Why sustainable fashion matters

by Charline Catteeuw

“Is it really democratic to buy a t-shirt for $5, a pair of jeans for $20? Or are they [fast fashion brands] taking us for a ride? Because they are making us believe that we are rich and wealthy because we can buy a lot, but in fact, they’re making us poorer, and the only person who is becoming richer is the owner of the fast fashion brand.” Livia Firth

Today, the awareness about the lifestyle factors that are linked to pollution and our climate change is growing more than ever. The inconvenient truths about fast fashion and unethical practices within the fashion industry have emerged, gaining media attention and becoming topics of conversation around the world. Our planet is in danger. While oil still remains the most polluting industry in the world, the fashion industry comes in at a close second. And while the average person will think of slaves, child labour, and sweatshop factories they’ve seen glimpses of in the news, they’re only the tip of the iceberg. 

There are so many different elements of the ethical fashion industry that we could discuss, but for many of us, us who have grown up in a world of fast fashion, however unaware we may have been of that fact, the question we must first address is why ethical fashion matters in the first place. 

First and foremost, the sustainability and ethical fashion is defined by different people in different ways. Ultimately, your ethics are your own, and vary from that of other people; that’s the beauty of our humanity. But ethics matters, because our lives aren't the only ones that matter on this planet. 

Throughout history, our cultural attitudes towards fashion govern the way in which our clothes and accessories are made, sold and disposed of. It's too easy to get caught in a cycle of consumerism, buying cheap items to fill a perceived need for variety in our wardrobes, never stopping to think about why that was the case, and at what expense all of this comes. 

Although there is no simple solution to the damage caused by the fashion industry, changes in consumer habits have the power to make a difference. Choosing sustainable fashion is an important choice that we can all make to help address what is a growing and significant issue. We as consumers must recognise fashion decisions, not as an inconsequential part of our modern lifestyles that changes with every season, but as an environmental and human responsibility that could greatly affect the future of our planet. By switching the demand towards second hand or sustainably made clothing, pressure can be applied to fast fashion brands to improve their production methods.

We should bother with ethical fashion, because we’re human. The emotional and mental stress of a cotton farmer, and the conditions of garment factory workers matter. Why do we continue to support it? We want to continue existing on this beautiful planet But the rate at which we’re using resources isn’t sustainable for mother earth.

“There is no beauty in the finest cloth if it makes hunger and unhappiness.”- Mahatma Ghandi.