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IS SUSTAINABLE AND ETHICAL TREND THE PROSPECT OF FASHION?
Table of Contents
The world is changing on a regular basis, and so are the trends in fashion. The United Kingdom has emerged as the fashion hub of the world with all the bigger brands opening a business there along with the introduction of new talents on a regular basis. However, this expansion can be carried on in the future if the fashion industry in the UK decides to opt for ethical aspects in fashion world and create sustainable fashion items. It will not only help with the conservation of the environment but also give the industry a boost to work better in the future, and that is what has been discussed in details.
Fashion can simply be stated as a style, which is popular and involves clothing, makeup, hair, accessories, lifestyle, and footwear. The concept of fashion although was introduced centuries ago, the notions related to the global industry of fashion was developed in the contemporary world. Therefore, this paper deals with notions of ethical, ecological as well as sustainable fashion, which will mark a new beginning of fashion in the modern world and continue doing so in the future.
Fashion can be termed as something, which enhances the style of a human being. There are many aspects related to the term, fashion, and these aspects are vital for the survival and the growth of the fashion industry in the United Kingdom as well as the world. Concepts of new and improved fashion trends are emerging as each day passes. However, the industry dealing with fashion has to follow some rules that are prevalent for all fashion related technician in the world (Maynard, 2004). The two most important terms related to the world of fashion in the present world are sustainability and ethical clothing.
Ethical fashion is a simple concept, which covers a wide range of aspects like ethical designing of the fashionable item, ethical retailing, ethical production, as well as ethical notions of purchasing. It includes important issues like the working conditions of the workers in the fashion industry, the conduct of fair-trading, exploitation, sustainable production, and development of environment and finally welfare of animals (Maynard, 2004). Sustainable fashion, on the other hand, promises the use of eco-friendly materials like crop fibers growing sustainably for clothing or the use of recycled resources. It looks over the manufacturing of fiber and aims to make a system that will provide indefinite support regarding impact by humans on nature and their social responsibility.
Ethical fashion and the trend, which it creates and follows, tend to do the right thing for the society and the environment, for the employees working in the fashion industry as well as the consumers who buy the fashion items or apparels (Paulins and Hillery, 2009). The designers and industrialists related to the fashion world are making it their mission to change the effect and the impact of fashion on the earth and the workers making the clothes. The consumers too are spending the money of goods, which are ethical and convey messages that are fair for the workers employing their best efforts to produce the items, which people buy (Paulins and Hillery, 2009). Like the growth and popularity of organic food or organic goods, the need and demand for ethical as well as sustainable items of fashion are growing as well. It helps the present world to have certain benefits, which will be carried on in the future and bring about better results. These benefits are:
- Fast fashion is the way of the fashion industry now, and in that place, slow fashion has to be advocated (Allwood et al. 2006). Slow fashion popularizes principles, which are significant for ethical purposes like producing items of good quality, which will help keep the environment clean and safe. These items will be providing fair outcomes to the workers and the consumers as well. The manufacturing and the shipping units will not leave toxic chemicals and wastes in tons, which creates problem in a life cycle. In addition, companies will stop leaving carbon footprints, which are unethical (Minney, 2016).
- The amount of water used to produce a simple pair of jeans and one t-shirt is almost 5000 gallons, which is more than what average human drinking in a year. The crisis of water is a significant problem, which is looming on the face of the earth and is a matter of concern for all the people living on this planet, as water is the single most valuable thing for life to survive on planet earth besides oxygen (Fletcher, 2014). World Economic Forum declared that the scarcity of water is going to be the global risk prevailing in the ten years to come. Therefore, following ethical standards the recent fashion industries can adapt sustainable tolls of using less water, which will keep the company alive when water is scarce and expensive as well.
- The fashion industry faces a lot of criticism about its employees and workers who work day and night to manufacture fashion related items (Black, 2008). The industry and various companies promoting fashion most of the time fails to provide fair wages of living and safe as well as the secure condition of working for the employees. The factory collapses occurred in the year 2013 in Bangladesh is a prominent example of this cause, which ethical standards of fashion can help to change. Consumers care about their goods as well as the way in which they were produced (Paulins and Hillery, 2009). Therefore, providing fair remuneration and building policies, which are ethical will help sell the goods better.
