Because the fashion industry is one of the largest contributors to a range of global crises, from pollution to human trafficking, it’s nearly impossible to be sustainable. In order to be truly guilt-free, an ethical supply chain is crucial. This starts with the fabric. Where the fabric is sourced from, what raw materials are used in creating it, and how it’s produced are key. An ethical supply chain also considers the people who make, sell and create the fabric. Are they being paid livable wages? Is their working environment safe and secure? While there are a handful of brands whose supply chains are (close to) spotless, many still rely on mass production. And the myth of sustainability doesn’t stop there.
The fashion industry relies on a revolving door mentality that is constantly telling consumers to buy more. It tells us to stay on trend, to look like everybody else, to toss aside what we just bought, and replace it with whatever they say is next.
In order to be a sustainable fashion brand, it’s not enough to just use organic cotton or to pay your factory workers a living wage. To be truly and genuinely committed, brands need to look within themselves and evaluate their core messaging. Are you enabling this “buy more” mentality or are you empowering consumers to buy items they can love over time?
This is especially pertinent to the streetwear community. Reliant upon “cool factor”, the streetwear world is constantly competing against itself in hopes of reinforcing a hierarchy of “coolness” by releasing limited edition, small batches of overpriced copies of what already exists. Coupled with misogynistic tendencies, brands like Supreme and Nike are reminders of what not to become. Even worse, they’re leading the movement away from sustainability. They’ve decided they’d rather focus on cutting costs than upholding standards within their factories that rely on child labor. Beyond that, they are proud to deem sustainability uncool. While trends may be shifting, these brands are still responsible for perpetuating the consumer culture that got us here in the first place.
As consumers, we have the power to decide which brands will make it and which will fall to the sidelines. In an era of greenwashing, we need to educate ourselves in hopes of squashing the myth of sustainability.