Reimagined Fashion sustainability   

Reimagined Fashion sustainability


A Journey of self-reflection


For everyday fashion consumer, purchasing affordable styles is essential to maintaining a wardrobe that is in-style without breaking the bank. That was also the case for Rebecca, who made the conscious decision to better understand her relationship with fast-fashion, and individual style without being prompted to mindlessly shop. The preconceived need for the ‘latest’ trend, combined with the low prices to attain them contributes to mindless, or even addictive shopping. Fashion is fast-paced by nature and trends are constantly changing. The industry is continuously staining to offer something new to the consumer, while the consumer impatiently waits to be told what is the ‘latest ‘ must have item of the season. This is a typical quality of the fashion industry which can cause a lot of unrest and anxiety in consumers. When a shopping trip ended, Rebecca often came home feeling guilty with low levels of depressive symptoms for indulging in such a way.  With the rise of social media and online shopping Rebecca became trapped in the lure of, around-the-clock opening hours, secure payments, and consumer friendly delivery time. The dopamine hit made online shopping even more addictive with the ability to buy any product, have accesses to international brands at the touch of her hand, from the comfort of her own home. For the first time she understood the meaning of shopaholic and started to wonder what her individual aesthetic is. She started putting in the self-work required to understand her own sense of style. An exercise that led her to be more fulfilled in the choices she makes buy garments that are longer lasting, ethically made with a focus on environmental sustainability.

The first step of this process for Rebecca was taking stock of her own wardrobe. This was perhaps the most difficult revelation for Rebecca to accept, it felt her feeling regretful about amassing so many items, leaving her to question her own persona. The second step was research, in order to know how to make better choices, Rebecca felt the need to be more informed about the fashion industry at large.

Fashion is a “multi-billion-dollar industry that has been credited as the second-biggest contributor to global warming.” The production of garments is specifically harmful due to its use of harmful chemicals, copious amounts of water, and the green house gases emitted to ensure garments reach their distributors. For Rebecca it was the awareness that she had been a contributor to the damage the fashion industry has caused to this planet that was morally difficult to reconcile.

Protecting the planet is of at most importance but sustainability and fashion rarely coincide harmoniously. As Rebecca was quickly learning the further, she read. Thoughts of unethical fashion practice she is accustomed to, and the hopelessness experiences from her surrounding, it began to consume her. She was finding it hard to adopt a practical step in her life about what she could do with all the research she was doing, while various promotional signs and advertisements put out by companies and brands in the televisions, newspapers and streets billboards were demotivating for her.

Ethics and moral grounding

Nonetheless, she started to do some research. In her brief research attempting to convince herself, she found some resonance to what Vogue Business states, that, “fashion scrambles to manage the waste involved in its production processes, such initiatives (to recycle clothes) offer brands good press and potential profit.” Not only when the materials are being produced, but the aftermath of its production, such as “water-wastes and toxic substances: lead, mercury, and arsenic, e.t.c., which are extremely harmful for the aquatic life and the health of millions of people living by those rivers banks.’ Rebecca could not fathom that how much of her individuals fashion’s requirement is indirectly and gradually affecting the lives of people who are vulnerable and have no say in it, and often, are being imposed against their wills. Here is the moral consideration for one to do, who, on earth, or which mega company has ever done something so significant for this countless number of affected people across the world? And, it is more questionable when most of the textiles that is globally supplied are sourced and made in some of the most repressive countries, starting with China, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Brazil, Mexico and many more. China, being the largest textile exporters, which supplies more than 52% of world textiles, is known for its maltreatment treatment. And, very few reports or investigative journalistic pieces suggest that they do not care for the rights of labor and poor industry workers. And many other countries and manufacturer and export textiles are of the same positions when it comes to implementing any kind of decent and fair treatment for the workers. While it is excessive with the increasing rates of carbon emission to satisfy the demands of growing fashion needs, it is worst about theirs’ deliberate negligence to do anything about it . There are countless reports which founds that textiles workers are not paid properly, they are overworked, and they are not given the proper wages and respect that they deserves. The Diplomats reported that, In China, forced labor is a sensitive topic… industries rely heavily on a cheap and pliable workforce amounting to forced labor by the exploitation of a large numbers of student interns, disabled workers and children from villages and slums.” While big businesses, big companies and corporations that make tons of dollars from fashions, however, reckless routes they need to resort to in their operations, their highly-skilled experts and theirs’ experienced designers, creative thinkers and decision-makers are all very stubborn to one main objective to achieve: that is to make more and more profits. They incorporate beautiful and appealing stories on their business websites or on television advertisements about how much they are thoughtful for you, the consumers, and the environment, but in reality, their sustainable thought are not for the environment as we know. SustainYourStyle argued that,  ‘we now have 5 times more clothes than our grandparents had. It felt great until we found out what was hiding behind this trend.’ So, based on this kind and other stats and figures available before us, it is difficult to count on them that they put any sustainable effort that will produce tangible results in addressing this major issue that affects our worlds. It is fair to expect, as Rebecca continue to wonder, that these giants fashion companies will find some ways and strategies that is durable, and a better place for those who will live in this world.  Until today, all  attempts made by them have shown as to fulfil an open-secret-agenda, which is to generate profits—that is mainly what many corporation do, anyway. Despite the fact that fashion industry’s contribution toward global warming is significantly higher, they barely raise an eye brow for it in all these time. While all those sugar-coated lips service are constantly an ongoing trend, which itself became fashionable, “the environmental damage is increasing as the fashion industry continues to grows.” It is becoming more evident that many ordinary people in the developed countries, let alone people in some of impoverished nations are unaware to this untold fact that is, how fashion industry has been one of the biggest contributor to global warming and carbon emission. With Rebecca’s research and finding, she can totally resonate how her friends and families are not even concerned for this issue as they are not presented about this in the community or various avenues that they attend.   

