- Sunho Kim
What is Sustainability in Clothing?
Are you sensitive to fashion styles and changes? Do you follow the latest fashion trends? If so, how often do you go shopping to keep up with the trend? Many people like to use their spare time to go shopping. It is so much easier to shop now, especially with online shopping sites. You have access to various online shopping platforms from the comfort of your home. You can go online shopping at any time without any time restriction. Overall, the frequency of people going clothe shopping and making purchases has been increasing. Nowadays, people own more clothes, and these shopping habits have been negatively impacting our environment. It's no secret that a large percentage of global carbon emissions come from industries. The fashion industry is considered among the top industries to pollute, especially air and water. According to McKinsey & Company research, the fashion industry contributed around 4% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, emitting 2.1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas. That is a high level of carbon emissions! McKinsey & Company predicted if the fashion industry does not take intensive decarbonization initiatives soon, the number will continue to rise to 2.7 billion metric tons a year by 2030.
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Importance of Fashion
Appearance is one of the first things people take notice of others. What people wear and how they dress influence what impressions they leave on people. People use fashion as a way to explore and express themselves. They use their creativity to combine different clothing articles to enhance their presentation, which in turn helps people build confidence and self-esteem.
What is Fast Fashion?
Considering that fashion plays an essential role in our day-to-day lives, fast fashion seems to offer many benefits to people at first glance. Fast fashion is the mass production of stylish clothing, which allows people to quickly and easily access the latest trendy clothes at an affordable price. However, it encourages consumerism, which idealizes the continuous acquisition of material goods for a sense of fulfillment and happiness.
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How Fast Fashion impacts the Environment
Ellen MacArthur Foundation's 2017 findings stated that 93 billion cubic metres of water are used to manufacture textiles in a year. They also reported textile dyeing and treatment contribute to 20% of worldwide water pollution. According to United Nations Environment Programme in 2018, textiles that amount to one garbage truck are either burned in incinerators or dumped in landfill every second. In 2019, UN Environment Programme showed that 60% of clothing consists of acrylic, nylon, polyester and other synthetic fabrics.
How Fast Fashion affects Society
Besides adverse environmental impacts, fast fashion also negatively impacts society. For example, workers from the fast fashion industry suffer from exploitation. Most garment workers struggle to earn a living wage, work in unsafe environments, and experience gender inequality. According to the Fashion Transparency Index 2022, "96% of brands do not publish the number of workers in their supply chain paid a living wage."
Does giving up on Fast Fashion mean missing out on Fashion Trends?
Giving up on fast fashion does not necessarily mean you have to give up your style. There are other ways to stay true to your style and be trendy without involving yourself in fast fashion.
What is Slow Fashion?
Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion. It advocates for sustainability by encouraging people to buy clothes made of eco-friendly textiles and fabrics. Examples of eco-friendly materials include:
Unlike fast fashion, slow fashion focuses on producing high-quality clothes. The idea is to reduce consumerism by making clothes more durable so people could wear them longer. Slow fashion also supports local clothing brands.
Is Slow Fashion Cost-efficient?
Compared to fast fashion clothing, sustainable clothing is not as affordable. The raw materials used to make sustainable clothing are pricier than materials used in fast fashion clothing. In other words, good quality comes with a price. At first, it may look like people are spending more on sustainable clothing; however, if you think about it, sustainable clothing has a lower cost per wear, making it a good investment in the long run. On the other hand, fast fashion clothing lasts maybe a year due to its low-quality material, making it inevitable for people to spend money on a more frequent basis in the future.
If you want to be sustainable but find slow fashion too pricey, I recommend thrifting. People have divided opinions about thrift shopping. People are discouraged from thrifting due to the stigma surrounding it. Some people find the idea of wearing clothes previously worn by a stranger repulsive. On the other end of the spectrum are people who love thrifting. They assimilate the experience to a treasure hunt. Among the pile of clothes, people search and find clothes with great deals. Imagine finding a Guess trench coat for 20 dollars! It may not be easy since thrifting requires time and patience. Not to mention, there is no guarantee that the thrift store has decent clothes.
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Rent your Closet
Why buy clothes when you can rent them? You can adopt sustainable practices that do not involve purchasing clothes. There are multiple advantages to clothing rentals. Not only it saves people money, but also it gives people more space in their closets. For the renter, it means they can earn extra money on the side. People who like to try different styles can try various clothes without making commitments. Unlike thrifting, people can save time and stay trendy with clothing rentals.
As previously mentioned, people use fashion as a way to express themselves. By integrating sustainable clothing into your style, you reflect your personal values related to sustainability. Not only will you look great, but you will also feel great for making a choice that helps reduce your carbon footprint. Wearing sustainable clothing encourages others to join what will be the next major trend.