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Essay: TransformStyle: Sustainable Fashion for the Postmodern Society

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  • Published: 1 April 2019*
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  • Words: 1,588 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 7 (approx)
  • Tags: Fashion essays

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Sustainability is defined as maintaining and upholding what we have now, however the current climate of the fashion industry itself is what needs to change.

We live in a postmodern society where we dress to define our identity, however everything our identity embodies is growing and changing at a rate unlike ever before. Fashion is more than just clothes on our skin, it is central to our identity, and emphasises our feeling of being.

Social, Environmental, Economical.

Since the early 20th century, mainstream fashion has begun sourcing offshore, giving jobs to those in developing countries who otherwise would be unemployed in poverty. In doing so, production costs are cut, and garments are churned out at an unsustainably fast rate.

This is where the term ‘Fast Fashion’ derived from, and how giants like Zara are bringing catwalk styles to our wardrobes within 2 weeks.

However, not much thought goes into how this operates on a deeper level, not immediately clear to the public eye. Cutting back on price, time and quality comes at a much higher cost than on the price tag. Reduced safety of workers, dangerous buildings, chemical exposure, and material waste are only the beginning of the list of harmful effects this industry brings.

The fashion industry’s impact on the environment is astronomical, yet to tackle is complicated. It seems that every day we’re being reminded of the terrifying consequences of how our society thrives. Heatwaves, freezing winters, deforestation, image after image of fish washed up on beds of plastic – and as much as we might try, we don’t understand how we can personally put a stop to this or make things better.

There is no denying of the hugely influential nature, and to evoke change it must start with changing perceptions of normal, changing consumer habits and making ethical fashion, fashionable. The current system of blindsided consumption can’t go on, we need to unite to make change.

What’s the problem?

• This is often the place to highlight gaps/ needs/ problems for your subject matter that you intend to fill/address/solve with Big Idea (Changing consumer attitudes to sustainable fashion)

Context (this does not need to be a heading in the report)

Use chapter headings and think about how you use subheadings to break up the text

What’s the problem? THE BUSINESS OF FASHION

In the U.K. people purchased 1.13 million tonnes of clothing in 2016 alone, putting 26 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions into the air, and coming fourth after housing, transport and food in terms of its impact on the environment (WRAP, 2017).

Today we buy clothing with as little thought as buying our morning coffee, to fill a gap or improve our mood, the commonly used term “Retail Therapy” defines as the practice of shopping in order to make oneself feel more cheerful. Similar to eating for comfort, we go shopping to replenish that hunger.

A century ago, people spent more than half their income on food and clothes, today people spend less than a fifth (The Atlantic, 2012). While this may sound hopeful for the environment, this result is only down to sourcing clothes at a much cheaper price, clothes are produced offshore with cheaper labour costs,

While we spend less on clothes than ever before we also buy more clothes than we used to.

As a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago (Forbes, 2014). The surge of cheap readily available clothing has enforced this.

UK womenswear sales will grow 14% between now and 2022 to reach an eventual £33.5bn as consumers seek greater quality in their fashion buys, according to Mintel.

(timeline of fashion)

“There’s no such thing as Fast fashion, just increasingly accelerated consumption” -Dilys Williams

The industry is facing a rapidly growing demand worldwide,  According to the Global Fashion Agenda’s Pulse of the Fashion Industry report, “The fashion industry as a whole faces growing environmental and social pressures. As apparel consumption continues to rise, the urgency will only increase.”   

Today, over 150 billion garments are produced each year (MIT, 2015). The global fashion industry (which includes clothing, textiles, footwear and luxury goods) is worth an estimated $3 trillion (companies & markets, 2013), and according to mckinsey (2015) has “outperformed the overall market and every other sector across geographies for more than a decade” — more profitable than sectors like technology and telecommunications.

Clothing is typically sold for less than 12 weeks before it is marked down for clearance. We have grown so accustomed to this model that we are thinking about the next season before the current one has only just begun, it is a vicious cycle of over consumption driven by advertising and brands that are selling us dreams in the name of profit.

