The concept of sustinable fashion is more of a goal than something that can be put into practice. One company, Asket, is taking a different spin on making the fashion world better by adding accountability through traceability with the spin off effect of sustainability. Asket educates consumers on the supply chain of their products so people can make informed choices about what they wear. Nobody wants to financially support the factories in China using Uighur slave labour or the factories wasting 100 billion items of clothing each year. There’s a lot of work to be done in the fashion industry so it’s good to see a company tackling issues head-on.
As always, the most fashionable choice is to reduce your consumption by wearing what you already own or buying vintage wear.
We believe itâ€™s crucial that the customer knows and understands the journey of a garment and the massive amount of resources and work that is put into them, because thatâ€™s the only way for someone to appreciate them and make sure that we turn them from disposables into investments; and that we then, in turn, actually start taking care of them and minimize our consumption.
I guess the disclaimer would be that traceability in itself doesnâ€™t mean that youâ€™re necessarily more sustainable. It just means that weâ€™re aware where itâ€™s made and how, and then you can start working on lowering your impact based on that. But of course, if youâ€™re working with traceability and disclosing that, I would say you are working more responsibly, otherwise you wouldnâ€™t put that [information] out there. If youâ€™ve got nothing to hide, then you can do that.
Capitalism works when companies pay for good and services, when companies make deals and don’t pay for what they ordered then things fall apart. This is exactly what happened last year in the fashion industry, and it was the workers who suffered the most. The owners of companies like JCPenney, Urban Outfitters, Walmart, and others had deals in place with factories to produce clothing which they should have paid for but failed to do so. These were international deals which smaller countries have a hard time enforcing (meaning the large multinationals got away with breaking the law due to their size).
Then the #PayUp movement started and campaigned against these unethical companies. By March of last year they got pledges from many companies to honour their contracts (valued at $22 billion). This money would go to pay the owners and workers of the companies originally sourced by the large multinationals. To date many of paid, but there are still a few outliers.
By the summer of 2020, #PayUp had been shared on social media millions of times. A Change.org petition, which was sent to over 200 fashion executives directly, garnered nearly 300,000 signatures calling on companies to pay for the cancellations. Behind the scenes, NGOs and activist groups like Remake, the Worker Rights Consortium and Clean Clothes Campaign moved in tandem to negotiate with brands.
This pressure was combined with direct action by workers around the world. In response to factory shutdowns that left thousands in the apparel industry without jobs, workers in Myanmar went on strike, eventually securing a wage bonus and union recognition through a two-week sit-in. In Cambodia, around one hundred workers marched to the Ministry of Labor to submit a petition requesting compensation after their factory shut down. When they werenâ€™t offered a resolution, protesters continued their march to the prime ministerâ€™s house, where they were blocked by nearly 50 police officers.
Fast fashion was once known for its fast profits, now it has the earned reputation of being fast in environmental and human destruction. With almost the entire fashion industry geared towards constant consumption, what’s an ethically minded person to do?
Thankfully Orsola de Castro has some advice for us. She’s a fashion designer who’s embraced ethical fashion and has made a great career around making and keeping good clothes. She co-founded Fashion Revolution and worked to expose the dangerous behaviour the fashion world is a part of by providing alternatives. One easy and cost-saving alternative is to just keep your clothes.
â€œSome people love rescuing pets. I started off rescuing clothes â€“ and have never stopped,â€ she says. Her design process was initially creative, not ethically driven. A eureka moment came while she was â€œclimbing mountains of rubbish in a warehouseâ€ to source holey jumpers. â€œI thought: OK, I am not just designing â€“ I am recuperating,â€ she says. â€œThere is a purpose. It is not just aesthetic, it is also profoundly moral in many ways.â€
Hide your clothes
â€œI have a game I play with myself. I hide things from myself for a long time. I put them in a bag and put it under the bed,â€ says De Castro. â€œI hide things that are not right for me, whether thatâ€™s because your body changes, your mind changes or trends change.â€ She says that, when she opens them, after about five years, she often loves them â€œbeyond descriptionâ€: â€œTwo years ago, I rediscovered a skirt â€“ I could never remember hiding it in the first place. Now I wear it incessantly.â€
A new UK-based shoe company, Allbirds, wants you to know it cares about your carbon footprint. The clothing industry alone is estimated to contribute 4% of the global greenhouse gas emissions per year, meaning the industry has a lot of room for more efficient and sustainable practices. Allbirds was founded with the goal of making sustainable shoes and to inspire the entire clothing and fashion industry to be more ecologically sustainable.
Of course, the best thing you do when it comes to fashion is to not buy new clothes and repair the ones you already one.
Allbirdsâ€™ environmental goal is to eliminate carbon emissions from its products, from the raw materials it uses to the CO2 produced by shoes as they decompose in landfill sites. Its approach is to measure its emissions, reduce its environmental impact by including recycled or natural fabrics, and then offset anything that remains.
Measuring emissions is complex because there are several processes involved in producing goods, but the company estimates the carbon footprint of an average Allbirds product is 7.6 kg CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent emissions). That equates to putting five loads of laundry through a dryer, it has calculated, and compares to 12.5 kg CO2e for the average standard sneaker, pera methodused by Allbirds based in part on anMIT studythat looked at how to reduce emissions in footwear production.
If you’re like me then you’ve stopped wearing nice clothes to work because you never leave your house for work. Us “office workers” don’t need to buy clothes because the social situation around us has changed. If you work in an environment where you physically have to be there you too can stop being clothes.
Mend!, new book by Kate Sekules explores the concept of repairing our clothes in fun ways. Yes you can fix your own clothes no matter your skills.
You love clothes, but do you know where yours came from? I donâ€™t mean Uniqlo or â€œstolen from my sister,â€ but their fundamental origins and what it all means. Clothes can be complicated creatures. They are not inert, but become unique with wear, even from the first time we take them for a ride, and then they gain in individuality with each outing. Our collections become extensions of us (â€œThat dress is so you!â€), combining in their own special, comforting ways and routinely performing magic tricks. Many of us own a results dress or lucky socks for sports, or a coat thatâ€™s gorgeous on the hanger but ghastly when worn. Clothes â€œchange our view of the world and the worldâ€™s view of us,â€ wrote Virginia Woolf. The â€œwhyâ€ of visible mending is all about that personal nature of clothes. And, while extending their lives, it also acknowledges their origins.