Ethical Fashion 2023: A Promising Trend or Just Propaganda?
With the recent push for more ethical fashion alternatives, many wonder what this fashion really means. This topic can be challenging to navigate with the rise of “greenwashing,” meaning a business’ attempt to appear environmentally conscious instead of actually being environmentally conscious. Not to say that it can be confusing to choose from so many “sustainable” labels on the market.
It’s important to understand what makes a brand ethical in an era where environmental consciousness is a well-implemented and widely adopted perception. Terms like “fair fashion,” “cruelty-free fashion,” and “vegan fashion” have become increasingly overused and misused. Probably, anyone dreams of a world where the fashion industry is cruelty-free, fair, and sustainable, but it’s equally essential not to transform these terms into marketing terms.
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Second-hand fashion is on the rise, which can only benefit customers, business owners, and the environment. Customers have a wider range of options at affordable prices, helping businesses shift from selling only brand-new items to embracing second-hand to make money while boosting their sustainability credentials.
Rental is another not-so-new idea, very common in the men’s formal wear sector, while thrift shops have been the go-to for second-hand wares. Nevertheless, technology enables these ideas to occur more quickly and widely. The involvement of individuals with fashion experience can make them appeal to a style-conscious audience.
The current fashion trend, especially the post-Covid one since it’s the pandemic that brought many changes and shifts in more industries other than fashion, is seeing a seismic shift in people’s relationship with their style and wardrobe. But to be ethical, it needs to be a relationship where clothes become a resource instead of waste, which requires a more responsible attitude from consumers.
One should think twice before throwing money at a piece of clothing that has consumed a lot of energy, water, labour, and other essential resources to be produced. Some items can be used long-term, so you must pay attention to the quality before purchasing them—for example, shoes or pajamas. You don’t wear a pair of sneakers and then forget them at the bottom of the closet, as you do with your summer dress, just like you probably don’t do with your pajamas. Next time you get some bamboo pajamas for women, ensure they’re qualitative and comfy and that you’ll enjoy wearing them daily. It will save you money and the effort of decluttering a closet full of unnecessary, out-of-fashion clothes and will contribute to ethical fashion efforts.
Understanding the desire to belong
Clothing is an essential human need. It’s not rocket science that consumption grows with global population figures, just as it shouldn’t be surprising that they tap into deeper human needs, like self-esteem and the desire to belong.
The human need to belong is manifested externally by wearing similar items to a category that the individual resonates with. This grows self-esteem and self-appreciation and can also be a form of self-expression and creativity. The fashion industry can manipulate these needs, which is why production has skyrocketed, especially in the last few years.
Changes in technology and the geopolitical landscape have also supported this growth. In the 80s and 90s, Western fashion brands started to offshore their products to Asia, where manufacturing and labour costs were cheaper, resulting in more affordable clothes and, consequently, more purchases. Customers became more tolerant of low-quality clothing as it was easier to replace them at a low cost. With the advent of internet shopping, fashion enthusiasts were given a wider range of options, and the rise of smartphones and social media in the 2010s has offered a 24/7 marketing machine for advertising brand products.
Between 2000 and 2014, global clothing production doubled, and the average person purchased 60% more clothes by the end of that period. Collections are now renewed at a significantly accelerated pace; fashion clothes offer new lines weekly instead of releasing two collections a year like they used to.
This unprecedented increase in manufacturing has put enormous strain on cotton, the land and water necessary to grow it, and the fossil fuels used in polyester. These, in turn, led to accelerated carbon emissions and more waste in the supply chain and at the end-of-life stage.
Jeans for rent
Here’s another, more virtuous solution that reimagines the way products from the textile industry are produced and consumed. Clothing recycling is easy to implement, assuming the infrastructure for collecting and redistributing or transforming used clothes into new ones is improved.
As such, brands that use recycled materials for repurposing them run their own take-back schemes for clothes and accessories. An innovative idea can be the leasing model, where businesses allow customers to pay a monthly fee over a specific period for their jeans, making high-quality, sustainable-made clothing more affordable.
Finally, customers can choose to keep these products, return them, or start leasing a new pair, helping satisfy the desire for a new fashion fix. The pairs of jeans returned can be recycled into new ones, being further sold or leased again and keeping the business thriving.
Cruelty-free and vegan fashion
Finally, the concept of cruelty-free and vegan fashion is well-rooted. It’s a widely known fact that the apparel and global textile industries kill animals for skins, fur, leather, etc., contributing to global warming and polluting the environment with toxic chemicals. Fortunately, customers become more aware, partly due to self-consciousness and persistent efforts from animal rights organizations. They understand that there are alternatives to the once-stylish items and that fashion can be animal-free and still be high-quality and luxurious.
It’s time to eliminate animal-derived materials from your wardrobe. If you care about your impact on animals, know that there are many vegan options regarding fashion, and you won’t have to compromise your style or quality. Vegan fashion has never been more popular—for animals, the planet, and for your health. So why wear anything else?
The organic food movement is glorious and highly encouraged. Now it’s time for ethical fashion to be just as widespread if the world really wants to see a difference.