The term ‘sustainability’ gets thrown around so much that we can’t blame you for thinking it’s a buzzword or just a nice to have. But in reality, it’s a MUST have. Why?
Well, in a nutshell… because the world can’t keep up with fast fashion anymore!
Let’s be more specific, though. Why is sustainable fashion important?
By sustainable fashion, we mean clothes and accessories made in an eco-friendly way, aiming for the lowest possible environmental footprint at every stage of the product’s lifecycle.
You probably heard of ‘ethical fashion,’ too. Traditionally, it focuses more on its humanitarian aspects (like treating garment workers fairly, guaranteeing them safe working conditions, and paying them adequate wages).
But at Project Cece, we don’t believe sustainable fashion can actually exist if it’s not also ethical.
5 reasons why sustainable fashion is important
No jargon. No empty claims. Why is sustainability important in fashion, in practice?
1. Garment workers shouldn’t be exploited or trapped in modern slavery conditions
You’d think it’s a given, wouldn’t you? And yet that’s probably NOT the reality behind your fast fashion dresses and t-shirts.
- Sweatshops and modern slavery conditions – Lots of fast fashion brands (including big household names) are still using sweatshops to keep their prices so low. Garment workers are paid peanuts and forced to accept unsafe environments and inhuman shifts. Women are often abused and harassed, too. How do these brands get away with it? Dodgy supply chains and a lack of transparency
- Child labour – From cotton production to sweatshops, that’s also still a thing in fast fashion
- It’s not getting better – Remember the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh in 203? Sadly, it killed thousands of fast fashion workers, and it wasn’t even an eye-opener. In 2023, garment workers are still in that situation, protesting to request a minimum wage, and even getting killed for it
Instead, ethical and sustainable fashion brands guarantee fair working conditions and are transparent about their supply chains.
2. Producing clothes without taking the environment into account has dreadful consequences
And unfortunately, that’s what fast fashion brands do (but they’re good at hiding it behind empty claims and greenwashing):
- ‘Bad’ fabrics – Fast fashion mostly uses cheap but problematic fabrics like traditional cotton (which requires 2,700 litres of water for a single t-shirt) and polyester (derived from petroleum and taking hundreds of years to decompose)
- Toxic chemicals and dyes – Pesticides, azo dyes, heavy metals… Fast fashion uses chemicals that are toxic for waterways and the environment (and consequently, local communities), garment workers, and consumers
- Climate change – Fast fashion fuels it in different ways (think of desertification and deforestation) but especially by being responsible for 10% of all carbon emissions
So, sustainable fashion is important because it relies on the most eco-friendly fabrics and practices.
3. Second-hand fashion isn’t always good either
It might sound like a good alternative but…
- Still wasteful – Only 20% of donated garments are actually sold in second-hand and thrift stores
- Hidden and long supply chain – Most second-hand clothes are sent for sorting to faraway or developing countries like Pakistan, Uganda and Ghana (= more carbon emissions), then to middle-man companies in Europe (= even more carbon emissions), and then sold to thrift stores (well, you get the gist)
- Not transparent – It’s virtually impossible to know the ‘story’ behind each garment. For example, was it handled by people kept in modern slavery conditions?
- Destroying local economies – These huge streams of cheap ‘dead white man’s clothes’—as they’re called in Ghana—ruin local clothing industries and craftsmanship
Some of the best sustainable fashion brands, on the other hand, produce new clothes with circularity in mind, give work to local artisans, or reduce waste by using recycled materials.
4. Fashion should NOT support colonialism
Thought fast fashion had nothing to do with it? It’s literally built on it!
- Systemic racism– The fast fashion industry relies on the Global North exploiting the Global South, and some supply chains even share the same trade routes used during European colonial exploitation. And as we’ve seen before, these practices ruin local economies. Also, 80% of all garment workers (remember, the ones trapped in modern slavery conditions?) are women of colour
- Waste colonialism and environmental racism – Millions of tonnes of clothes and textile waste are sent to Global South countries every year, including illegal dumping sites (the mountains of discarded clothes in the Atacama Desert in Chile can even be seen from space!). These countries are also the ones that pay the highest price when it comes to issues like water pollution and climate change
So, supporting ethical and sustainable fashion is important because it doesn’t rely on this harmful model.
5. Encouraging overconsumption is incredibly dangerous
The problem isn’t ‘just’ with how fast fashion clothes are made (and by whom).
- Planned obsolescence – Fast fashion clothes are literally designed to fall apart after a few wearings
- Consumerism on steroids – This industry brainwashes consumers into chasing trends, buying lots of cheap garments regularly, only wearing them a couple of times… and then discarding them
- Unsustainable waste – This business model generates 92 million tonnes of waste every year
Slow and sustainable fashion brands, on the other hand, design clothes that are timeless and made to last, and they market them as such, too.
So, why is sustainable fashion important?
Sustainable fashion is important because we just can’t keep up with fast fashion anymore.
It’s terrible for the planet, garment workers and exploited communities, and it keeps you trapped in a vicious cycle (= always needing new clothes to feel happy and worthy).
What you can do now
- Change your mindset – Stop seeing clothes as throwaway items
- Ditch fast fashion – Break free from its clutches, and fall in love with fewer (but ethical and higher-quality) clothes
- Buy and wear clothes more mindfully from now on – Reuse what you already own, get creative by remixing them into different outfits, and try to only buy clothes you can see yourself wearing at least 30 times
- Support sustainable brands – When you do need new clothes, consider getting them from companies that care about the environment and garment workers. On Project Cece, we brought hundreds of those in one place, and we added filters to simplify your choices
It’s not a buzzword: sustainable fashion is important. And you can be part of the change, too.
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