Is Sustainable Fashion possible?

Is Sustainable Fashion possible?

With increased social awareness to fight climate change and other environmental issues, sustainability is becoming a subject that fashion giants can no longer afford to ignore.  However, sustainability remains a buzzword than something the fashion giants practice in substance. Global fashion chains know exactly what environmental issues they have created, but their sheer size and quests for higher profit and bigger market shares will not allow them to slow down or change course. To put it bluntly, fast fashion chains have built their success on creating excessive demand and waste by making clothing cheap and affordable, so that it is of less financial consequence to the shoppers, even if they end up never wearing them.  This has led to our current era of extreme excessive consumption where quality gives way to quantity. Synthetic made fabric that contaminates our environment during its entire life cycle is now much more common over natural materials that have a lower environmental impact.

Occasionally, we see a few items at the store made with sustainable materials out of thousands which are not. We cannot help but ask ourselves: Will sustainable garments ever be mainstream again? It certainly is easier to be fashionable than sustainable, both for the providers and the consumers.

Why is truly sustainable clothing so difficult to come by? For the past century, regardless of quantum leaps in various technology fronts, the world simply has not devoted enough resources on the research and production of truly sustainable fabrics. We were made to believe that growing cotton with pesticides and chemicals and GM seeds is the solution to boost production and resolve world shortage. Synthetic fabric which can be produced in abundance at lower costs with no worry of shortage has increased multi-fold.  With a blend of formaldehyde and chemicals, synthetic materials can provide desirable effects such as quick dry, moisture resistance, non-wrinkle, light weight and other properties favored by many. As a result, polyester and microfiber made materials have become mainstream, replacing natural materials such as silk, cotton, hemp and wool. But there is a hefty price to pay. It took the world a long time to gradually realize that synthetic materials, like other forms of plastics, are polluting our planet in an unprecedented manner.  Yet, the awakening comes way too slow. Big fashion giants know very well that they are not investing enough to encourage the research and production of sustainable materials as the quest for profit and short-term growth have stopped them from endorsing sustainability in any meaningful way.

Then there are the up and coming brands who are environmentally conscious and are working hard to find sustainable alternatives even though the tasks ahead of us are daunting. Apart from the scarcity of sustainable materials, there is also a challenge in the search for suitable manufacturers. Small garment factories typically do not have enough resources to go through organic certifications which are relied upon for shoppers to make informed purchasing decisions. Those who are certified are big factories who are simply not interested in working with new brands without promises of big orders. Even when we are successful in securing a qualified manufacturer, the lack of scale at the start-up stage also implies new brands face much higher production costs, putting new brands at a disadvantage to compete with established chains.

sustainable fashion

So then, will sustainable garments ever become mainstream again?  We believe the momentum is there with the rise of social awareness for using less plastic and lessening our individual impact on the planet. If you are using less disposable plastic already, why not take it one step further and support sustainable garments? Support is simply understanding what sustainable garments are, buying less of what is not and more of what is, sharing your knowledge and experience on the subject with friends and families.

At iKotton, we certainly believe that we can all be stylishly clothed and lessen the harm to the environment with a bit of knowledge and purchase consideration.

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