Climate change. Famine. Wage stagnation. Overpopulation. These very unsexy ideas probably don’t seem like they’re immediately linked with the fashion industry – but in our modern world it’s impossible to ignore the interconnected nature of our issues.
Ethical consumerism is on the rise. Fashion lovers are becoming increasing conscious of the ethics which make up their garments, and are finding ways to figuratively wear their heart on their sleeve.
Hanging By A Thread
There’s a new crop of threads making their way to the top of fashion’s most-wanted list. Hemp, linen and bamboo were previously seen as the domain of hippies and environmentalists, but now they’re proving to be comfortable, fashionable, and much better for the planet.
Traditional crop choices for the fabrics which most popular fashion garments are constructed from (such as cotton) have been touted as being a natural option – but they are doing far more damage than their innocent image portrays. Cotton is resource intensive; it requires a hefty payload of water and irrigation, as well as chemicals and energy in order to produce the silky cotton threads which make up a weave of fabric.
Newer and less-resource hungry options such as bamboo are able to be grown without the same environmental burden, meaning that they are becoming increasingly more affordable, and more common.
From hemp shirts to bamboo underwear, there’s a brand-new way to wear the best (and most eco-conscious) threads around which will elevate your outfit from ‘everyday’ to ‘everything’.
In the mainstream media, increased focus on the impact of how our fashion-hungry habits affect the planet has led to a sharp rise in ethical consumerism, even among markets which aren’t traditionally seen as being fashion forward.
For fashionistas and influencers wanting to build their market and protect their future, this is two-fold. In order to maintain relevance in a society which places ever-greater importance on sustainability and ethics, their support for brands which don’t heed the ‘green’ message becomes contingent upon the wants and desires of their target audience.
Big brands are no longer able to simply inject an errant ‘green’ or ‘eco’ tag into their product descriptions – they’re now expected to show, and not just tell. The instant nature of social media and the research friendly modality of the internet means that any greenwash will be found – and called-out appropriately.
In order to appeal to a broader range of potential customers, existing fashion brands have created a range of in-label lines (also known as ‘parallel brands’) aimed at the increasing number of ethical consumers. These lines focus on transparent sourcing of materials, labour and supply, and are often positioned within their parent company as higher-end products.
Providing customers with better options from brands they already like (or are at least familiar with) is an excellent way to create a seamless transition from the damage of fast fashion into sustainable, ethically-aware clothing.
A Vintage Crop
What’s old is now new again. It’s well known in the fashion industry that fashion occurs in (roughly) 20 year cycles. What this means is that the revival of a trend becomes ripe once it reaches a time period of around 20 years. In fast fashion, manufacturers and retailers exploit this by marketing new versions of old clothing – usually of poor quality and lacking in durability.
Vintage / thrift / op-shops create a space for ethical consumers to recycle their old fashions, while also giving a home to pre-loved clothing which is often well-made – and back in style. Vintage stores provide fashion loving consumers the ability to ‘close the loop’, rather than entering into a new purchase with a garment made to be thrown away after only a handful of wears.
The fashion industry has begun to embrace of greener, more sustainable practices. In return, consumers are demanding action from brands, stores and manufacturers who refuse to see the writing on the wall, and are using their purchasing power to shape a better and more ethically aware future.