Let’s be real: no customer wants to pay more for clothing. Outside of celebrities who are expected to tout the latest and most expensive brands, people want their clothing to be affordable. Hence, the popularity of “fast fashion”: clothes that are produced quickly, sold cheaply, and can be thrown out without the consumer experiencing any guilt. While these clothing option may not hurt when you look at the price tag, they’re coming at a bigger cost than most people realize.
Some examples of a lack of sustainability in fashion include the water waste produced by the denim industry, and Singapore’s 150,000 tons of textile and leather waste. Fashion in Asia is growing at an impressive rate. It’s more important than ever that countries like Singapore, Japan, China, and others cut down on waste. Student Maria Cruz, a fashion marketing major, said, “You think you have to save electricity, save oil, save water, but nobody thinks about saving your clothes.” Changing this frame of mind is part of a huge upcycling project she’s a part of at Raffles College.
The fashion industry is one of the top global polluters. When people think of pollution, they think of leaking oil rigs, landfills full of plastic bottles, and factories pouring thick smog into the atmosphere. People don’t think about the textiles they’re wearing, which take tons of water to produce and often lead to that water—full of bleaches, dyes, and contaminants—getting dumped into waterways. Farmers in India “joked” that they could tell what dyes were trending based on what colors the rivers were turning. If that doesn’t turn your stomach, then you’re not paying attention.
So, what is the solution? Some brands have been turning to “slow” fashion to combat the problem. Instead of churning out design after design, they focus on making fewer, higher quality pieces using more sustainable practices. Innovations in technology have helped, such as the breakthroughs in lasers that have revolutionized how denim is weathered. Another solution is for consumers to buy less and choose better quality items from ethical brands. We need to empower customers to research who they’re buying from and also convince brands that being ethical is the best way to earn business.