Shoppers, we need to talk. Fashion has an ethics and sustainability problem.
I know what you’re thinking: we’re already using our keep-cups and our metal straws; we’re all doing our part for the planet and its inhabitants. But the fashion world is making it difficult for us to serve looks and society, at the same time.
What is the issue with the way we shop?
The complicated nature of global supply chains makes it difficult for consumers to determine which products utilise slave and child labour at some point in their production.
So that even if a product is labelled: Made in Australia, that doesn’t always tell us the entire route of its journey.
Plus, 95 per cent of Australian brands continue to under pay factory workers, according to Baptist World Aid chief executive John Hickey.
Because deal-hunting customers demand throwaway trends at unmatchable prices, companies continue to churn out products and lower their benchmark; feeding a race to the bottom (or more accurately, the basement floor).
Both customers and brands are capable of changing this system. Brands can focus on promoting the quality of their products over the quantity, and customers can support these brands by investing in a garment that is made to last.
If that is setting off any alarms, fear not! A slight price surge wouldn’t destroy your bank account. The wage of a garment worker is only 1 to 3 per cent of the total cost of most clothing, according to the ‘Clean Clothes Campaign’.
How do we balance our love of fashion with a desire for sustainability and an ethical future?
The solution: Blockchain
The next stop in our journey is the wonderful world of Blockchain.
I know. It sounds suspiciously futuristic, a little Black Mirror-esque. But how can blockchain help in the fight for ethical fashion?
AirRobe founder Hannon Comazzetto explains it like so: “it allows the tracking of assets on a secure ledger which everyone can see.”
In layman’s terms: it means we could use a digital fingerprint on each item of clothing to access a map of destinations it has journeyed. It could be as simple as scanning a handbag and unveiling a record of transactions showing each step in the life of the item from the manufacturing floor to the showroom.
Blockchain technology could be an important enabler in increasing transparency in the textile industry and validating the authenticity of those shoes that drain our savings.
As well as underpaying its workers, fashion has another issue to reckon with: it is the second most polluting industry in the world!
Some people call it “fast fashion”, the eye-rollers among us like to think of it as merely staying on-trend. But what’s equally in vogue, from runways to our Instagram feeds, is the power we all have to change this flawed model.
Eco-friendly fashion is coming into style. Just ask Stella McCartney or Emma Watson. And the trend-setters have an important role to play. “Ultimately, more people will shop ethically if brands and taste-makers, such as social media influencers, make it cool”, writes Melissa Singer in The Sydney Morning Herald.
As Watson told Vogue Australia in 2018: “I want to look good, feel good and do good — that to me is a luxury.”
One solution is a recommendation of the iconic and timeless Stella McCartney, and it’s called circular fashion.
The circle of fashion is the beacon of light at the end of this dark tunnel. Dr Anna Brismar, the force behind Vestiaire Collective, defines it as such:
“It can be defined as clothes, shoes or accessories that are designed, sourced, produced and provided with the intention to be used and circulated responsibly and effectively in society for as long as possible in their most valuable form, and hereafter return safely to the biosphere when no longer of human use.”
Basically, this means that rather than contributing to the 30,000 tonnes of material discarded each year, an item can be recycled, swapped, rented, resold or repurposed. AirRobe is championing this approach, providing a platform for consumers to share clothing, bags and accessories that are high quality and pre-loved.
More and more designers are using sustainable materials for their ecological and elegant collections. Bethany Williams, Reformation and Amur, to name a few.
Although a worthwhile investment, these high street brands can be expensive, and we’re not all Kardashians here. So, if you want to be in the market for these luxury garments, AirRobe is your best bet.
Rest assured, ladies, as there are many avenues the fashion industry can take so that we can combat this sartorial situation together.
Sign up to AirRobe to join the circular fashion movement.