The impact of the fashion industry on the environment and people is overwhelming. However so much can be done to confront the problem from both a consumer and business perspective.
From a consumer standpoint it means asking questions. It is not just about the clothes you wear but taking responsibility for how you care and dispose of them. When purchasing brand new garments, look at how they are made and question the longevity. Buying long-lasting, well made clothes is much better than fast fashion. Notice brands and fashion lines that are sustainable. The selection won’t be as great at the moment but purchasing these clothes encourages the brands to produce more and to a higher standard. Also look out for designer makers and smaller businesses dedicated to creating longer lasting garments that have the added bonus of being original and often bespoke.
Look out for organic cotton and question retailers that don’t stock it why.
- Do you know the story behind the contents of your wardrobe?
Consider charity shops and buying vintage on ebay. Purchasing clothes online is more environmentally friendly than driving to a shopping centre in a car. Favourite garments with visible wear and tear, try to get them repaired. Lower the washing temperatures and work out whether you really need to wash an item after just one wear. Change washing powders to environmentally friendly brands which are better for your water supply and for your health.
At the point of getting rid of a garment question whether it can be taken to a charity shop a recycling bin or a clothes bank.
It is also good to ask your favourite brands and retailers directly, in person, in comment boxes or even writing to customer services. If enough people question, companies have to change. Even consider writing to your MP.
In turn businesses need to take responsibility and help consumers, particularly the big brands. They need to invest in R&D to change how products are produced and to entice consumers to alter behaviour patterns. Greenwashing needs to stop.
- Consumers have the power to make choices that persuade companies to start behaving ethically
One of the issues that so often puts people off embracing sustainable clothing is the lack of choice and design. So often when business create sustainable ranges they don’t look as good as their other lines which is not encouraging for consumers who naturally want to look great in the clothes they wear. This is in fact why my colleagues and I started the research based sustainable consultancy ao textiles. We felt that designing sustainably should and can still be equally as beautiful as mainstream design. Although we specialise in the luxury sector, this same principle can be applied to any market area. It is a matter of investing time and research.
Ultimately working sustainably is about transparency and working together. As this is the opposite to how the fashion industry normally works, the whole sector needs a dramatic shift. Brands need transparent supply chains. It is not possible to design and produce clothes that are 100% kind to the environment yet but this is the goal everyone in the industry needs to be working towards.