How designers are changing views in an outdated fashion industry. The fashion industry has had its controversies over the years, but things are changing like many profitable industries under scrutiny for their negative contributions to an overpopulated, polluted world.
We love discussing sustainability in fashion at STUDIO EVA D. We are happy to be part of the nascent movement toward a greener future in fashion. However, there is still a long way and a lot for designers to do to see a better future.
The fashion industry has been well-known for its limited representation. Dominated by a narrow range of models, there has always been a sense of exclusivity from people of different body types, races, genders and ages. A feeling of inadequacy and exclusion has always been rife for those who do not meet the set standards over time.
However, diversity in fashion has constantly been challenged throughout history. For example, in the 1920’s we saw an emergence of black designers in the Harlem Renaissance who embraced their African heritage and created new styles that celebrated their cultural identity.
Nowadays, it is far more common for inclusively conscious brands to cater to a broader range of body types and reject unrealistic and harmful beauty standards. There has also been a rise in the use of diverse models, including plus-size models, models with disabilities, and models of all ages and races. A great example is Gucci’s 2020 mascara campaign that featured Ellie Goldstein, an 18-year-old model with Down syndrome. Featured on Vogue Italia’s online platform, it was inspired by the theme “Unconventional Beauty” and ultimately became their “biggest liked post EVER” on Instagram.
Ninety-two million tonnes of textile waste is created every year by the fashion industry. Why? You may ask. Overproduction has become a common practice in companies based on the fast fashion business model.
How are designers changing views in an outdated fashion industry? To put things into perspective, it takes an average of 2,700 litres of wastewater to produce a single cotton t-shirt and around 7,000 litres for a pair of jeans. It is the most significant element affected by the fashion industry because of the unsustainable practices being used to produce quick and cheap materials. The use of harmful chemicals is also polluting our oceans, making a considerable contribution to global warming. Scientists even say that 71% of microplastics found in river water samples come from material fibres.
It is becoming much more common for sustainably conscious farmers and designers to work together to help curve these issues; the main one is greener agricultural methods to produce materials that need less water and are regenerative and recyclable. Designers, in the meantime, are creating multi-seasonal garments, meaning making clothes that can be worn all year round to reduce regular new collections.
You can read more about greener manufacturing practices in our blog ‘Materials for a greener future: The latest developments in sustainable material sourcing’.
Fashion is notorious for exploiting minimal workers’ rights and dangerous conditions in faraway countries. Fast fashion depends on fast production to keep up with the demand of the consumers, but there is a more critical element companies focus on… the cost.
Using countries with lower labour costs makes producing garments with a quick turnaround much cheaper. However, with low pay rates come low rates of health and safety regulations in the workplace. A prime example is The Rana Plaza disaster in Bangladesh, where a building that housed five garments collapsed, killing at least 1,132 people.
Backlashed followed many fashion brands following the disaster, it was a catalyst for change, and now companies are being far more transparent with their supply chain. As well as using much more sustainable materials, brands like Louis Vitton collaborate with NGOs like UNICEF to monitor and improve their supply chains and empower workers with the appropriate training and education.
Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles is an excellent supply chain and labour transparency example. It details the company’s every step in producing garments and helps consumers understand the products and their origins.
Collections with a message
Many designers use their platforms to promote social and political issues, but how they do it is what makes them stand out in an outdated fashion industry.
As well as using non-profits to be transparent about their supply chains, designers are developing ways to spread a message through their garments. A great example of this is Mara Hoffman’s photo series showing her spring ’17 collection featuring 25 feminists and activists who are contributing to social justice. She even featured this theme on a runway show with the goal being to inspire change and celebrate love, community, and justice.
Having messages with collections like these is not only in inspiring consumers to make sustainably conscious decisions but for other designers to do the same.
Wear what you love. Cherish it and it lasts a long time.
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