On the 24th of April, 2013, 1,134 people lost their lives in a collapse of the Rana Plaza complex in Dhaka, Bangladesh. This has since raised a controversial question for us, the fast fashion generation- “How do we make our fashion conscious enough for our millennial conscience?”
Conscience-clear fashion brands are cropping up all over the industry, for instance, Nudie jeans, which pays factory workers a living wage; or Patagonia and its Worn Wear Tour, which lets customers bring broken apparel from any brand to its mending vans. More research needs to be done to examine the potential of post-consumer textile waste, such as old clothing and the application to new uses. For example, new clothes, accessories, or even non-clothing uses. There has to be a greater push for more reuse and recycle of old clothes, against most of the clothes ending up in landfills.
Fortunately, we do see that many brands across the industry are taking baby steps to ensure our clothing is coming from a more accessible place. For instance, there is an undocumented underwear movement that is covering all kinds of bases- fancy and woman-focused NAJA, and La Vie En Orange, whose mission is to hand make as much underwear as possible through recycling your old t-shirts.
For lingerie and swimwear that’s more exquisite and luxe, Azura Bay values ethical production, fair trade, and as stated on its website, commits to using “100% recycled boxes, poly mailers, and white tissue paper.”
This conscience-clear movement has not just been limited to clothing, and has luckily permeated through to other parts of the fashion collectives, such as jewellery and accessories. For instance, accessories brand SeeMe is forging ahead through its employment practices- by only employing single mothers as a safe haven for them to train, work and feel part of a community again. It features delicate jewellery produced in the MENA region, where the women are able to learn the craft of ancient local techniques to make exquisite jewellery.
Currently, with Nicole Kidman and the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, SeeMe has created an “Orange heart” collection, in collaboration with fashion powerhouses such as Mulberry and Aquazurra. It is no question that the “Conscionableness” of fashion has moved past just the eco-system and the pollution it has caused, but the purpose and thought that goes behind creation.
While this year marks the 4th year of the tragic deaths of those who passed in the Rana Plaza incident, it also reminds us that, unfortunately, we haven’t seen much of this “fashion consciousness” permeating into the mainstream, where sustainability marketing is still used to distract from reputation problems (such as human rights issues) and where profits and trend-setting come first. While a lot of personalities, celebrities and designers have advocated for more eco-focused clothing campaigns- for instance, Stella McCartney and Gina Rodriguez (one of the founders of underwear brand Naja), for a lot of fast-fashion-high-street brands, sustainability marketing is only the first baby step onto a long history of issues, that the industry has yet to correct.
Christian, S. (2017). Can H&M Really Make Fast Fashion Sustainable?. [online] Esquire. Available at: http://www.esquire.com/style/news/a51712/hm-fast-fashion-sustainability-recycling/ [Accessed 5 May 2017].
Lewis, T. (2017). Reclaimed, Refashioned and Reimagined: Researching the reuse possibilities for secondhand clothing. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tasha-lewis/reclaimed-refashioned-and_b_12692290.html [Accessed 5 May 2017].
Rothe, E. (2017). Style with a Conscience: “Orange Your Heart!” with SeeMe and Caterina Occhio. [online] The Huffington Post. Available at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/e-nina-rothe/style-with-a-conscience-o_b_13452208.html [Accessed 5 May 2017].
Siegle, L. (2017). Op-Ed | Sustainable or Superficial?. [online] The Business of Fashion. Available at: https://www.businessoffashion.com/community/voices/discussions/can-fashion-industry-become-sustainable/op-ed-sustainable-or-superficial [Accessed 5 May 2017].