Bettering our sustainable and ethical approach to the world has been an intense topic of discussion amongst the entirety of our society in recent years, and it has become our responsibility to figure out how our personal life changes can make a positive impact on these issues; one way individuals have chosen to act on this is through fashion.
It is widely known that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries, paralleled with others, such as fuel and agricultural industries. Particularly where fast fashion is concerned, the production of garments make up 10% of the worlds carbon emissions. Because of this, customers have started to consider alternative ways to shop in order to lessen their negative impact on the world. Whether this be through shopping with more sustainably minded brands, buying second hand, or even renting clothes for one time, special occasions.
There is no argument that both companies and consumers need to work innovatively to minimise the environmental impact the garment industry is having. However, when it comes to the ethics of the industry, the conversation is slightly more difficult and complex.
Exploitation of garment workers
Regarding the ethicality of the industry, there are obviously major issues surrounding the exploitation of its garment workers. With the increasing rate of globalisation, many companies have expanded their production to varying locations across the world, where labour is much cheaper, and lead times are faster, which allows these brands to produce garments quickly and at a cheaper price point.
Most of you have probably heard of the tragic Rana Plaza accident that occurred in 2013, which was a result of the above issues, and resultantly shifted a major spotlight onto brands that were allowing their workers to operate in these conditions. Despite this, garment workers still continue to live in poverty due to this exploitation, and this is not expected to change any time soon, with the popularity of fast-fashion still increasing to this day.
The small benefit of fast fashion
This is a major issue, and one we must proactively look to stop. However, we also cannot ignore the benefit of the inexpensiveness of fast fashion. It is also widely known that poverty and low-income households are an issue that hits close to home too. At present, with the cost of living increasing, there is still an extraordinary amount of individuals earning a low-income wage, making it more difficult for them to meet the demands of the cost of living.
In this case, it is obvious where the benefits of fast fashion lie. Although it is ideal that we all purchase with sustainable and ethical brands, the price point at which they set their products is certainly not accessible for all. Because of its low price point, fast-fashion allows all consumers to have access to the latest trends, and basic necessities that they might otherwise not be able to afford.
There are probably thousands of people who wish that they could afford to purchase from ethical and sustainable brands, but their payslip simply does not allow it, and that’s not their fault; why should they have to spend half of their wage on a t-shirt when that money is arguably more valuable elsewhere?
What brands need to do
This is ultimately the catch twenty-two that consumers deal with on a regular basis, and it is something, as previously mentioned, that is out of the consumers’ control. This is where we can look towards brands with an ethical and sustainable background for help. If they could look to still produce their goods ethically and sustainably, but at a slightly more affordable price point, it would be much easier to convert individuals over to sustainable purchasing.
A good example of this, is the brand TALA. A sustainable athleisure brand whose core values centre around sustainability and ethics, they also price their clothes competitively with fast-fashion athleisure prices. In doing this, they are providing consumers with a best of both worlds’ situation, whereby they can shop both ethically and affordably.
Through matching the price points of fast fashion retailers they are giving customers no excuse but to shop with them. If you had two jumpers that looked the same, and priced similarly, would you not want to purchase from the brand producing it sustainably and ethically? It’s a no brainer.
It is this type of strategy that other sustainable brands should look to implement if they want more people to convert to ethical and sustainable shopping. At this point, fast fashion is still too easily accessible for the masses, and provides a great deal of convenience in everyday life, and sustainable brands must work harder to make this way of shopping the mainstream.