In my vision of a positive future, people aren't ruled by their need to consume. It's as simple as that. While there is a plethora of things we have at our fingertips to buy and gobble up (thanks online shopping!), this type of mindless and needless consumption of food, electronics, media, and clothes just isn't leaving us satisfied. For the most part, I believe that one of the next steps towards a more sustainable future involves engaging in more ethical and sustainable fashion practices at a societal, a corporate, and a personal level. I envision a world where everyone has access to sustainable clothes that aren't harming the environment or the people manufacturing the garments. The easiest thing to say would just be to boycott fast-fashion, but in reality it's not that simple. Fast-fashion has become rampant within our society for a number of reasons: it's cheap, it's branching a divide between high-fashion and the 'everyman', and it's trendy. Despite it being 2022 and people becoming increasingly aware how bad fast-fashion is for our planet and the people making the clothes, we can't seem to drop this habit, and I think there are two main reasons why:
Nobody wants to feel left out, and wearing a fast-fashion garment is like a badge of honour, signalling to those around you that you fit it and are "worthy". If someone decided to make the move towards wearing sustainable brands, it's likely that they're going to be visibly divided from their more 'in-style' peers (though I argue that this isn't entirely a bad thing).
Like mentioned before, fast-fashion is cheap and some people can't afford clothes from sustainable brands that are charging $50 for a t-shirt. At a certain level, fast-fashion is accessible, granting more people more access to 'trendy' clothes
Now, with fast-fashion being so alluring, how do I propose that we make a societal move towards more sustainable fashion practices? I think there needs to be a social reconstruction around the way we look at fashion and trends before any real progress can be made. As a society, we need to remember why we love fashion so much: it's a form of self expression! Sure, we probably have similar taste to those we choose to surround ourselves with, but if we all look like cookie cutter versions of each other then where's the fun in that? Choosing more sustainable brands, engaging in slow-fashion, and becoming a conscious consumer will inevitably lead to people reclaiming their individuality and likely even help people find their style. We as consumers also need to understand the value of what we're buying and the value of our dollar. Fast-fashion is so cheap because garments are being mass produced, made of cheap materials, and the people making those clothes are often severely underpaid and working in awful conditions. Sustainable fashion will be more expensive but this is a trade-off that needs to be made for ethically sourced materials and fair wages for workers. Plus if we're not consuming as much as frequently, then we'll still be spending the same amount on more ethically made clothes.
I mentioned slow-fashion and this is a major key to intervening in our fast-fashion crisis at the personal level. You don't need to buy expensive sustainable brands' products to be sustainable. I repeat, you don't need to spend lots of money to practice sustainable and mindful fashion! I recognize that many brands promoting sustainability are way out of the budget for many people and that's why slow-fashion is so great; anyone can engage in it. If that $50 t-shirt isn't cost effective for you, then you can go the route of thrifting a shirt. Alternatively, if you do buy a fast-fashion shirt, then just make sure you use it and wear it for seasons to come. Actually, any piece you're consuming, whether it be thrifted or from Zara, should come with the intention to love it and wear it until it's worn out (and then you can even repair the garment to extend it's life). This intentionality will make us chose items we love rather than buying 10+ pieces in one shopping spree which leaves us unsatisfied in the long run. Practicing mindful consumerism leads to less consumption when you realize that you don't need every new trendy piece off of Fashion Nova, Princess Polly, or Shien if you're truly happy with the clothes and style you have curated to fit your body, your needs, and your style.
Finally, at the corporate/production level, a few changes could be made (though these won't be possible without lots of lobbying for more ethical fashion practices, policy changes, and a shift in our societal perception of fashion). Slowing down production to having a four-season fashion world (rather than producing new designs 'round the clock) would lead to slower consumption on the consumer's end. The release of new lines would likely gain more traction and earn more excitement because we'd all be on edge about what's coming after the last season's release. Another shift that could be made involves transparency on the company/retailer's end. If we know where products are being made, who made them and how much they're getting paid, how many resources it took to produce an item, etc. I think we'd all look at our clothes a little differently. Additionally, enforcing stricter policies about calling your products sustainable or eco-friendly to try and limit greenwashing would greatly help people make more educated decisions about what they choose to spend their money on. Lastly, if we banned planned obsolescence within the production of garments and if more companies used better quality/more natural textiles then products would a) last longer and b) not require as many highly-processed fabrics that aren't good for our environment (either because they leech microplastics wash time you wash them, the synthesis of the textile requires many resources or produces lots of waste, etc.).
At a structural level, we as the consumer can only do so much to promote ethical fashion. We can't individually change production pathways or enforce policies that demand transparency on clothing labels. However, if we change our mindset and vocalize our collective desire for changes within the fashion industry, we just might be heard. By practicing-slow fashion and thrifting, we signal to our peers and corporations that there isn't a demand for new trends every week. By rewearing and repairing items we own, we signal that as consumers we value long-lasting clothes and create a niche in the market for more tailors, cobblers, etc. to give our garments new life. By buying locally made and sustainable brands we can shift the market to make ethical fashion more mainstream, and (hopefully) eventually drive up the market demand for sustainable goods, lowering the price of them (to a certain extent so workers are still paid a fair wage). Everything we do as individuals can collectively make a change towards a slower and more conscious fashion landscape that, personally, I'd love to be apart of. If you got this far in reading my post, thank you for sticking with it, I know this is longer than the average post on here! This is just something that I feel really passionate about and so I thank you again for letting me #UnleasValues