When buying clothes it can be all too easy to forget about the environment. Pretty new styles and cheap prices can quickly make you forget important issues, like how the garment is manufactured and where the materials are sourced from. There are products on the market which do address these issues, companies such as BAM who create clothes only from bamboo to reduce their negative environmental impact, or the H&M sustainable collection which uses only organic material and aims to treat their factory workers fairly. Nevertheless it’s hard to tell to what extent this is a publicity stunt and moreover why this is still an issue in 2015.
The name ‘sustainable’ dictates that the clothing must be created in a way which damages neither the earth as it is today, or the world of future generations. Who wouldn’t want that? It also takes into consideration economic, environmental and social factors to ensure that both humans and the ecology of the world are protected.
‘‘Companies with publicly uncompromising morals can often suffer and ultimately not survive in the competitive fashion retail climate’’
The most highly contentious social concern within the fashion industry is global sweatshops, where low wages, long hours and cramped working spaces create conditions that have been unrivalled in their inhumanity. There are various companies, like American Apparel, who pride themselves on producing clothes sweatshop free, and Monsoon who is keen to show that they look after their employees; both those working in store as well as their workers in Asia who manufacture the clothing sold in the UK. Monsoon offers a range of elegant clothing and beach wear. However, the prices are high and when you’re on a limited budget the temptation to buy an almost identical item of clothing for a quarter of the price from Primark can be impossible to resist. For this reason, companies with publicly uncompromising morals can often suffer and ultimately not survive in the competitive fashion retail climate.
As for environmental issues, the main problem comes from the sourcing of materials. In order to grow natural materials such as cotton, vast areas of land need to be deforested and cleared to harvest the crops, which can include the habitats of many rare animal species. These plants are often sprayed with pesticides and herbicides which can have devastating effects on the local eco-systems, affecting both the land now, and the land that will remain for future generations.
The good news is that there are several brands on the market offering ‘sustainable’ clothing which means if you deem sustainable fashion to be of importance, you don’t have to compromise on style. H&M’s ‘conscious collection’ is one of the most prominent of these. This is an affordable collection with tops under £10 and dresses for under £20, that still manage to maintain the brand’s reputation of being on-trend. They use sustainable materials exclusively such as organic cotton, recycled polyester or hemp, which reduces the carbon footprint of the garments. Moreover, Topshop joined the club with ‘Reclaim to Wear’ in 2012 to create a collection of clothing made from discarded materials.
Although there are some possibilities out there on the high street, they are limited and the main source of eco-clothing seems to be online. It is clear to see that there is still a long way to go before sustainable fashion becomes the norm.