April 24 is observed as ‘Fashion Revolution Day’, and the week of the same date is known as ‘Fashion Revolution Week’. Fashion Revolution is a global movement calling for greater ethics, sustainability and transparency in the fashion industry. Fashion Revolution Day commemorates the anniversary of the2013 Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh, when nearly 1133 people died and over 2500 were injured. These were the victims of an industry dominated by large global corporate groups and their sponsored media who encourage a dream lifestyle of selfishness, apathy, superficiality and greed to a growing worldwide audience.
Fast fashion is an industry which provides the latest fashion at low prices. It is an industry that thrives on planned obsolescence, ignorance and waste. It promotes the increase in consumer’s demand for buying more and more by creating a culture of fast changing trends. To keep up with the insatiable need for buying more and more, the consumer chooses to buy cheaper products, thus compromising on the quality, with a view that he or she doesn’t need it to last as the trend will change soon. This creates a cycle in which one buys more, discards more, either because the trend has changed, or the piece of clothing bought is so poorly made that it falls apart in no time.
The fashion industry as a whole is one of the largest industries in the world, employing one sixth of the world’s population. But it is also the second most polluting industry in the world. It uses more water than any other industry apart from agriculture. Statistics have suggested that up to 20,000 litres of water can be consumed to produce a single pair of jeans. It discharges chemicals into the environment, uses huge amounts of energy and is a major contributor to global warming.
Fashion is indeed a massive human, social and environmental disgrace in need of a paradigm shift. The need of the hour is to create a holistic way to minimize waste and make people embrace sustainability in their regular lifestyle.
Conscious fashion doesn’t only mean that the fabric has to be organic, but also the techniques applied in creating the garment has to be ethical. If you want to make a difference in your clothing, adopt a few small changes.
Choose natural fibres like cotton, linen, silk, wool and jute.They decompose faster. One way of reducing the price of a fast fashion item is by increasing the percentage of cheaper artificial fibres in the fabric. These fibres are not only uncomfortable for the wearer, but are harmful to the earth when they end up in landfills at the end of their lifecycle.
Choose natural dyes as opposed to chemical dyes that pollute the earth and cause harm to human and animal health. The textile industry generates toxic waste, including bleach and sulphuric dyes that are directly dumped into nearby rivers.
Choose organic cotton. It keeps the soil fertile and the absence of chemical pesticides means that it doesn’t harm human health. You may even prevent a farmer suicide as the cost of GMO seeds is 4 to 10 times higher than native cotton seeds; they’re sterile and require the use of pesticides which are also expensive.
Choose handloom fabrics, handcrafts and hand embroidery. You would be contributing to the income of an artisan and his family and supporting a craft. Many textiles and crafts are on the brink of extinction in India. The onus is on the consumer to support these crafts and sustain traditions.
Choose to up-cycle and recycle clothing. Not only will you be giving your clothes a second life, you will also be minimizing wastage.
Find out who made your clothes. The fast fashion industry has sustained due to the lack of information to the consumer about how and where the garments have been made. If the consumer really saw this, the demand for cheap clothing wouldn’t be there. The fast fashion industry is based on unacceptable labour laws of the underdeveloped countries. In these areas, to be able to compete and quote lesser prices than the neighbouring countries, they are forced to compromise on the working conditions and wages of the workers. They are further burdened with late delivery charges, in which the buyer can deduct a minimum of 5 per cent for each week’s delay. Research the brand you wear, follow them on social media and learn about their company policies.
Yves Saint Laurent said, “Fashion fades, style is eternal.” Rather than focusing on changing trends and fashions, it is more important to adopt sustainability and stay stylish.
Ninoshka Alvares-Delaney is a fashion designer and is available at www.ninoshka.co.in