and make the changes that needs to happen.
Looking at the bigger picture, the vast majority of environmental issues that we face are firmly within the hands of huge corporations, meaning that the choices we make as individuals simply are not enough to combat the uncontrollable effects on the environment. However, we as consumers are in full control of the demand placed upon the fashion industry. If we minimised the amount of clothes we consume, then brands will simply make less clothes. If we consciously purchased clothing less frequently from brands that assure ethical standards are in place, the culprit fast fashion brands simply could not survive as their economic-focused, imbalanced business model would surely face the consequences. Brands must listen to their consumers in order to survive; which is why we must make our voices be heard and educate more people, specifically fast fashion consumers, along the way.
The hopeful perspective to consider when being faced with so many faults, is that there are so many ways that we can now improve, and knowing it’s all in the consumer’s hands is a powerful thought. The industry is also coming up with innovate ways to reduce their impact, with brands emerging purely due to their environmental innovations and technology. Levi’s new Water<Less collection has implemented the removal of water from stone washes and combined multiple wet cycle processes in order to reduce their water usage by up to 90%.
“knowing it’s all in the consumer’s hands is a powerful thought”
Instead of being down about the industry I have worked towards, I have realised that it is my utmost responsibility to tackle these issues on a personal and professional level, no matter what step I take next. We have the responsibility and ability to change this capitalist, consumer-driven, individualistic world for the next generation.