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Sustainability in Fashion: Why It is Trending Now

The Current Fashion Trend: Sustainability

We all know that when it comes to the fashion industry, trends drive the market. Fashion trends change as often as they can. Throughout the history of the fashion industry, people have been buying all sorts of products because of the current fashion trend. People buy the latest shoes from Dr. Martens because of a fashion trend. People buy a cute vegan tote bag because of a trend. People even buy the simplest fashion accessory just because it is "trending".

The trend these days is moving towards sustainability. The demand for sustainability is constantly growing as people become more aware of how fashion can hurt the environment. Big names in the fashion industry have shifted their focus to manufacturing cruel-free and more sustainable products. Dr. Marten's boots collection has focused on producing vegan boots. Their recently released Marc Jacob 1460 boot is now out of stock as consumers empty the shelves. The Marc Jacobs 1460 Boot is 100% Polyurethane upper, 100% Cotton lining, 100% PVC sole, and 3cm Heel height. This reimagined vegan leather in a charming twist is currently sold out.

Consumers purchase accessories, clothes, and shoes that are sustainable. According to one interview of a CEO of a big fashion brand, "Vegan living has become the fastest-growing lifestyle in the world." Luxury brands like Coach, Burberry, Michael Kors among others have taken a shift in their stand towards cruelty to animals and move towards sustainable fashion.


Fast Fashion: Why it Hurts the Environment

Before this trend towards more sustainable fashion, the "Fast Fashion" trend was on top. The goal of fast is to make shopping for clothes more affordable to consumers. But this comes with a price. Fast fashion comes with environmental repercussions. The industry produces 10% of all of humanity's carbon emissions which is the second-largest consumer of water supply in the world. The industry also contributes to the pollution of the oceans because of microplastics. If you think that when it comes to fashion and clothes, the impact on the environment is small because it is less obvious, think again. Consumers worldwide buy more clothes that are cheap and new styles which takes a big toll on the environment. Statistics show that an average of 60% more garments was bought in 2014 compared to the year 2000. The fashion industry dumps 85% of its textile. It is a $2.5 trillion industry. This industry model relies on releasing new styles every month.

According to Business Insider here are some facts about fast fashion that affect the environment:

  • Clothing production has doubled since 2000
  • While people bought more garments, they are only kept for half as long
  • In Europe, fashion companies went from an average of two collections a year to five collections a year (Starting 2011)
  • Zara offers 24 collections per year while H&M offers 12-16 collections per year.
  • TOns of clothing ends up in the dump which is burned in landfills every second
  • In total, 85% of textiles go to landfills each year.
  • Washing clothes releases half a million tons of microfibers into the ocean yearly (that is equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles)
  • The production of polyester emits two to three times more carbon footprint compared to cotton. (60% of the world's fiber contain polyester)
  • 2017 report from IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) estimated that 35% of microplastics found in the ocean come from laundering of synthetic textiles.
  • According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, if the fashion industry continues on its current trajectory, its carbon emission could go as high as 26% by 2050.
  • The fashion industry is the second-largest consumer of water worldwide. (It takes 700 gallons of water to produce 1 shirt. It takes 2000 gallons of water to produce a pair of jeans)


The Slow Fashion Movement

What is slow fashion? We can define it by describing what it is not (or in contrast to Fast Fashion). Let us think about slow fashion in connection to sustainable living in general. In this case, we can define slow fashion as:

  • It slows down the shopping rate of consumers
  • It is a natural lifestyle choice
  • It is conscious and mindful
  • It is more timeless than following trends
  • It takes into consideration the long-term use
  • It considers quality of the product rather than quantity of styles - products that can last a lifetime
  • Slow fashion is holistic
  • Slow fashion is sustainable
  • It is ethical or cruelty-free that looks for connections in the whole process of manufacturing - human labor, raw material, and the environment.

The Head designer of BYEM defines slow fashion as "returning to a personal relationship with fashion. One where trends and seasons don't matter, but where your ethics and aesthetics seamlessly unite, and you can escape the stress of constant consumption, focusing on the style that truly appeals to you."

Do not be confused though with slow fashion, ethical fashion, and sustainable fashion. Understandably, there can be confusion among these terms because there is a lot of overlap among the definitions but to keep things simple here are their differences:

  1. Ethical fashion focuses on human and animal rights
  2. Sustainable Fashion focuses more on environmental impact.

Whatever the case may be, these fashion movements are directed towards painting a better picture for the world.

Sustainability in Fashion is trending now, so to speak, not because big companies are joining the bandwagon, but because of the demand of the consumer; the affordability of the end product; and the environmental impact it has produced. It is just about the right time that more and more people are embracing sustainability in the fashion industry. Ignorance of the supply chain is not an option anymore. With the click of a button, we have all the access to know the public records of these big companies who might be major polluters or human rights violators. We can make a stand against these major world issues by not supporting clothing brands.

Aside from the demand of consumers for more sustainable products, investors are now pushing towards more sustainable ideas. The recent Pitch and Plant 2020 is a global competition that seeks to fund startups who have the best presentation on how their company can promote a more sustainable lifestyle with their products.

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