After becoming more aware of the reality behind clothing production within the fashion industry, I have realised the current way people consume is unsustainable. People unknowingly support unethical practices by shopping with companies who do not have enough policies in place to ensure their social and environmental impact is sustainable and fair. It’s something, as consumers, we usually do not think about. When was the last time you asked what conditions your clothes were made under, or what the environmental impact of making your clothing was? Clothing is so accessible and affordable within western society that there is no need for shoppers to think about these issues, but I’m here to explain why we should.
Apart from the label within garments indicating where it was made, we receive no other information about the production process when buying clothing. If you did have more information about the origin of your clothes, do you think you would shop differently? For instance, if you knew your clothing was made in a sweat shop under unethical conditions, where workers are paid poorly and must endure tediously long shifts, would you change your mind and shop elsewhere? Through reading, research and educating myself (because most brands don’t make it easy!) about how clothes are made I have decided to change my consumption patterns, trying to make more ethical choices and supporting companies that want to make a change.
There are countless issues surrounding the production of clothing; it amazes me that these unethical practices have been allowed to continue. The fashion industry is the second biggest polluting industry in the world after oil (1). Around eighty billion garments are produced each year (2), which seems a colossal amount. Tragic disasters such as the 2013 collapse of the Rana Plaza building, a garment factory in Bangladesh, where 1,138 people died and another 2,500 were injured (3), are not uncommon. What will it take to change the way we consume clothing?
In my opinion, it is down to individuals to make a different choice. Small actions can make a change, and as more people become exposed to the realities of the fashion industry brands will be forced to change, making way for a more ethical and sustainable industry in the future.
I have compiled a small list of sources of information that helped me start to understand the fashion industry and the importance of ethical and sustainable fashion.
Fashion revolution have a great, easy to use website that provides information about the garment workers who make of our clothes, they want to change “the way our clothes are sourced, produced and consumed”. Their Fanzine, if you don’t mind investing £10.50, is an informative read, presenting key issues and facts in a fun way, whilst portraying an important message. There is also information about brands within their Fashion Transparency Index, which can help you make more informed choices when choosing who to shop with.
Huffington Post have a sustainable fashion section on their website, they post interesting articles about what’s happening in the world of sustainable fashion that are good if you want a quick read.
- To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World? By Lucy Siegle
Lucy Siegle’s thought provoking book explores the impact of the fashion industry, including its social, economic and environmental impact. It is very thorough, providing lots of information in an engaging way to educate the reader about the many issues surrounding fast fashion.
My last suggestion is to start researching more about the brands you currently shop with. Do they have a section on their website about how their clothes are sourced and made? Does it include any of their ethical policies? It is interesting to see which brands have information regarding this issue.
An example of this is the ‘Monki Cares’ section of the Monki website, who are owned by the H&M group. If consumers demand information about their clothes, I hope that it will eventually be provided by all brands, enabling people to make informed decisions when shopping.
Understanding the issue of conscious consumption requires constant research and discoveries. However, I believe we can change the fashion industry for the better through small changes in our everyday consumption. Through becoming more informed and making conscious decisions we can have an affect on how our clothes are made. After all, without consumers, there would be no fashion industry.
(1) The True Cost documentary, available on Netflix UK.
(2) To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out The World? By Lucy Siegle