Fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry, but when we think of sustainability and fashion, there’s a wide market gap
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As consumers and retailers, we need to understand that we are a part of a circular economy. If you think of sustainability, its foundation is based on 3P’s: People, Planet, and Profit. It is important to strike a balance between these three.
Fashion has been rated as one of the most polluting industries.
As consumers, we need to be forward-thinking and take initiatives to make a change in our shopping style today in order to transition from fast fashion to sustainable slow fashion.
Have you read? How To Put The Brakes On Fast Fashion: A beginner’s mini-guide to conscious fashion consumerism
Chart shows fast fashion vs sustainable fashion interest over time. Source: Google Trends
Let's dive in a little into these three elements and take a closer look at related aspects to produce one cotton t-shirt, which is definitely a part of most of our wardrobe.
With the origin of the high revolution Fast Fashion, the industry has become more about fast production without taking into account the cost of this fast pace. Drawing a parallel with fast food, anything fast definitely cuts corners to make production and gain market advantage. In the process of the creation of a t-shirt, a lot of emphasis is placed on the operational experience. It is vital that all the workers that are involved throughout the lifecycle of the product are treated fairly. We have heard a lot of complaints regarding unregulated health, safety, and wage standards under which garments are produced. This kind of carelessness has lead to tragedy, such as the collapse of Rana Plaza. To bring down the price of a basic t-shirt, manufacturers bring down operational costs.
We are in an era of economic liberalization, which has led to the manufacturing process being spread out in parts of the world where labor costs are low. This has caused a proliferation of labor needs creating more job opportunities. What needs to be taken into account is the operational process adopted in these countries. Manufacturers need to keep a close look at the working conditions, working hours, and not to be running these setups as sweatshops. It is good to own a t-shirt, which has helped someone in a remote part of the world to make an earning by working on it. Efforts need to be made to make this operation chain as fair and fun as it is for the companies and the consumers. Fairtrade needs to become a part of all brands to ensure that they are not exploiting cheap labor in any part of the world.
Statistically, 40% of all clothes in one’s closet are not worn on a regular basis. These items after being bought sit in the closet for the longest time and gradually are discarded. When we talk about how sustainability initiatives by us affect the planet, it is important to consider two aspects.
Firstly, it is important to consider the fabric. A lot of designers are becoming more conscious and preferring to use eco-friendly materials for designing clothes. As consumers, some of these materials that you can look out for are hemp, organic cotton, recycled polyester, etc.
Secondly, After a piece of garment has gone through the shelf life in one’s wardrobe how we choose to discard it is important. The shelf life of a t-shirt can vary from a week to months or several years based on usage, material, and maintenance. Once we have gone through it there are several options to choose from. We can donate used clothes. Another option is to recycle clothes and make some bucks doing so. There are several options to sell your used clothing. If Apps is not your thing, another easy option is to look for a local consignment/thrift store in the area. Either of these three options prevents your t-shirt from landing in a landfill. If you are wondering what is the big deal about landfill you should know it leads to emissions of toxic gases such as methane, which jeopardizes our environment. As savvy consumers, we should try to ensure we don't contribute to landfill waste.
As with any business all fashion retailers are interested in their products helping them make some money. Sustainable initiatives are seen to be an expensive endeavor. As retailers and consumers, we both have to understand the value proposition a sustainable t-shirt has over a regular t-shirt.
Brand development and customer loyalty can be achieved by building brand transparency. We are living in a time where we see there is an ascension of ethical fashion. If the companies are able to educate the consumers on the value provided by the ethical steps the company adopts to create a t-shirt that costs $15 versus $5 as consumers we will be appreciative of the brand and this could lead to brand loyalty. Mere transparency in such initiatives could lead to user acquisition cost going down. Good corporate citizenship can be translated into revenue.
Operational costs are a big chunk of costs incurred by retailers. These costs can be kept down not by compromising on fabric selection or working conditions but to ensure the packaging choice and marketing initiatives are made minimalistic and sustainable. Social advertising is better than going towards traditional billboards and newspaper media. For packaging, it is great if retailers opt for recycled material. They should avoid extra material usage with each packaging as well.
Inventory control is another big issue, which if dealt with properly could lead to profit. We have seen this production trend in a lot of new companies where the emphasis is laid on quantity over quality. This leads to less wastage of material. If there is a surplus it is a good idea to recycle this inventory for the next season rather than discarding it.
Other than these initiatives, it is great for companies to adopt socially responsible methods such as having a one-to-one model e.g in TOMS and Warby Parker for some selected products, or invest in some carbon offset options as well. Conclusion
As fashionable and socially conscious citizens first step is for all of us to know our closet. Next, think about the lifecycle of each product. We should try to move away from the fast-fashion trap of affordable clothing, which leads to mindless consumption of trends that we did not need in the first place. At Thread Channel, we plan to showcase daily trends, which will help you understand fashion better and make better shopping decisions. We strive to be a sustainable fashion App with all trends giving you the option of buying it from recycled sources.
Learn More There are several more great resources out there that are worth checking out to get to understand a lot more about the challenges and how we all need to reconsider our shopping styles.
Tips for Conscious Consumerism
Clevercare info: A quick guide that helps you maintain your clothes in an efficient way.
The Higg Index: A tool that measures the supply chain efficiency of a piece of garment.
Read The Label: It is a good idea to always check the fabric used. Check for recycled material and type of dye used.
Fair Labor Association: Make sure your favorite brands are a part of this association guaranteeing you your t-shirt is made by a happy seamstress.