Figure 1: Bangladesh factory collapse: Heartbreak of the disaster orphans (Source- mirror.co.uk)
While ethical fashion is important, sustainability is significant as well for the present industry of fashion so that it can survive in the future years (Gwilt and Rissanen, 2010). Companies and big brands like H&M, Veja, Reformation, Amur, and even Gucci are trying their best for the production of sustainable items. Banning the use of furs is a trend already as is the use of leather, which requires poaching of animals. Terms like ‘green’ and ‘eco’ have gained much importance in the world of luxury items as well. Using organic cotton, fibres that have been recycled and hemp, to make clothes of style are growing fast (Gwilt and Rissanen, 2010).
Figure 2: Chanel Bans Fur and Exotic Skins (Source- peta.org) [Online Image]
The reason why sustainability is to be considered a trend of the future is:
- The world of fashion has a significant link with the environment and nature. The fashion industry is huge and has multiple chains of supply, which involves agriculture, manufacturing, marketing, retailing, designing, laundry, as well as recycling (Allwood et al. 2006). It is easy to conclude that it uses various chemicals, pesticides, and manual labour too in its processes, which affects the environment. Sustainability can help solve these issues.
- Consumers are accepting slow and organic food, and therefore, they will readily accept slow and organic fashion to help the environment to sustain (Minney, 2016). They expect transparency, and that is what the brands are aiming to provide in the recent times.
- The community as a whole needs to combine the energy collectively for the notorious industry that is adaptable and innovative and then use it to create a fair and sustainable world (Fletcher, 2014).
- The change in the climate along with the increase in the population wills changes the demographics of the global economy to a huge extent. Therefore, the fashion industry has to change as well to sustain itself in the world where resources are scarce, and land is allotted to harvest food, not fiber (Fletcher, 2014).
The environmental concerns and ethical issues, which involve the standards in fashion, especially in the United Kingdom or UK includes animal cruelty, child labor, water consumption, health and safety risks to name a few. Less use of toxic materials, and subsequent reduction of greenhouse gases are few solutions which can help in mitigating the effects of unethical or non-eco friendly fashion. In fashion industry, the raging problem has always been use of sweatshop-free clothing, which means less use of human labor, which is mostly done by children under 15 years under inhuman conditions, and not getting proper food and sleep. Working under unhygienic conditions, and use of non-biodegradable materials are considered illegal and non-ethical for the fashion industry.
Using animal products like leather, fur, and bones from animals like cow, alligator, deer, tiger, leopard should be banned totally because animals are slaughtered cruelly under inhuman conditions to create designer bags, boots, coats and even hats and scarves. Animal activists from all over the world have been voicing their opinions against such practices, and encouraging governments of each nation whether it is developed and developing, to not engage in such practices. Low wages is another ethical issue that has been plaguing the fashion industry since its very inception. Most fashion industries, whether big or small, pay very low wages to their workers and not provide them overtime bonus. Such issues should be addressed as early as possible to ensure the employees do not get disappointed and dissent can be controlled (Nicholls and Opal, 2005). Consumption of water needs to be reduced in fashion industry, because the fashion and textile industry uses several gallons of water sometimes six to seven billion gallons, which is the reason water has been in much crisis. The reducing groundwater table and water reservoirs like ponds, lakes, rivers drying up to reveal only silt and stone speak about the seriousness that needs to taken into account to protect our water resources (Nicholls and Opal, 2005).
Figure 3: Impact of fashion industry on environment
(Source: Ellenmacarthurfoundation.org, 2017)
There are certain brands in UK that believe in promoting ethical products and they have a range of ethical fashion products that are cruelty free, and are eco-friendly as well as have a low carbon footprint which means they do not affect the environment in a negative way (Fletcher, K., 2011).
Some of the brands are as follows:
- Beaumont Organic – Based in Manchester and is known for contemporary, conscious, and ethical clothing.
- Bibico- Ethically manufactured clothing using simple design and natural style.
- Community clothing- This Company manufactures simple fashion for men and women, as well as eco-friendly denims.
- Birdsong- Exclusively designs and creates clothes for women, which
- Cossac- Contemporary design and organically made clothes.
- Henri London- The clothes of this company are made from natural cotton, and they excel in making women’s shirts.
- I and Me – This fashion brand collaborates with textile mills from Japan to create durable clothes from organic material.
- Creation 26- A brand known for its design and production that follows sustainability and ethicality.
- Gung Ho- Specialty of this brand is having an obscure design within the main cloth material.
