In the era of sustainability, ethically sourced fashion products are becoming an important requirement in a millennial's shopping cart. Millennials are said to have a “social first” mindset; they care about how something is made, what it’s made of, who makes it and the manufacturing conditions.
They are thus entitled to save our decaying planet and thanks to their fearlessness and powerful voice, they are setting the footpath towards eco-friendly and sustainable fashion.
Origin of Eco-Friendly and Ethical Fashion
Eco-fashion- refers to the production of clothing and other products from recycled materials or otherwise produced by methods that are not harmful to the environment.
In 1922, ‘Levi Strauss & Company’ was exposed using prison labor in China to make their jeans. This incident as well as other similar incidents, brought to light the desperate working conditions of workers all over the world, mostly in countries such as Vietnam, China, where there were no rules and regulations as to the age of the workers and no consideration for their safety and health.
Later in 1999, Naomi Klein released a book 'No Logo”, an extremely influential international bestselling book, which exposed the truth behind many of the global giants worldwide. This book helped set the ground for ethical fashion and made a serious impact in the history of eco-fashion. It also brought about the beginning of many eco-conscious brands, as well as the re-branding of established brands into more ethical brands.
On the other hand, in 2005 some fashion entrepreneurs as well as business owners met in London, with the same mission- to create successful fashion brands which had a positive environmental and social impact. They believed that they would be able to achieve this goal as a collective effort rather than individually. In 2006, the Ethical Fashion Forum (EFF) was therefore established with 20 members from four different continents with the prime mission to help fashion businesses succeed along with the triple bottom line- people, planet and profit.
In 2016 the EFF developed a new platform- Common Objective, to take their work to a large scale.
“Fast fashion isn’t free. Someone, somewhere is paying.”
— Lucy Siegle
Fast fashion refers to the rapid production of high volumes of clothing at cheaper prices. All the elements of fast fashion such as trend replication, rapid production, low quality, competitive pricing—add up to having a detrimental impact on the planet and also the people involved in garment production, as many fast fashion brands violates human rights for the sake of fashion.
Slow fashion offers an alternative, with mindful manufacturing, fair labor rights, natural materials, and lasting garments, traditional production techniques, or design concepts that strive to be season-less or last aesthetically and materially for longer periods of time.
Nonetheless, the concept of slow fashion is not without its controversies.
“Fashion has done more harm than revolutions”- Victor Hugo
The billion-dollar fashion industry is believed to be the second largest polluters of our planet. The fashion industry uses large amounts of the Earth's natural resources and approximately 8,000 synthetic chemicals to turn raw materials into textiles that are used to make our clothes and accessories.
As a result, this industry is a primary source of greenhouse gas emissions, including Carbon dioxide (CO2) which is a principal source of global warming, which is rapidly changing the globes' climate.
How does eco-friendly fashion help the environment?
Let's take a look into the benefits and pros.
Saves Natural Resources And Reduces Carbon Footprint
Raw materials, especially cottons, used to manufacture clothing are running out quickly and in order to keep up with demand, harmful farming practices have been used. Additionally, our clothes are petroleum-based, and they are made from fossil fuels as well, contributing to global warming.
In contrast, the use of sustainable materials made from recycled or natural fabrics need comparatively less to no chemical treatment, less energy, less water, or no pesticides and fertilizer to grow. By buying clothes made from renewable materials, you are reducing the demand for materials that causes harm to our environment.
In addition, by wearing clothes that are second hand or eco-friendly, you are reducing the number of pesticides used on a daily basis as you are lowering the demand for clothing. Besides, maintenance is Greener as clothes produced from eco-friendly resources need special care; meaning clothes are washed with cold water without the use of a tumble dryer and chemical detergents.
Eventually, this helps to reduce your carbon footprint.
Requires Less Water And Reduces Amount Of Toxic Wastes
Water, the primary source in the fashion industry, is used for the dyeing and finishing process of our clothes. To make a single T-shirt, it requires 2,700 liters of water and 1/3 of a pound of chemicals. Such amount adds up and is disastrous for our environment.
Moreover, cultivation of cotton is highly dependent on water, but they grow in hot and dry areas where water is not easily accessible. Meanwhile, organic cotton helps in reducing water consumption compared to conventional cotton.
Saves Animal Life And Supports Animals Rights
Around the world, the fashion industry is guilty of killing animals for fur and leather. It has been seen that the leather industry around the world is killing an estimated amount of 400 million animals each year.
However, in recent years, consumers have become more conscious about the importance of boycotting the use of leather and real fur in clothing. Yet it continues to be used by high-end fashion designers as a luxurious material.
Fortunately, sustainable brands around the world have started the use of cruelty-free alternatives, and there is one for approximately every material used in fashion. By switching to cruelty-free brands, you can rest assured that your fashion didn’t cause the death of another living being.
Healthy for People and Planet
Fashion items undergo a really long and extreme chemical process before making their way into our closet. Large number of different synthetic substances are used to bleach and dye garments. Those chemicals can cause diseases or even deaths of workers and impose severe congenital disabilities for their children.
So, to minimize the harmful effects of chemicals, we must opt for sustainable fashion, which is healthy and cruelty-free.
While ethical fashion might not be the solution for all our environmental problems, it allows us to reduce the impact on the environment and invest in safer, more sustainable practices.
On the flip side, sustainable fashion ensures safe working conditions and doesn't support child labor. Besides, by buying garments from responsible brands, as well as secondhand shops, such a thrift shops and vintage-clothing stores, we’re advocating for the environment.
Yet, although millennials prefer to opt for ethical and slow fashion, even if it means investing more money into their closets, the industry is not providing them with sufficient eco-friendly brands.
How can you help?
Choose brands that are transparent about their manufacturing process and the sources of their resources.
Reuse and recycle your clothes.
Shop from ethical brands or thrift shops.
Invest in vintage clothing (The Champagne Diet)
Here are some eco-conscious brands that you can shop from: