Consumed by self-absorbed desire to maximise profits, brand directors are willing to lead an industry which destroys entire communities and increases climate change. However, we cannot sit back whilst garment workers and farmers die, and oceans are polluted because we believe it is beyond our control.
Only a few months ago, when I first watched The True Cost documentary, I felt like no substantial efforts were being made to stop this overwhelming humanitarian and environmental crisis. Now, with a slight increase in media coverage, a government investigation into the industry and a rise in successful ethical brands, I am optimistic.
Particularly amongst young people, there is a growing hunger for vintage and second-hand clothing. Depop are pioneering the vintage market with their appealing Instagram-style layout, making buying and selling second-hand clothes fashionable and accessible. Up and coming ethical brands such as Lucy & Yak – whose ethos is to treat everyone in the supply chain fairly – are gaining popularity with their sought-after, colourful dungarees, which are beautifully photographed on their website. They also have a Depop shop for slightly faulty items which cannot be sold at full price. If major fast fashion brands like Topshop and ASOS could follow this example, we can move towards a circular fashion economy and massively reduce textile waste.
Veganism, a lifestyle which many adopt for sustainability reasons, is hugely growing in popularity. Supermarkets have extensive vegan ranges, nearly all coffee shops have dairy-free milk alternatives where they didn’t a couple of years ago. Veganism was once viewed as an extreme dietary choice but is now a mainstream movement. The same can happen with fashion. If we demand alternatives to fast fashion, which fulfil our desire to live sustainably, then it is in the interest of brands to provide for us.
Reforming the fashion industry isn’t just about buying often expensive vintage clothing; charity shops sell amazing pieces at cheap prices. Following Vivienne Westwood’s advice: ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’, we can stop consuming and start loving fashion. We need to bring back the phrase ‘make do and mend’ in a society where an item of clothing is discarded after an average of 3 years.
Charities like Fashion Revolution are doing incredible work with their ‘#WhoMadeMyClothes?’ campaign, which aims to end the silence surrounding the manufacturing process. Fashion Revolution also lobby governments to change legislation to support garment workers in developing countries. The bigger the movement, the more pressure to reform the industry. Social media influencers have immense power when it comes to influencing young people; if they use their platform to promote ethical brands and charity shops, rather than the latest Zara range, fast fashion brands will have to change to meet consumer demand.
As the movement to reform the fashion industry continues to grow, soon corporations will be unable to avoid our questions about their ethics. The government and fashion brands will be under pressure to enforce a fashion industry which values everyone across the supply chain and helps to limit climate change.