Fashion is a fickle friend, what is trending today could be tomorrow’s joke. This perspective of how fashion is highly disposable has fueled the industry for many years and made it into a monster of highly unsustainable habits that it is today. There are demands from various environmental agencies appealing for consideration to the environment, stating that the fashion industry contributes massively to “greenhouse gases, water and air pollution, [creates] problematic levels of waste…” and yet it continues to be revered by all.
Sustainable fashion was to be the answer to excess waste and the initiative saw a slight increase in attention last year, but has taken a nose-dive in 2019. People just don’t care anymore, as long as they get to be a part of this culture of consumerism, perpetuated by social media, models, celebrities and their own friends.
While consumers have tried to get fashion brands to be more eco-conscious and responsible, it is not a movement that is felt strongly enough to get the brands to make a conscientious effort. Certain brands have recycling initiatives, such as H&M, Uniqlo. Zara has also promised to sell only sustainable clothing by 2025, which is encouraging. They are currently looking into making the materials they use (cotton, polyester, linen) to be organic, sustainable or recycled. They will also begin adding recycle bins to their stores to encourage and “fund” their recycling efforts with products which would otherwise be sent to the landfill.
Plastic bags will also be eliminated by the fashion chain in 2020, following in the footsteps of many retailers who have chosen to use paper bags instead. Aside from that, greenhouse emissions from the fashion industry are also a very big threat to the environment, it has been estimated that the industry produces as many greenhouse emissions as all the planes in the world. Instead of manufacturing more handbags, Mulberry is looking into upcycling old bags to give him additional value.
The UK parliament is trying to impose a green tax on fashion to “end the throwaway culture”. According to a report released by the parliament, the business “creates 1m tonnes of waste each year” and it is responsible for more “carbon emissions than aviation and shipping combined”. Retailers should be forced to take responsibility for the waste that they are generating and pay for recycling efforts.
With that underway, MPs are also encouraging schools to offer classes to their students that includes mending garments and cut back on textile waste and foster the value of garments in their student’s minds. Being hands on and learning how to DIY might be able to mend the damaging throwaway culture that many have. Teenagers often wear an outfit once for Instagram and it is never seen again. By knowing how to repurpose old clothes, they could upcycle old apparel with custom embroidery or giving it a “facelift” so it is trendy again.
Celebrities have also gotten on this bandwagon, with Kim Kardarshian (the reality tv star) and Meghan Markle (duchess of Sussex) wearing vintage gowns to various high-profile events. This has struck a chord with the general public, breathing new life into the culture of thrifting and buying secondhand.
In 2018, only 64% of female consumers were interested in purchasing pre-owned items but that is a significant rise in the statistics reported in 2016 where only a mere 45% were keen. The number is projected to grow by 2028 with at least 13% of all women’s closets made up of secondhand items. Vintage will no longer just be found in thrift stores, but carried by major brands like H&M – a campaign that is still in the works. Reports are hopeful that these trends will lie nicely with the culture of social media where it is cool to be original and unique, rather than wearing what everyone else is wearing.
Renting clothes have also been struggling to make a break in the fashion industry, with very little success. Aside from wedding gowns and dinner apparel which might be a bit pricey for some individuals to afford, there does not seem to be much appeal in renting everyday clothes.
These efforts are commendable and perhaps it is time for fashion brands to take initiative, rather than wait for the masses to lead this movement. The world belongs to everyone, therefore that does not mean that fashion houses have to wait for consumers to begin boycotting them to make a change. When the environment is unable to sustain our fast-paced product-crazy trend-chasing world, what will become of fashion then? When it comes down to survival and fashion, there will be no question which will prevail. Much like the age old debate of the theory of value: water versus diamond. When the conditions are right and stable, diamond will always be more valuable, but when push comes to shove and the world is in disarray, the diamond miner will find himself in possession of worthless shiny rocks.