The reimagined approach

Rebecca was annoyed by the report  released by Council of Textile and Fashion Industries of Australia, which claimed that “Australians send around $500 million worth of fashion clothing to the tip each year, yet over 95% of it can be recycled and reused.” It is not whether how larger of an impact her little practice would make, but it was her ethical obligation. She wished to be not part of that exploitative industry where her personal consumption allure her in to becoming a contributor to them.

Hence,  Rebecca’s first and foremost decision to sustainability was to stop buying any unnecessary new dresses from clothing stores, which sources their products through unethically and harsh methods from some of the third-world countries. She will only consider buying clothes that fit into her checks and query, such as buying from stores that has reputation of paying their workers, sell recycled clothing and involve in charitable acts. That is, unless the old dresses she owns become no longer useable. That, her fashion consumption must be met with ethical obligation, so she thought.

To do that, the following ethical decision were made

• She will buys less clothes so that she does not often need to recycle her clothes

• She will only buys clothes  which she can be used for long terms 

• and that she will only buy better and affordable quality dresses that will last for long time.

Skills and understanding

In the meantime, Rebecca wanted to evolve and grow an in-depth understanding about  sustainability, as she did not wish to be mocked and judged by others as a blind fool for this practice. This journey encouraged her  to befriend someone who had background, passion and study about climate change and green energy, from whom she was learning pieces and bits of sustainability education. For her, without knowing more details, it would be hard to stay on track for long time.

In the meantime, to stay truthful to the practice she chose to stick to, she knew she needed to have a set of technique and skills by her own to assist her throughout this journey. Hence, she joined in a basic sewing course for a few weeks  where she learnt how to sew, redress and fix clothes. This sewing course trained her how to sew, fix and redress her own clothing which will prevent her going to  tailor shop where she needed to spend more money. With this equipped knowledge and confidence, so had the journey to sustainability started.

Challenges and downside of this sustainable journey

Rebecca’s understanding toward sustainability was not as in-depth one, as she had liked it to be. In her journey, she lacked study and background in this field. She was unsure how an individual’s choice to sustainability would make any difference to this carbon emission or environmental sustainability.

Another downside of this practice is that, It is becoming difficult for Rebecca to resist the temptation to not buy any new fashion wear as her old dresses were often noticed, which followed by teasing and judgement by her friends and colleagues, who are already accustomed to modern’s age heavy consumption. This leads to affects her confidence. She often hesitates to go out as her out-gears are identifiable by people. It is an embarrassing feeling. At time, she felt like it was becoming challenging to hold on to it.

To buy sewing materials, redesign and re-dress old clothes are as time consuming as it was for her while she used to frequently buy new dresses. While this practice might be sustainable and cheaper but it is one that challenge one’s confidence. While redesigning is cool but it is not a fun thing.

So her renewed approach was to hold on to it as long as she could, but to make it more enjoyable, she will buy clothes from shops that sell recycled and re-usable fashion wear. In that case, she still, somehow, holds on to her practise and justify this approach to herself. 

To conclude, it must be said that, a large portion of believe that their responsibility to fashion consumption ends when they pay a decent amount of money, but unaware that it affects the environment where their children and grandchildren will have to survive in the future. It takes “1.5 trillion litres of water to produce clothing per year across the world, and 20% of industrial water pollution come from textiles and fashions, even when 2.6% of global fresh water are used to produce these materials, and that, 750 million people do not have the access to drinking water.  The significantly large number of people that are oblivion to this fact, continue to get entrapped into brand’s and companies’ tricks , where they end up buying and consuming more and more products.  It is a subconscious, yet vicious cycle where people believe their self-worth and values are are entailed in it. However, it is a sad reality that people constantly ignore that this fashion production is one big factor for global warming. It is one big practice that the entire human race is involved, however, most people do nothing to reduce this negative affect. Rebecca’s strong belief is that, everyone on the planet should take this practice as an ethical and moral obligation. They all have the same liability in reducing this heavy consumption to showcase that a better and sustainable world is possible. Everyone must consider to do little good if they can when everyone is contributing to its ruin.