Sustainable Fashion — The many Contradictions

Often the word what sustainable and fashion don’t really sit together well. I have heard sustainable fashion termed both oxymoronic and a contradiction along with perhaps this is true. Is it really possible for the fashion industry to become sustainable?

The main problem with the term sustainable fashion is that ‘fashion’ is often used to describe constantly changing trends and even associated with ‘fast fashion’, the term used to describe the reduced cost or affordable clothing that is quickly built to respond to the latest trend often being worn only a couple of times before being removed. The honourable and vegan tshirts environmental ramifications of this type of clothing are well realised with valuable resources being wasted and workers in the supply archipelago being roughed up to ensure low cost clothing that is quickly produced. Despite the many negative connotations that the word fashion may have, with it as more of a general word used to describe clothing, then it is almost possible to have sustainable fashion, although perhaps not completely because the manufacture of any clothing will have some affect the surroundings even if relatively small.

With confusion even over the name of the product, it is not really surprising that most consumers are not frustrated with sustainable fashion and instead prefer just stick with the fashion brands that they know despite knowing that they often times operate in unsustainable and underhand ways. But the contradiction over the name ‘sustainable fashion’ is only inception. There are so many other contradictions and plenty of confusion associated with it.

Take for example vegan fashion. Being vegan is generally considered to an honourable and sustainable lifestyle, not only reducing the suffering caused to animals in the farming system but reducing the h2o and impact and polluting of the environment caused by farming. It may therefore come as a shock to some that vegan fashion is not necessarily the most honourable and sustainable option. Vegan shoes may be made without the use of any animal products but it does not mean they may have been manufactured in honourable industrial facilities or using sustainable materials in fact the man made materials used instead of leather are often damaging to the environment in their own way. If you want to be sure that your vegan shoes or purses are completely honourable and sustainable, you will need to search for a brand that pays awareness of all of these issues.

Next one of many contradiction and confusion surrounding sustainable fashion is the concept of honourable fashion. Many honourable fashion brands support various good causes around the world and encourage people to manufacture a sustainable income. However in order to support these great causes, it does involve buying clothes, perhaps clothes that we don’t really need or perhaps are not made from sustainable fabrics. The more we buy, the more we help these great causes but also the more we consume. Collections branded as sustainable may be made from eco-friendly fabrics but this is no guarantee they may have been manufactured in an honourable way. In this situation we are left with the struggle of deciding what is most important in terms of sustainability economic and social or environmental. Honourable fashion is often manufactured in countries distant; this is another contrast to the locally made fashion which is often considered to be more sustainable because of the environmental impact of its transportation. Resale and vintage clothing again provide a dilemma, whilst they are probably the most sustainable option, they do little to alleviate lower income around the world, although in this case shopping in charity shops could be the answer to reducing both environmental impact and supporting a worthwhile cause.

The main topic of sustainable fashion is a complex one and the confusion surrounding it is sometimes employed by brands to green wash consumers with the terms ‘eco’ and ‘sustainable’ to describe clothing or collections that might help in one way but not another. In order to combat scepticism and distrust of sustainable fashion, there needs to be a clear and easy to understand way of labelling and describing products. The word sustainable fashion is general enough to mean almost everything when employed by clever marketers causing confusion amongst consumers. The term sustainable also just doesn’t really stimulate those looking to buy fashion.

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