The importance of conscious and sustainable fashion in the world today
Behind the clothes that we purchase, there is a vast, rapidly working chain of production moving at maximum speed to match the needs of today’s consumers. Even though it generates an immense quantity of chemical waste, over 300,000 tons of these garments are thrown away after minimal use. Worldwide, only about 20% of garments are recycled each year. This is only but a trivial amount in comparison to worldwide production. It is foreseen that this number will increase by 4% each year until 2025.
Since the 1990’s, fast fashion has changed the mode of production in the textile industry. Large chains made consumers accustomed to new collections each week at a very low price. This change has created an imbalance in the labor, financial, and environmental fields throughout the world. Garment production has become fast and cheap.
The manufacturing has been relocated to third world countries where labor is cheap and worker’s rights and adequate working conditions are non-existent. A textile worker in a developing country earns approximately 2 to 3 dollars a day. There is a high price to pay for mass consumption in the fashion industry, not so much for the consumer but mostly for the workers who manufacture the garments.
These days it is very easy to find inexpensive clothes. In most cases, the price for the consumer does not correspond to the real cost of the garment. The following are needed to produce any article of clothing:
- When taking into account the cultivation of cotton, dying and washing, etc., vast amounts of water, roughly 2,900 liters, are used to manufacture the average t-shirt. Nearly 30% of the water that is used is left contaminated.
- Pesticides for large cotton farms.
- Chemically derived detergents and blocking agents used to wash the cotton.
- Dyes and softeners.
- Health and wellness of the people that manufacture the garments.
CO2 emissions due to the production and transport of garments as well as the extensive amounts of highly toxic chemicals used for processing textiles such as chromium, phthalate and antimony are also part of the footprint.
How can we change the production model?
From cotton to waste
A clothing line starts with the planting of the source material, such as cotton, linen, jute, or bamboo; then harvesting and production of textile; later on, comes tailoring, transport, use and disposal.
The pesticides used to process the raw material –dyes and other chemical products– end up in rivers, oceans and landfills. The environmental costs of mass clothing production are immense for both producers and consumers alike.
But materials such as cotton and wool are recyclable and biodegradable. Many textiles can be reused and are degradable by means of natural components, like sun, water, bacteria, plants and animals.
Synthetic materials like polyester and nylon can be recycled but are not completely biodegradable, which leads to minute particles of fiber and chemicals ending up in oceans.
What is sustainable fashion?
Sustainable fashion is born from the union of environmental conservation and the pace of modern consumption. From a social standpoint, sustainable fashion wants to awaken in the consumer a more inquisitive and conscious attitude that would lead to more conscious consumption practices.
Also known as eco or air fashion, sustainable fashion strives to minimize and eradicate its environmental impact. For this reason, it favors garments of great durability and prolonged use.
Less polluting methods are applied when producing sustainable fashion, for example:
- The use of natural dyes and adhesives of low toxicity are implemented to lower ocean and subterranean water pollution.
- The use of eco-friendly knits and organic fibers, using less water and less chemicals in production.
- The re-utilization of knits and other previously used and discarded materials.
- A focus on producing long lasting and timeless garments.
What is conscious fashion?
The debate over conscious fashion has intensified in the last few years following the 2013 collapse of Rano Plaza, a building that housed a textile factory in Bangladesh, causing the death of over 400 people. The building had large visible cracks which were ignored in order to not interrupt production. Many big-name brands in western fast fashion manufactured their clothes in this facility.
Sustainable fashion focuses on production practices in the textile industry, and conscious fashion is manifested through the consumer and their awareness of the environmental and social impact of the product. The consumer of conscious fashion seeks to find a garment that lasts a long time, has a significance and provokes dialogue. This kind of consumer will not discard the garment quickly and wants to know more about the way it was manufactured, working conditions, the type of knit and its components, as well as its future use or disposal.
The consumer is a transforming agent on society depending on their consumption practices
The first step to becoming a conscious consumer is analyzing our own wardrobe and keeping only what we really use.
The clothes that we do not use can be donated, sent to second hand shops, resale websites or clothing rental stores.
When in need of a new article, we should opt for sustainable brands or for pieces that are long lasting and timeless.
A conscious purchase requires information.
Fashion should be a conscious decision since what we buy and, more importantly, what we throw away is not a personal decision: we all share this planet and its limited natural resources.
Lobao Studio’s work in fashion strives for respectful labor relationships and promotes the return of traditional craftsmanship while continuing to research new trends, textiles and designers. To know more, click here.
(cover photo ©AndrejLisakov)