Time to change the model to get true sustainable fashion

There has been a flurry of news in recent weeks concentrating on how the fashion industry is working towards improving its approach to sustainability.

All great stuff, particularly the Sustainable Apparel Coalition that has joined forces with a host of organisations and businesses to promote the Apparel Impact Institute initiative which sees the sharing of knowledge and resources to overcome the challenges of reducing environmental and social impacts. This initiative focuses on industry collaboration, identifying small pilot projects with the potential to scale up at a later date. The first projects concentrate on mill improvement, tackling energy, water and chemical use, with future programmes looking at closed-loop recycling and worker well-being.

Similarly, the True Fashion Collective has industry collaboration at its centre, aiming to bridge the gap between niche sustainable fashion enthusiasts and the mainstream audience to keep sustainability at the forefront. It promotes the need for everyone across the supply chain, from designers, manufacturers, retailers and the consumer to all play their part in creating a more sustainable environment.

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Sustainable practices need to be introduced across the whole process

Despite these and other initiatives that are being launched, there is still the problem with the economic model that forms the bedrock of the fashion world, as well as other consumer goods. Advertising and promotions bombard us daily telling us we need to buy, buy, buy. All too often many products can be purchased for a cheap price, will get worn a couple of times, only surviving one or two washes before they are discarded, usually into landfill. No thought to those who made the clothes in the first place or how well they are being paid, how well they are being treated in the workplace.

And we’re none the happier for it.

The True Fashion Collective does acknowledge the need for us to consume less, wash clothes less and love our wardrobes more citing a Nielsen report detailing the power that we as consumers have. In a report from 2015 it found that 66% of global consumers were willing to pay more for sustainable brands, and that figure rises to 73% for global millennials.

But should it be just down to the consumer? Changing the mindset needs to evolve across the board. As consumers we should be able to buy sustainable products without thinking about it, at price points available to all. If the industry is to truly collaborate designers and manufacturers should be looking at ways to reduce their environmental and social impacts within their processes. Without this the term sustainable fashion is a contradiction in terms.

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