The Hero of Sustainability

We’re all stuck in the revolving door of the fashion industry. Constantly spending, buying, consuming. We fall for the latest trends and jump at the chance to get whatever is new, whatever Instagram influencers are wearing, whatever our Facebook ads tell us to buy. We’re addicted to shopping and, as a society, it’s our biggest weakness.

But if we act fast, maybe it can be what saves us. Maybe, if as consumers, we start buying less and caring more about how our clothing ends up in our closets, we’ll move towards a healthier future. And maybe, if as designers, we start prioritizing the planet and actively considering it as a stakeholder in our business, we’ll become heroes in the sustainability movement.

The fashion industry, while deeply flawed and overwhelmingly responsible for a lot of today’s most pressing issues, is presenting us with a unique opportunity. As one of the largest consumer industries, it has the power to initiate change.

Those of us who are excited about the sustainable fashion movement are seeing a change for the better. We’re seeing brands become more transparent about which materials they use, how much they pay their employees, and what they do with unused or unsold goods. We’re seeing brands take responsibility and work towards a more ethical future. We’re seeing fashion as a leader in the conscious consumerism movement.

We can’t stop consuming. Our economy depends on our immense collective desire to consume. But we can consume slower. We can consume smarter.

The sustainable fashion movement is advocating for more ethical and conscious consumption. It’s teaching consumers and brands alike why materials matter, why supply chain matters, why marketing matters. It’s moving us all, together, towards a more sustainable future where we can all have a healthier relationship with consumerism.

If we get this right — both the messaging and the timing — we can use sustainable fashion to advocate, and possibly achieve, a healthier planet and society.

With a workforce that’s predominantly female, the fashion industry, if corrected and maintained, can be a great equalizer. It can empower women around the world to craft and create — and not for minimum wage, but for a stable and livable income.

With a supply chain that’s material-heavy, we can take what’s already out there and repair, reuse and recycle. We can create with what we have and take what would otherwise end up in a landfill, and transform it into a unique piece of wearable art.

With a heavy hand leading today’s trends, we can steer the way towards a more equitable and inclusive future. We can create genderless, affordable clothing that makes everyone feel beautiful. We can use our influence for good.

If we work with scientists, we can educate ourselves, as designers, how to utilize natural resources, as opposed to depleting them. If we work with policymakers, we can empower individuals around the world to see (and dress) themselves as activists, using fashion as an outlet for self expression- what its intended purpose has always been, instead of the copy-cat machine it’s become. If we work with educators, we can empower the youth to see the power of their dollar, and give them the tools they need to be ethical shoppers. We can change the mindset of the everyday consumer and give them the tools they need to spend responsibly.

All of this to say, when asked How can we reconcile a business model dependent on endless consumption with waste?, a question I recently stumbled upon from sustainable fashion activist Céline Semaan, I point towards opportunity. Where there is influence, there is power.

The fashion industry has a long way to go, but if redesigned and reimagined, it may be what saves us all.

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