I wrote this for the Generator Magazine at Marist. Thought I would share it here as well.
Are most readers aware that the fashion industry is the third polluting industry in the world? Currently, the world is experiencing a cultural shift toward becoming more eco-friendly while looking for sustainable resources. The textile and fashion industries have a responsibility to be a part of this change and protect the environment. Serious environmental impacts result from the production of some fabrics, and it is vital for the textile industry to start making sustainable fibers that don’t harm the environment, while educating the retailers, the manufacturers and the consumers on why sustainable fashion is necessary.
Environmentalism and the textile industry have a huge overlap, “as waste generation is a serious issue, particularly in the United States where, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average consumer generates 4.5 pounds of waste each day” (Paulins and Hillery 118). The making of clothing has never been a green process either. The production process, from fibre to cloth, has many steps that uses large amounts of fossil fuels, energy, water and toxic substances. And the bleaching, dyeing, and finishing of the fabrics use many harsh chemicals that are bad for the environment.
Sustainability needs to be implemented, not only in the minds of the designers and manufacturers, but in the consumers as well. That’s you, kid.
Although fast fashion is a “modern marvel” it has brought with it, a loss. A loss in authenticity, quality and desire, and left with only cheap, trend-happy styles. The mass production and high demand is what makes the clothing cheaper and of low quality. People like Lee Councell in Overdressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, say that she will never pay over $45 for a blazer (Cline 11). But why? Is it really better to have 20 blazers of cheap quality, that will tear and be thrown away, or should the consumer indulge in that $250 jacket that will last them five seasons and then some? Everyone has a different story. But then again, so do the clothes.
The main problem is that the actual problem does not come from any one product or process. The fashion industry has become a robust infrastructure; however, it needs to take responsibility for how it is affecting the environment in a negative way. In order to make any real change people need to be educated. There is a stereotype that people should not pay attention to the fashion industry, when really it should be something everyone cares about. “Our fashion choices do have social outcomes and meanings…” (Cline 8). The initial change is personal, but it is also a public political issue. The fashion and textile industries must consider society, the environment and the economy in order to responsibly embrace a holistic approach to sustainability (Gwilt 22).
So what will the future of fashion look like? As technology and innovation continues to prevail, how can we be sure to instill sustainability in all of life’s practices? The answer depends on who is willing to make this inevitable and necessary refinery. Once upon a time, fashion was a way to tell a story, to show who one was. Now many people view it as something that is worthless and disposable, but it is time for a change.
Marist is taking part in that change! For those of you who don’t know, the fashion department here at Marist is undertaking the six items for six weeks Sustainability Challenge. What this means is, those who accept the challenge must choose six garments from their wardrobe and only wear those six pieces for six weeks! And if you love clothes and getting dressed everyday as much as I do, this is an extremely difficult task. But, Marist is doing it for a great reason, to raise awareness and money for Labour Behind the Label, which helps support better human rights and working conditions. We the consumers are responsible to promote a change in the fashion industry, so if you’re passionate about this cause, go online to donate now!
When Micaela Lily Albright, who calls herself “a passionate sustainable fashion advocate,” found out about the challenge, she said “there was no way I would feel right not participating, if I don’t do the challenge, who will?” Micaela is a senior Fashion Merchandising major with a minor in Business and a concentration in Business Administration. Born and raised in North Hartland, Vermont, she has always considered herself an “ethical consumer.” And now that she is only months away from graduating she told me that when it comes to a job, it is important that she works with a company whose values align with her own. I then asked her what the future of fashion will look like and she perceptively told me this: “incorporating sustainability into all aspects of fashion is the only way for the industry to survive. Just as we saw in the food movement and the higher availability of organic local foods, I believe we will see this trend in the fashion industry. Consumers have really come to care about health and what they put IN their bodies, the next step is caring about what they put ON their bodies. The skin is the largest organ in the body, why eat organic and not wear organic cotton?” And that is what it really comes down to, “to change the consumer mindset and the idea that we always need something new, when in fact we all often have excess.” Thank you Micaela, you are an inspiration to us all.
Cline, L. Elizabeth. Over-dressed The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. United States of
America: Portfolio/Penguin, 2013. Print.
Gwilt, Alison. A Practical Guide to Sustainable Fashion. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Pic,
Hartmann, Jodi. Textiles Presentation. Marist College. Donnelly, Poughkeepsie, NY. September, 2015.
Hillery, L. Jule. Paulins Anne V. Ethics in the Fashion Industry. United States of America:
Fairchild Books, 2009. Print.
Thanks for reading xox