- Idioma- Minimalistic design, organic raw material, and a fusion of culture and tradition from all over the world is the USP of this brand (Walker, 2006).
- Isabelle Fox- Inspired from the history of UK fashion, this brand is known to make one of the best women’s apparel, and give their unique touch to every dress.
- Ninety Percent- This brand is creates women’s apparel from materials that do not have any negative impact on the environment.
- Outsider Fashion- This brand believes in recycling clothes that have been lying unused for a long time in our wardrobe.
- People Tree- One of the oldest ethical fashion brands in UK, People Tree have been making accessories and apparels since 20 years.
- The White T-shirt Company- As the name suggests, this brand excels in creating the perfect white t-shirt for both men and women from the best quality organic cotton.
Figure 4: Sustainable Fashion Brand Use Behaviour
(Source: Priority, 2015)
Fashion is the second major industry, which affects the environment after the Oil Industry. There is a need to mitigate or at least lessen the effects of fashion industry on the environment because the environment is already bearing a lot due to global warming, pollution, improper disposal of waste materials, and other human activities.
Sustainable fashion and ethical fashion, although used together are separate terms. It might be that a fashion brand may engage in sustainable production and designing of apparel, but the way it has been made does not comply with ethical standards of fashion (Forum for the Future, 2007). This means that a brand might involve child labour, or animal cruelty, workers exploitation, etc. Fashion Industry impacts thrice with water pollution, water consumption, and carbon footprint. According to the Ethical Fashion Forum, about three-fourth of the global apparel export are done in unsafe and unhygienic conditions. Fashion industry is known to manufacture in “Sweatshops” which is a term for workplaces or factories, which have non-permissible working atmosphere (Anders & Jacob, 2015).
Therefore, there is a need to make a framework for the ethicality in fashion industry so that both the environment and the social factors do not get affected adversely. There are few external actors, who can help in removing the unethical practices of the fashion industry. They are- market regulators, designers, suppliers, workers, producers, marketers, consumers, supply regulators, media.
All these nine actors influence the decisions of each other as they are inter-related to the fashion industry and therefore any problem, if arises related to any particular brand that is against ethical standards may prove detrimental to the reputation of that brand (Anders & Jacob, 2015). Consumers are directly affected by fashion disasters such as using chemicals in fabrics, tightly made jeans and shape wear, pointed heels in shoes, etc. therefore it is to be seen that the consumers make right choices, and opt for affordable brands which follow ethical and sustainable frameworks while creating fashion apparels inspired by contemporary trends (Thorpe, 2007).
Figure 5: Nine actors who influence fashion decisions
(Source: Anders & Jacob, 2015)
Modern technologies and unconventional trade models change the taste in ethical fashion. It also helps to steer the upcoming fashion that follows sustainability in their runway.
The movement to renewable resource
Several materials recently recommended three intertwine challenges represented by the industry of fashion. Such challenges are scarcity of resources, insufficient recyclability as well as the certainty regarding costs are supposed to increase for a few vestal raw substance (Gwilt, 2015). The supply of certain fiber, which is water-intensive, has been put in restricted supply due to decreasing water level. The rate of tax collection on fossil fuels has been increased (Walker and Giard, 2013). The cost of polyester materials has increased now. Reuse of some existing materials or those materials that are on processing seem to have great lifecycle. The fiber like Lyocell is prepared from wood pulp, which is used in recent times by many industries like Potagonia as well as Banana Republic because it has less effect on environment. However, the costs of the lyocell product have increased.
Figure 6: Sustainable clothing materials
(Source- Globalstewards.org, 2019)
Many fashion designers and fashion brands are working on the advice stated by Dame Viviene Westwood. She provided a mantra on fashion that is to create limitation in purchasing things by choosing well which last long.
In the view of the Action Plan of WRAP’s, the effect of companies on carbon, wastes and water in the chain of supply of fashion products has been reduces by 3% (Walker and Giard, 2013). This happens because of creating clothes that last for three months. The ethics of making enduring design is begun to take place in spite of creating fashions that does not last for a month or a week (Gwilt, 2015). This help to encourage in making items that are attractable by the people who love, follow, and have demand for using it. Some brands like Nike, Vans and so on provide offer through online to create our self-offerings. Such trends built a strong position in market by implementing modern technologies, unique ideas and by creating 3D graphics. Customized design has become recent trends in footwear companies.
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