Sustainable fashion is a philosophy and process of promoting change to the fashion industry and individual fashion items toward greater environmental responsibility and social justice. Sustainable fashion aims more than simply addressing fashion textile or accessories. It includes addressing the entire fashion system. Fashion systems are the cultural and institutional patterns of purchasing, manufacturing, marketing and consumption of fashion items.
One of the most important aspects of sustainable fashion is avoiding the use of chemicals in the production of fabrics and clothing. Compounds used in the production of fabrics like nylon, rayon and viscose are considered harmful because they may cause cancer and are known carcinogens. These compounds are derived from trees that are not only used for their timber but are also used as byproducts to be converted into cloth. Tencel is an example of a textile that is derived from wool that is processed with chemicals. As a result, the fabric we wear may cause health problems later on.
Many companies have gone on record to state that they are going green and will work towards reducing the chemicals that are being used in the making of their products. A sustainable fashion ethos demands that a manufacturer look beyond the brand name and provide customers with products that are made from renewable resources and that adhere to the principles of fair trade. Some companies have gone to the extent of asking members of their brand teams to wear organic t shirts for a day so that the actual wearer becomes familiar with the concept. The idea is to create awareness among customers about the importance of sustainable fashion to consumers and to encourage people to patronize brands that have this kind of thinking.
For some fashion brands that do not conform to this ideal, sustainability has become an additional revenue stream and many of them have released lines of clothes and accessories that are made from sustainable materials like cotton, hemp, recycled materials, bamboo and fruit fibers. Bamboo, for example is grown mainly for its fibre and it is considered one of the most expensive raw materials in the world. However, the fibre from bamboo is used extensively in the production of baby clothes, shampoos, soaps and beauty products. Other brands that have released lines of clothes that are made from recycled materials include J Lo, Lacoste, Armani and Dolce and Gabbana.
These brands have taken the initiative to ensure that workers working for them have paid fair wages and have adequate social and health security. They also use ethical packaging and labels for their products. Their campaigns to promote sustainable fashion do not amount to anything more than an expression of their conscience. Most consumers feel compelled to purchase clothing items from these brands because of their position on animal rights and their commitment towards creating fair wages and decent working conditions.
There is no doubt that ethical fashion will continue to grow and become a force in the fashion industry. Brands that choose to use recycled materials and fair wages in their production will be perceived as more reputable and their customers will be able to tell the difference. This will encourage other major fashion brands to adopt similar practices and hopefully we will see a downward trend in greenhouse gas emissions.