Sustainable Fashion – Is It Really Feasible Or Just Woke?

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sustainable fashion
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We live in a world where sustainable living is quickly becoming a priority and rightly so. Climate change, overpopulation, pollution- the list of pressing environmental issues plaguing this planet are endless and call for immediate action. Needless to say we need to be more conscious, in our roles both as consumers and suppliers. Over 8% of yearly greenhouse emissions are caused by the fashion industry and that’s not set to slow down anytime soon. However, adopting sustainable practises when it comes to shopping is easier said than done. This tends to raise the question- Is sustainable fashion really feasible and easy to adopt into our daily lives or is it just another marketing gimmick adopted by fashion houses to greenwash their marketing messaging?

The first problem that any person who wants to adopt sustainable practises when it comes to their clothing faces is where to begin. There are multiple brands- high end labels and street fashion likewise who endorse themselves to be sustainable in their manufacturing processes and consumers rarely find time to conduct a full-blown research about the brand before buying their clothes ,and arguably so. Now under such circumstances, the best place to start is your own closet. The first step towards being sustainable would be to extend the life of your existing clothes and buy fewer new clothes. It may be a cliche but the mantra  “Buy less and buy better”  might just be the first step towards your journey of being sustainable. 

    While consumers may find it difficult to research about the production processes of every fashion house out there, especially when words like “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” are thrown around without much consideration, sustainable practises of brands can be identified by just looking carefully. For example, the next time you order clothes online, pay attention to the packing done for the package. Has the company used materials like paper, biodegradable plastics, wood shavings etc which are easily recyclable or durable boxes which can be reused? If so, it’s a company who is indulging in sustainable practices until the very end of the supply chain and worth reading more about. In this way, when you find your favourite brand adopting little ways to make their practises environment-friendly, it may be worth spending some of your free time reading more about them and deciding whether or not you want to contribute to their journey. Having said that, there might be times when you are wrong about your perception about a certain brand and that is completely okay. With the use of professional social media managers and marketing analysts it is quite simple to create an illusion of something that is actually not in practise. Your way forward after learning about the false marketing practises of the brand is what matters. 

sustainable fashion
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     In today’s day and age, being “woke” is a term that is coined to a person who is aware of the social injustices and unfair practises around him and considers it his moral duty to be vocal about the same and call out people who endorse such practises. Brands and companies now understand that the best way to reach the new generation is to be ‘woke’ themselves and connect with their customers on that common ground. While some brands may genuinely make an effort to be sustainable and adopt ethical practises, some might see this as an opportunity to reach larger crowds by mere spread of words of being “conscious suppliers”. It is not a hidden fact that many of the high end brands are indulged in animal cruelty and exploitation of labour in socially backward towns and cities. Here, it becomes our responsibility to speak openly about such practises when it comes to our knowledge. Social media has benefited us in many ways, the most important advantage being access to a global audience. Those of us who find ourselves in jobs like journalism, activists and influencers, must speak openly about the unfair practises of fashion houses. 

While consumers may find it difficult to find time in their day to day busy schedules to read about brands and their ways of doing businesses, social media plays an important role in spreading the word about the same. Almost all of us scroll through Facebook, Instagram or Twitter while on our way to work or during a short break. We follow social media influencers whose content resonates with us and tend to at least give a thought to their opinions and advice in fashion and trends, if not blindly follow them. Influencers who have an audience, although small, must be conscious about the brands they work with and practises that they themselves endorse. While up and coming influencers may not find it easy to be selective when it comes to brands they work with, they can encourage sustainable habits of thrifting, upcycling clothes etc. Endorsing local brands or brands that source locally and provide employment opportunities to people of one’s own country also count as sustainable habits and contribute to the economic development of the country. 

  Circling back to the easy ways of being sustainable, another practise that can be put to use by consumers with little effort is to buy clothes that will still be fashionable in 5 years. A key issue in the fashion industry is that it is extremely seasonable. Something you buy today might look completely out of fashion a year from now. Fast fashion companies make money from fulfilling demands for the latest trends yet everything is made to a relatively low quality standard and it won’t last long and isn’t going to be in trend next year. A way around this issue is to buy clothes that will withstand the changes in trends and still look good in 5 years. This practise is an effective way of implementing the “Buy less and buy better” mantra mentioned earlier. 

 It is also important to understand here that sustainability needs to be implemented by the parties at both ends of the transaction. While consumers do their part of being conscious while making their buying decisions, businesses must also strive to make it easier for customers to make the right choice. Implementing sustainable methods into the business might be expensive and sometimes not feasible but it’s an investment worth making. Entrepreneurs must implement practises which minimise wastage from the very beginning in their offices and supply chains so that it becomes a normal way of business. Companies must continuously communicate their vision of sustainability with their employees and stakeholders.

  While we continue to live in a world where being a conscious global citizen is more important than ever, one might find it difficult to identify themselves as “woke” due to the overuse of the word leading to the same losing its true meaning. While you might struggle to call yourself “woke” here are some simple questions you can ask yourself – do you understand the problems that our world is facing today and the implications it will have on our future generations ? Do you think it is necessary to adopt environment-friendly practises and encourage others to do the same? Do you find the need to call out unfair practises and injustices caused by the Fashion and corporate giants around the world especially when it causes immense harm to the environment or a certain community of people. If your answer to these questions is affirmative then you have been ‘woke’ all along without calling yourself the same. 

While implementing the practises mentioned above in our day to day lives may require us to put in extra effort in our normal buying habits and not at all times seem feasible, what is important is to understand that the efforts put in today will lead us and our future generations towards a world which is healthy, fair and empowering. 

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