Being sustainable seems impossible to ignore in todays society, whether driven by revenue or a genuine concern for the future of our planet, it is the conversation on everyones lips. We are in a transition period of accepting and adapting, and whilst being ‘cool’ will never go out of fashion, what it means to be cool is coming under scrutiny. The necessity for brands to be transparent has never been higher in light of the fact that today’s consumers are not only more informed, they’re more connected.


(Woke imagery)

The recent surge of sustainability into mainstream news has made consumers question not only their own practice, but the brands they consider themselves loyal to. While we should all praise big name companies that are changing their ways to improve environmental and ethical impact, it can be a profitable story to tell; and can be hard to decipher between good practices and good marketing. This is not immediately obvious to the average customer, Plastic is hidden behind complex names, and simply being told where a garment is made says nothing about the conditions of the factories.

The term ‘Greenwashing’ refers to companies posing as environmentally friendly in the name of good PR. “This can take form in the use of deceptive labelling, vague sustainability policies and the use of popular buzzwords “Going Green”, “Eco friendly”, and “Clean” with little to no justification.” -Fashion Revolution.

Spotting the tactics of ‘Greenwashing’ can be one step to being more aware of who youre putting your hard earned cash into.

The necessity for brands to be transparent has never been higher in light of the fact that today’s consumers are not only more informed, they’re more interconnected.

We live in a social media crazed society, we share almost every aspect of our lives through our social profiles, and in turn, expect those we follow to do the same. We expect advertising to be truthful and for brands to act how they claim to. However, we forget how easy it is for us to portray a perfect life on our Instagram profiles and that brands may be telling their own story too.


(Hockney Pool Imagery)

Numerous studies and shopping trend data show that 16-35 year olds in particular are very socially and environmentally conscious,

A mintel report shows that the growing demand for retailers to be more transparent is part of a shift in attitudes among young Millennials towards interest in more sustainable fashion, with 44% of this generation wanting to see more eco-friendly fabrics used in clothes.

With respect to the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse that killed 1,138 people and injured many more, Fashion Revolution created the movement “Who Made my Clothes” to shine a light on brands that are transparent with their supply chains, and those that aren’t. For one week, millions of consumers are encouraged to publicly engage with brands and producers to ask them for information on their supply chains. This received over 170,000 social media posts using the hashtag, in 2017 alone, more than 2.5 million people around the world participated in the movement.

The objective was to give consumers more information about the impacts of the clothes they buy, and help them make more informed choices for their future purchases. It seems to be working, of the 40 brands Fashion Revolution surveyed in 2016, only five published details of their tier one suppliers. In 2018, 55 of the 150 brands examined did so: an increase from 13 to 37 per cent.

“Whether driven by revenue, by a genuine concern for economic and social impacts, or by a combination of the two formerly disparate fields, change seems to be the most commonly used concept in industry publications, symposiums and gatherings. Small ventures are initiating their business to develop fashion sustainably, start-ups are aiming to optimize processes within the supply chain, and large brands are rushing to avoid damage to their reputations.” (TRANSPARENT SUSTAINABLE FASHION IN THE DIGITAL ERA )

“Producers and garment workers might face excessive hours, forced overtime, lack of job security, denial of trade union rights, poor health, exhaustion, sexual harassment, discrimination

and denial of other basic human rights when on the job. These problems exist not just in places like bangladesh but also in developed countries like the United kingdom and the United States”

Governments are also recognising the need for change by implementing regulations around supply chains. The UK’s Modern Slavery Act 2015 and the California Supply Chains Transparency Act both require large companies to publish information on their efforts to prevent modern slavery abuses in supply chains. In 2017, France went further, requiring companies to implement plans to prevent such abuse altogether.

The industry is clearly coming under scrutiny from all angles, and it seems that people are waking up to the sugar coating that major brands do so well. Its no longer cool to

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