We’ve all heard the phrase “Fashion Faux Pas,” but in this case, is the Faux Pas worse than the exterior?
“That’s a Fashion Faux Pas,” is a phrase we’ve often heard in many tv shows and magazines. Although in this context a “Faux Pas” is referring to an embarrassing mistake made in a social context, the fashion world might have committed an even bigger one. Have we all participated in something that we may never come back from?
Recently, the conversation around fast fashion has been very apparent throughout the media. The unjust working conditions in many fast fashion factories have been brought to light, highlighting the moral implications of the industry.
Conversely, the sustainable fashion industry is becoming more of a popular choice, as their products are not only environmentally friendly but made in fair conditions.
Here’s where the trilemma is presented: Is fast fashion a good choice, is sustainable fashion the better choice, or is there a neutral perspective?
To get first-hand information on the sustainable fashion perspective, we interviewed Dea Baker, founder of Aqua & Rock, a sustainable fashion brand based in the UK.
They sell womenswear, accessories, footwear, and interiors. The company has been selling its products throughout Europe, and are right now, planning on expanding into other global markets. The company, founded on January 27, 2019, has been growing rapidly over recent months.
The Pro-Sustainable Fashion Perspective:
Sustainable fashion, as defined in the Oxford American College Dictionary, is “a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice.”
The creation of sustainable clothing has been present in our society for nearly half a century. It started from two popular apparel companies known as Patagonia and Esprit in the 1980s. These two companies started to notice the negative impacts fast fashion clothing had on our environment and decided to change their method of manufacturing to a more sustainable manner. Lately, many more prominent brands such as Levi’s, Reformation, and Everlane have started to gradually alter their methods of manufacturing, starting to sell several sustainable products.
A simple definition of fast fashion is mass-market retailers who rapidly-produce trendy and cheap clothing (H&M, Gap, Forever21, Macy’s, Shein, etc.). Although well-loved, these stores are dangerous towards the environment due to the carbon footprint left by the production and disposal of their apparel. According to Healthy Human Life, the process produces 10% of all greenhouse emissions, 20% of all wastewater, and requires more energy than the airline and shipping industries combined. Additionally, the toxic dye and chemicals used, contaminate water-related ecosystems.
In addition to being an environmental danger, some fast fashion brands are known to
violate human rights. Many of these brands have factories located in countries like Vietnam, India, and Bangladesh. A majority of these factories have unsanitary and illegal working conditions with their employees working long hours with little pay. For example, in Bangladesh, the average worker receives pay of only $0.13 per hour.
Unlike these popular brands, sustainable fashion is environmentally-friendly and a far more ethical route.
An average t-shirt scores 56-82 on The Hick’s Measurement, which measures the amount of pollution made through production. A t-shirt from Aqua and Rock scores 8, because of their yarn, production, and packaging.
Since Aqua & Rock is part of the circular economy, they practice what they preach: “Exploiting others and the environment is not the way to go” (as said by Aqua & Rock CEO, Dea Baker). From using recyclable cotton, and producing all of their products with 100% organic material, they believe that every company should produce sustainable clothing, while caring about their packaging, and workers. Since the production of such products involves great consideration, time, and money to manufacture, their clothing is leaning on the expensive side. In addition, their manufacturing plants are located in Scotland and England (with materials from Spain, Austria, Italy, Turkey, and Egypt).
Conclusively, Baker ends the interview stating, “There is no planet B, so we should start saving the only planet we have now. We should start considering what we eat and wear. We should think about our future, our kids, and future generations.”
The Pro-Fast Fashion Perspective:
Fast fashion is often brought into a negative light due to the downsides that are portrayed in the media. However, there are apparent benefits of fast fashion that should be acknowledged.
Due to the swiftness of the industry, an individual has the opportunity to try different styles and trends in a short period of time. Because of this, fast fashion’s goal doesn’t get boring, repetitive, old, or outdated to the customers, frequently exercising the quota “change is good”.
Another benefit to fast fashion is that it is usually inexpensive and, therefore, affordable to the average person. Due to this, the average person can have more clothes that are diverse in style and function. Fast fashion’s affordability also makes their clothes easy to donate to those in need, as people can make big contributions without having to spend as much.
In 2014, Zara and H&M, prominent clothing chains in the fast fashion industry, came together to vouch for wage increases for Cambodian workers. Due to their support, the workers’ wages were increased from $80 a month to $170 within a few years. H&M also stated that they could increase clothing prices to increase the workers’ wages.
Zara, H&M, Forever 21, and Urban Outfitters are all fast fashion apparel chains that are most likely local to the average person living in the United States. There is no doubt that these stores are more accessible than sustainable brands, as well as being affordable. However, you do need to consider that fast fashion is cheap because it is cheaply made.
The Neutral perspective:
So what do we do now?
Both fast fashion and sustainable fashion have their drawbacks and benefits. Even though fast fashion can be cheap, up to date, and more accessible, it is not entirely environmentally friendly and could be linked to unethical issues such as bad working conditions for laborers. On the contrary, sustainable fashion can be trusted for its ethical way of production, while having the disadvantage of being expensive, and not as commonly found as fast fashion brands.
However, you can help alter these circumstances.
As Dea Baker, pointed out, “sustainable fashion IS expensive BUT [they] are getting better and cheaper as times change” and we as individuals can be part of this change. If more people turn to sustainable brands, it won’t be long until the majority of the public starts following this method as well.
If you are hesitant due to the reason that you don’t know where to purchase these sustainable clothes, you can rest assured, since there are many databases out there that can link you directly to sustainable brands sold near you.
Project Cece is a database that links shoppers from the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK to sustainable brands available in their countries. If you are from any of these countries feel free to check out this database: https://projectcece.com/
Additionally, Dea Baker has also confirmed that her sustainable brand, Aqua & Rock, will soon be making its appearance in the Curate International Collection, aka Curateic, which is an exclusive fashion show that showcases brands worldwide.
Furthermore, she explained during our interview, “A sustainable brand should be every company. Whatever we do and whatever we produce should not damage the environment or exploit people. So being sustainable in my view, means not just making environmentally friendly clothes, it also means to pay fair wages, looking after workers, it also means we care about the packaging.”
For now, if you become one of the first in your family or your friend circle to start purchasing sustainable clothing, others around you are likely to adjust to sustainable fashion and it will become a long and continuous chain. Eventually, there will come a time when sustainable fashion is the only kind of fashion that is voguish, ethical, and inexpensive.
It’s your choice. Are you willing to give up your usual fashion choices in favor of saving our planet?