Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Ethical Network of San Antonio.
In a discussion about sustainability in fashion retail, someone said “There is no way we can stop fast fashion because that is not how the world works. The world moves fast, people move fast, and fashion will continue to move even faster.”
I was stunned by this statement because while true to an extent, it implies consumers cannot or are unwilling to make changes to their shopping habits for the better. Maybe I am too optimistic, but I believe that people, given the chance, will always make the right choice. However, sometimes people need to be encouraged to do so. More importantly, they need to be better informed.
Now, I fully understand the demand for bargain shopping. I have worked in fashion retail for about 10 years. People do not necessarily want to pay full price if they can avoid it. But, what if clothing brands were more transparent about how their products were made?
In fast fashion retail, transparency is not something you will find very easily. Though many brands have taken steps to assure they are adjusting their policies towards more sustainable practices, the full effects may not be seen for years. So, as a consumer and a fast fashion devotee, what can you do to ensure that you are not contributing to the negative impact this has on the planet?
The first step is in being aware of the brands that are currently making an effort to be more socially responsible. Often on a company’s website, there will be a declaration or a promise to consumers that outlines their initiatives to combat climate change, waste, and define their ethical practices.
Next, consumers should be aware of the brands that are marketing themselves or a product as eco-friendly when, in fact, it may not be as sustainable as they claim. For example, jeans made with recycled plastic. The whole concept sounds sustainable, right? But, it may not be as sustainable as you think.
Why? Plastic does not biodegrade. So, all the tiny plastic microfibers in the clothes will shed off in your washer, eventually making it to the ocean and then ultimately ending up on your plate. (*Editors note: For solutions look here.*)
Finally, all fast fashion brands produce thousands upon thousands of products every season, none of which are made to last. More than likely, half of that will not sell at full price and half of what’s left will probably end up in a landfill. The only way to ensure that as a consumer you are not complicit in this scheme of destruction to the planet is to be aware of the brand’s ethical standards and recycling programs.
One of the best ways to be a more environmentally conscious consumer is to shop local. Shopping locally is not only crucial to the growth of your community, but local businesses (who produce their own goods) are much more informed about their products and their supply chains. I can tell you from my experience, fast fashion employees are not well informed about the products they sell.
You do not have to give up fashion to be a part of the sustainable fashion movement. You just have to be more aware of the brands that you are shopping with. It takes some research and I know that sounds horrible, but here is something that I learned in all my years of fashion research.
When it comes to sustainable brands, the research will be minimal. Fully transparent brands will make it easy for you to find everything you need about the company and how they operate. If that information is not easily displayed, or minimal information is voluntarily given, then chances are that brand has something they do not want you to know.
Veronica Rodriguez is a fashion designer, animal lover and coffee enthusiast. Born and raised in San Antonio, she is best known to her peers as being highly organized and very opinionated. She is currently building her fashion brand on a foundation of ethical and sustainable practices by producing a clothing brand that is environmentally and ethically safe.