When I introduced this new series on my blog, I promised to share with you my learning curve. Well, then you should also know where I start off. And it’s not pretty, to be honest.
Starting point & Experience
For the last year, I’ve been in close contact with two lovely German people, establishing a business in sustainable, even cradle-to-cradle, clothing lines. I contribute by helping them set up their e-commerce platform. Super interesting, fun and a true learning experience. Even though I’ve been interested in sustainability and fashion for a long time already (ever since university, once I wanted to become an environmental lawyer. Where did I go wrong…), I never really did anything in practice with the subject. Mostly dreaming about it. Thinking of ways I could get involved on a deeper level. But not taking (private) action.
Plus… Up until now sustainable fashion is no big part of my wardrobe. To say the least. I think I own 1 or 2 pieces made out of organic cotton, GOTS certified and with the Fair Trade mark. I figured it better to be honest with you here. Because I don’t claim to lead a sustainable lifestyle. I am new at this and for sure no saint. My wardrobe doesn’t hold that many pieces, though, certainly not from the cheaper large warehouses that are now being scapegoated. But taking a wild guess, the items in my wardrobe are also not produced in a sustainable way. I do have the drive and will to change, but just don’t know how to combine this with other activities in my life (such as working for a living and having a baby and seeing some friends once in a while). I don’t have all the time in the world to research every piece of clothing I would like to buy through and through. I need the easy alternatives. But what are the easy alternatives? And how to avoid being greenwashed? Should I start making my own clothing then, just to be sure? Even then, who made that fabric?
As you can see, and probably also know when reviewing your own buying behavior, to become a sustainable and conscious shopper is easier said than done. There are just too much claims flying around without the possibility/time/resources to follow them up. Too many easy alternatives to statisfy your needs. I read yesterday that a whooping 98% of all labels claiming to produce sustainable fashion are in fact greenwashing. Can that be true? I hope not, but am sure we will dive into this subject a little deeper soon. However, all these claims laid out by different brands, shouted from the rooftops, combined with skyhigh prices for clothing, make me suspicious.
Often times I hide behind one of my opinions on this subject, the customer is not the one to blame or the one who can/should change the market because of ‘demand influences supply’not providing any solution in this case. The problem is not with the consumer who ‘just’ needs (really? Mostly wants, unfortunately) some new clothes. The whole clothing industry has become a polluted one. Fast fashion flooding the market and brands competing to win over consumers hearts, in the end only to make the most profits, so few can get very rich. Isn’t that just plain out WRONG. The fact that people are so focused on making more and more money, eternal growth. More is better, certainly applies to this industry. And I think that is where the problem lies. It shouldn’t be about earning tons of money no one needs. It shouldn’t be about producing as much as possible against the lowest possible costs. The best and only Utopian solution I can think of, is to change the whole industry at the same time. Banish all extortioners. No more bullshit marketing promoting dirty fashion, trying to convince the customer that the only way to feel good and be happy, is to look perfect every day, by wearing new and shiny clothes and bags and shoes. Regardless of the way these have come into existence.
There for me, lies another critical point. Marketing and branding. That is where big and meaningful changes can be made. Companies should start being honest about their sustainability practices. Also, brands are so successful in convincing customers they ‘need’ certain items, I am sure they can also convince and teach the customer to go for slow fashion? To have a wardrobe composed of lasting sustainable clothes that truly match their own taste instead of following fast fashion – which come on, to be honest is super boring, everyone is wearing exactly the same uniform, but a different one every six weeks. Juuhuu for individuality, right? But you see the problem here again? People will start consuming less, so there is less money to be made in the industry. And that’s not what traditional companies are interested in. So maybe it is just not possible to change the industry from the inside…
During the coming months I hope to change the grim perspective that I now have on the (sustainable) fashion industry. To start seeing the possibilities and exciting changes that are already (at least, I hope so) being made. To get a grip on how to act as a responsible consumer without losing all the fun in buying something beautiful. It’s like a training on how to become a sustainable shopper, in which I hope to involve you as well. Because in the end, the power of the mass does apply here, of course, as well. We all have a voice. And not necessarily the voice in our wallets in this case, but the voice of people who want to know, demand to know, of people who ask companies to become more responsible, honest and transparent about the way they produce their goods. Let’s keep on going guys!