What we choose to wear has become a topic of fierce debate over the past decade. Thanks to documentaries such as The True Cost, which shone a light on the devastating Rana Plaza tragedy and global movements such as Fashion Revolution, which campaign for greater transparency in the fashion industry, we as consumers are now more informed than ever about the impact our choice of clothing has on the planet, people and animals.
So where did it all go wrong?
Well, fingers are firmly pointed at fast fashion, aka the mass production of clothing, which is made as cheaply as possible and is essentially designed not to last. In fact, the problem is now so out of control that the UN has stated that the fashion industry consumes more energy than the aviation and shipping industries combined. And things aren’t slowing down. According to the 2015 Pulse of Fashion report, fashion emissions are expected to
grow by 63% by 2030.
The answer, we hope, is slow fashion, which is a movement that carefully considers the processes, resources and social impacts required to make clothing. Inevitably, this approach focuses on the sustainable principles of the fashion industry, from energy emissions, chemical usage, working conditions and animal cruelty.
But isn’t the concept of sustainable fashion a contradiction? How can something that is designed to change season-to-season also be built to last? The truth is, it’s very difficult as consumers to determine the true sustainability of fashion. There are so many stages of the supply chain to consider, from sourcing raw materials to shipping and packaging. For example, clothing made from recycled plastic may seem like a great way to reduce our impact, but did you know that one wash load of polyester clothing can release 700,000 microplastic fibres? This can cause pollution in our water streams, impacting our health and wildlife.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, it’s difficult not to leave an event like Bare Fashion with a spring in your step. The London-based event was packed with young and exciting brands helping to redefine what fashion is all about. There’s an alternative emerging when it comes to fashion and there’s now an increasing number of brands, often independent, which are leading the way in slow, sustainable and cruelty-free clothing.
Take ETHCS as an example, a vegan clothing brand on a mission to reduce the ever-increasing impact of clothing on the planet. “If a consumer has the option to choose an item that has no negative effect on the planet, then we’re heading in the right direction for a sustainable future in fashion,” Bob, founder and owner of ETHCS, told us.
While it’s important to demand changes in the system, we can also make smart decisions and support brands which align with our ethics. We decided to go vegan because we wanted to have a positive impact on the planet. We still have a way to go when it comes to living sustainably and we’re also in a position of privilege to choose what products we want to buy. But that means we’re also in a position to put a break on supporting fast-fashion brands that no longer share the same values as we do. In other words, it’s time we redefine what fashion means to us.
Roxy Pope and Ben Pook are the founders of So Vegan, one of the world’s largest vegan recipe platforms with over 1 million followers.