The fashion sector and its businesses have long been in a chase for sustainability. According to The Fashion Law, the industry’s consumed water will reach 118 billion cubic meters. The carbon footprint will grow up to 2,791 million tons, and the produced waste will be around 148 million tons.
The dilemma of producing sustainable clothing, shoes, and accessories threw businesses in fashion into a pinch on how they will produce affordable products to meet the demands of the social media-driven consumers. According to a previously cited source, the fashion industry, emphasizing fast fashion brands, produces trendy low-cost designs in huge quantities that target the masses. To the satisfaction of these businesses, the consumers are fueled by their desire to follow trends they see on social media to alleviate the fear of missing out.
The question arising from the current producer and seller dynamics then poses a question. Is there a way to turn the fashion business sustainable? With its many products that use various materials, how can it be transitioned to something sustainable?
What is sustainable fashion?
The Greendreamer defined sustainable fashion as the design, manufacturing, distribution, and use of fashion items such as clothing, accessories, and shoes in ways that would not harm the environment. The term is related to the conscious consumers’ term, “ethical fashion.” On the other hand, ethical fashion refers to the production of fashion products without disregarding social welfare and workers’ rights.
The production of sustainable fashion takes into account both environmental and socioeconomic aspects. Ideally, the creation and subsequent sale should not be the only two steps in making fashion a sustainable industry. The process should include improvements in all stages of every single product’s life cycle. In making sustainable products, there should be environmentally and socially aware processes involved in designing, raw material procurement, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing, final sale. Following the final sale, the use, reuse, repair, remake, and recycling should also be parts of the product’s life cycle.
The responsibility of businesses should not end after making the final sale to its consumers. The production of sustainable items should be where it starts and should be succeeded by the clients being made aware of proper usage and recycling methods that can be done on the products they purchased.
What is the consumer’s role in making fashion sustainable?
As mentioned previously, the fashion industry is not the sole entity in making itself a sustainable industry. The responsibility lies upon consumers as well. After the final sale, they will be the ones handling the products for various uses. They should be accountable for the proper recycling of items based on the producers’ instructions.
For one, the coronavirus pandemic has brought popularity to reusing fashion items to be used as face masks that people are mandated to wear. This method of protective face mask production might not be the most ideal for protecting oneself and others from the virus. However, it still has chances of reducing transmission and waste production.
Another example of proper consumer usage of fashion items is reusing products made from materials without effective or inexpensive recycling methods. The gel-like colored wristbands are good examples. The silicone wristbands are made from the popular material used in everything-from sealants to contact lenses. According to Earth911.com, proper recycling of the gel wristbands is nearly impossible.
However, according to the same source, the consumer-sided reusability of the wristbands makes the unavailability of recycling methods less of a problem.
Who should be responsible?
All in all, the responsibility of making the fashion industry environmentally and socially sustainable falls on both the producers and consumers of fashion items. This includes almost every single human being wearing clothes or accessories. Businesses should delve deeper into developing sustainable ways and materials for production and should be responsible for giving their customers awareness from proper usage to recycling. On the other hand, clients should be responsible for following the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use and get rid of the products they purchased.
The fashion industry’s bumpy journey to sustainability is not foreign to other industries that work to meet consumers’ unstoppable demand. Traversing the road to sustainability is also daunting a task for other industries, such as real estate, transportation, and agricultural industries. These are all industries that cater to the public’s needs. Yet, this does not equate to consumers reducing demand, which can continue to rise despite the current situation.
It is the market and its industries that generate demand, making proper research, production, and marketing to promote sustainability the responsibility of producers.