Is Fashion Sustainable?

We all know that one person who is willing to spend a little more for a red stripe on a shirt than most.

We all know that one person who is more comfortable with the idea that they look nice than with the fact that no one really looks at other people’s belts.

We all know that one person who can’t fathom the idea of wearing second hand. We all know that one person who wants to own the world of leather, satin, and polyester blends.

If we all know this person it begs the question, is fashion sustainable?

For every cotton shirt there’s a person wearing it, but is that really the case? Not really, it’s easy to walk down the multitude of clothing aisles at Walmart and see people browsing but how often is that denim jacket brought to the till. The amount of water in that one jacket that was never bought, more than 11356.24L. Eco friendly denim takes about 5556.98L to produce and then to grow the cotton necessary for the jeans it’s another 6813.7L.

It’s absolutely astounding the amount of water required for such a mundane article of clothing. Water consumption is expedited by the increasing use of fast fashion techniques. Fast fashion pushes out cheaper quality clothing at a lower price for the consumer market. There’s an increased need for more water with the increase of fashion seasons per year from as little as 2 (Summer/Spring and Fall/Winter) to as many as 50. With an increase of styles needing to be met more often and with faster demand than supply there is inevitably an increase in pollutants such as CO2 being emitted from factories, not only in poorer countries, but all across the world.

It’s easy to find hundreds of articles surrounding sex in fashion. While historically a woman’s body was used to emphasize an outfit it’s making a change in current times where equal rights are the centre of attention.

The one word to describe modern fashion scenes in recent years has been declared as intimacy by many designers as well as journalists devoting their lives to the industry. A runway show in Paris, March 2018 brought up questions surrounding the use of sex in fashion. Maybe sex was used because it makes a connection in the brain “a merging of the physical, with the emotional.” Maybe sex just sells. Is sex in fashion dead? No not entirely, however the use of scantily clad women to sell a t-shirt is not as relevant as it used to be. Maybe the industry is scared of the human body due to the recent #METOO campaign. No more can you find an add for a bra that says “Sexy”, you’re destined to find words the likes of “Empowerment”, “Woman” and “Strong” this is more than a marketing ploy to make consumers think “I’m a strong woman who can feel empowered wearing these articles of clothing.”.

It’s a way to say that the company isn’t selling you sex it’s selling you power and confidence. While nothing is inherently wrong with that in the slightest, it makes people think, where to next?

With stress on water sources and movements advocating for women’s rights it almost makes you forget about the conditions in which your favourite graphic T is made. It isn’t just the fashion industry where we are subject to sweatshop labour often involving women and children; Iqbal Masih will be a hero to children and adults alike for his protests of slave labour and unfair work conditions. However when it comes to terrifying results the fashion industry has one of the most shocking stories courtesy of Canada’s own Superstore.

Joe Fresh, the in store clothing brand for Superstore was taken under storm back in 2013 for cruel work conditions. A sweatshop in Bangladesh collapsed killing more than 1000 innocent workers. The sweatshop was ordered to evacuate by police a single day before the travesty however employers ignored their duties and sent people to work as if it were another day without paradise. It’s important to note the conditions were always less than desirable, it wasn’t just a new problem that had arose without notice, people knew there were problems, yet greed over all else won the fight.

Savar Building Collapse

When great tragedy goes unnoticed it peaks my curiosity, why do people ignore death in other countries? Is it because the deceased wasn’t a minority in which case there’s no need to talk about it to prove they aren’t prejudiced. Or is it because there isn’t a connection between the cultures. Canadians were furious at the prospect of the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) firing employees after making them train their Indian counterparts.

Yet when hundreds of people lose their life in a freak preventable accident the most that comes from it is a mere boycott. Not many Canadians have been to a sweatshop in Bangladesh so there’s no measure to understand what really goes on. We have all waited an hour in line at the bank to just to ask for a new debit card. The problem that affects us is the problem that we as Canadians, Americans or British blokes choose to focus on. In the end our needs take precedence.

We all have that friend who can’t fathom the idea of wearing the same jacket 2 days in a row. These people are often seen as annoying or arrogant but maybe they just don’t understand what their purchases are doing to the environment, or what the magazines they read say about women.

Or what if my analysis is entirely incorrect, what if these people aware of their contribution or not, are the only people who are preserving the fashion industry. We all wear clothes some obviously more than others, and it’s the more than others that the industry is supplying. They are the souls on board this flight of creativity and resource management that force the industry to be sustainable. If the fast fashion industry died out these people would have nothing to buy in turn spending their money in competing industries. It is the rich obnoxious kids of movie stars who make it possible for us the average Joe’s to go out and buy an affordable shirt when we want instead of having to let go of all our wallets dignity for that fancy pair of socks. The fashion industry will find a way to sustain itself against all odds, as long as we all know that one person who wants it too.

If we all know this person it begs the question, is fashion sustainable?

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