Can fashion be truly sustainable? This is a question that the guests of the conference “Recycle fashion” of the annual Anthropologies of Fashion seminar tried to answer. It was organized last February by the EHESS (School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences).
In the table of this event, Gwenn-Anne Alexander, a lawyer in environmental law, Adele Rinck the body of ECO-TLC textile and Dominique Bourg, philosopher, a specialist in environmental issues; have expressed their opinions and interpretations on recyclability in the harsh fashion world. So is fashion sustainable?
“We all know it here, the most polluting industry, after that of fossil fuels, is the fashion industry.” This is how Anne-Gwenn Alexandre started her presentation. For several years now, ethical fashion has questioned and wanted to be an alternative to the excesses of fast fashion. First, there is the human impact of this destructive fashion. It has repeatedly claimed the lives of precarious workers in this industry. But there is also an equally disastrous environmental impact.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE FASHION?
In recent years, today, even more, we hear a lot of new terms of fashion. Such as ethical fashion, responsible fashion, fair fashion, sustainable fashion, eco mode, slow mode…! But what do they mean? How to find it? Marketing arguments or real commitment?
Today we are trying to point to understand and give you our definition of sustainable fashion. Moreover, why is sustainable fashion important? Let’s try it differently: what can make fashion “sustainable”?
- The materials used?
- Production processes?
- The durability and resistance of the products?
- The life cycle of clothing?
- The working conditions of the people who worked on their conception?
When the protection of the environment is at the heart of all concerns, fashion is no exception to the rule. This sector is changing and is now experiencing an orientation towards ecological production. If the trend attracts many designers, efforts leading to this transformation are not always visible.
Bethany Williams, a fashion enthusiast
British Bethany Williams has always lived in the fashion world. This is what allowed him to realize the amount of waste and pollution created by this industry. If before she did not see herself becoming a designer, her interest in the environment inspired her to create trendy and ecological clothes. His first orientation was for the fine arts. It is then that she followed her studies at the London College of Fashion. This is also part of what this course has made a collection in order to graduate. Through this line for men, Bethany Williams wanted to highlight her desire to bring a change in social terms through sustainable fashion trends.
The working conditions of workers in the textile chain are essential in the context of ethical production. This includes, of course, the payment of decent wages, but also compliance with the laws governing working hours. Plant health inevitably comes into play in this category. The 2012 disaster, which made the Rana Plazza in Bangladesh infamous, is a perfect example. Finally, respect for human rights. It may seem obvious, but far too many children still work illegally in the textile sector, which is why it is important to be extra vigilant on this point.
Let’s talk about it! The first thing would be to favor natural and not synthetic materials. The second time, two schools are detached. On the one hand, some prefer the fibers little hungry water, such as linen, hemp…! On the other hand, some choose a healthier growing method: organic, for example.
Depending on the materials used, the manufacturing process, etc. The clothes do not have the same resistance to time. So yes! The quality of the raw materials is essential. Nevertheless, somewhere, would we not be ourselves actors of the durability of our clothes? When do we choose to use a particular product, wash at low or high temperature, or use the dryer or not? So a garment that is resistant and well maintained is more durable since it will last longer!
There are many ways to provide a more ethical and sustainable production. It can just as well go through the choice of products, toxic or not. That we use for dyeing clothes as by how the discharged water is treated. But one could also imagine an eco-managed factory, for example! Equipped with solar panels, water collector, green roof, low-energy bulbs, etc.
THE CYCLE OF LIFE
You know that little t-shirt that you only put on once and that hangs around the back of your wardrobe? You know, these pants you threw because the zipper was broken? This shirt is not quite up to date. And finally, this coat that you bought new and that will only make you one winter?
Don’t panic, don’t feel guilty! The 4R rule is there to help you! Four simple words:
- Reduce: by merely buying less
- Recycle: by donating your clothes for example
- Reuse: in rags or why not even with a little skill, by customizing it
- Repair: yourself or your local retoucher to support the local economy.
Finally, buy smart and think of thrift stores! Used clothing is an extension of the life cycle of a garment.
The psychological price, or acceptability
What is the “psychological” or “acceptability” price? This is the price that is willing to pay the client. It is situated between minimum prices “reassure” the customer on the potential quality of the product. And between the maximum prices at which the customer feels cheated.
Today, we spend hundreds of dollars on a smartphone or a bed. Why? Because unconsciously, these prices correspond to the norm on the market; due to the brand or quality “perceived”. If tomorrow our super smartphone could cost $50, we would be shocked to see more than $900.
Conversely, we are used to finding clothes at low prices. The quality and perceived value of a garment are minimal. “This is just a piece of cloth,” compared to an electronic object, for example, seems more complex to create. And yet, before being a t-shirt, it was necessary to cultivate cotton. Harvest it, process it, transform it into the fiber, weave it, dye it, cut it, sew it, add its fashion details, pack it and transport it several times, over the intermediaries…! Finally, a lot of work for a “piece of fabric”.
Finally, the last aspect that we wanted to mention is the choice made by certain brands to support associations by donating part of their sales. They thus contribute directly to the development and deployment of the actions of these organizations by making a lasting commitment alongside them.
By digging our heads a bit, these’re all the lines of thinking that we were able to identify. Of course, this list is far from exhaustive! Everyone has their definition of ethics. The logic behind this thinking could be summed up as “1 is better than 0”. Yes, the action is better than nothing. So, it’s important to give priority to the work of those who’ve chosen the right direction. There’re more and more brands and creators who want to produce more ethically by focusing on some of these points.
Significance of Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable fashion is arising as a new subject. It is a popular subject of concern among scholars, practitioners, and buyers. It has the potential to empower the heart of satisfaction by making more conscious choices. It has also the ability to fulfill our egocentric and self-sacrificing needs. A sustainable fashion is crucial for both micro and macro perceptive.
From the macro perceptive, all the members in this landscape see sustainable fashion from a well-organized point of view. In this view, suppliers, manufacturers, regulators, and consumers work together in collaboration towards a higher level of welfare. Whereas, the micro view considers what activities and actions will guide us towards sustainable fashion.
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