The Sustainable Fashion Revolt
It is undeniable, a revolution has started. Consumer demand along with determined sustainable brand leaders have pushed the market to become more sustainable.
The fashion industry is built upon the exploitation of labor and natural resources. And because of it, people have died and the environment is in dire need of our help to stop climate change.
This is an urgent problem that demands consistent and continuous action. But to bring awareness to this issue, Fashion Revolution has claimed a week surrounding the 24th of April, to ignite a spark under both brands and consumers.
This date is the anniversary of the 2013 Rana Plaza collapse. Rana Plaza, a building in Bangladesh, housed a number of garment factories, employing around 5,000 people. The people in this building were manufacturing clothing for many of the biggest global fashion brands. More than 1,100 people – mostly young women – died in the collapse and another 2,500 were injured, making it the fourth largest industrial disaster in history.
Fashion Revolution was founded in the wake of the Rana Plaza disaster. Since then, they have grown to become the world’s largest fashion activism movement, mobilizing citizens, brands and policymakers through research, education and advocacy.
As a sustainable company and together with our #nuiworld community, we have the power to take action. Now is the time to rise up together for a regenerative, restorative and revolutionary new fashion system.
The Sustainable Fashion System
There are three things that a new, sustainable fashion system is built around. These areas cover the issues of human rights, environmental protection, and reducing consumption. WIth these areas addressed by brands, we can make significant progress in changing the corrupt fashion system that exists now.
1 - FAIR PAY
There is no sustainable fashion without fair pay. Throughout the pandemic, fashion brands have made billions, while the majority of workers in their supply chains remain trapped in poverty. To address this, there is a demand for new laws that require businesses to conduct due diligence on living wages. This will transform the lives and livelihoods of the people that make our clothes, and help redistribute money and power in the global fashion industry.
2 - BRAND TRANSPARENCY
Both people and nature are paying the price of the fashion industry’s unregulated exploitation and waste. Brands are currently being allowed to pursue extractive business models and greenwashing their way to sustainability. As this is currently an unregulated system, it is up to consumers to demand transparency from brands and use their dollars against this broken system.
3 - COST PER WEAR
Fast fashion exists partially because of the lack of understanding by consumers of the true cost of clothing. Price tags fail to reflect the social and environmental cost of production, while as consumers, we don’t always care for our clothes in the way we should.
Changing the paradigm of every purchase we make - and viewing it as an investment rather than a trendy, cheap find - is essential to minimizing waste, and sending a message to fast fashion retailers what our sustainable values are.
The Real Price of Fast Fashion
Today, fast fashion is fed by a corrupt and unregulated system, along with a society brainwashed to over consume.
The price tags on clothes often don't reflect the real cost of clothing. Whether you are buying clothing, food, or any product, it is important to read the labels and between the lines.
Let’s look at the REAL price of fast fashion:
- In the US alone, 21 billion pounds of clothing waste ends up in the landfills every year.
- The fashion industry emits 10% of global greenhouse gasses.
- Pesticides and chemicals used in the production of conventional clothing make up 20 percent of global insecticide emissions.
- Every time you do a load of laundry that contains synthetic fiber clothing, up to 750,000 microplastics are shed into the oceans - polluting the ocean, killing sea life, and ending up in our food system.
- Fast fashion/synthetic fiber clothing takes up to 1000 years to biodegrade.
- As of 2020, 11% of fast fashion companies employ child labor
- As of 2021, of the 75 million factory workers employed, less than 2% of them earn a living wage
One of the reasons conventional clothing is less expensive is that chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilizers actually help to keep the cost down for farmers of conventionally produced fabrics. But those chemicals end up harming the health of the farmers, polluting the environment with chemicals, and end up causing unseen damaging effects on unknowing consumers.
On the other hand, the production of organic clothing is under strict federal guidelines for pesticide use to labor rights. This results in additional time and effort that goes into the planting, growing, harvesting, spinning, dyeing, and cutting of sustainable materials.
So while the price tag of an organic, natural fiber piece of clothing may be higher, when you look at cost per wear, the difference in value is jaw dropping. For example if a fast fashion top is 5x cheaper than its sustainable and natural counterpart, but actually falls about after 6 months of wash and wear as opposed to the sustainable piece lasting 2-3 years, you’re better off buying the more expensive top and taking care of it as you will have it for years.
Using the cost-per-wear calculation, along with being aware of a brand’s values and transparency, helps everyone win in the long run - the farmers, the factory workers, the end consumer, and the environment.
How to Have Your Own Fashion Revolution
So now that you are aware of the impact and injustices of fast fashion, how can you use this knowledge to positively change the way you shop?
Here are a few simple tips you can put into action, the next time you are clothes shopping:
1- Look for organic and natural fiber clothing
Seek out organic and natural fiber clothing such as merino wool, organic cotton, linen, hemp, and other natural fibers. These fibers eliminate microplastics that shed during the laundering cycle, and they represent regenerative and safe options.
Ensuring the brand uses ethical sourcing options is just as important as the types of fiber used. For example, at Nui, we stand by a “no harm caused by the production of our clothes" - that means everyone from the growers, the farmers, the animals and everyone in between and including the final user - we ensure the making of the product causes the least impact and greatest safety and wellness for each segment of the production process.
2-Closed Loop/Rewear Program
A good sustainable fashion brand will have a buyback/resell program customers can use, to ensure that outgrown clothing can be passed forward to another family. This enables customers to sell their clothing at a higher value (because it’s a higher quality garment to start), make money on it, and ensure it does not end up in the landfills as pollution. At Nui, with the Rewear program, customers can close the loop on their family’s clothing.
3-Seek Out Brands that Have Transparency
Due to the uprising of consumers holding brands accountable, greenwashing is rampant amongst clothing brands. So while a sustainable fashion brand may talk all day about natural fibers, many overproduce and focus on trends just as their fast fashion counterparts. “Trendy” clothing is not reserved for fast fashion brands, and many supposedly sustainable brands still overproduce, don’t teach their customers about recycling and still contribute to a fast fashion mentality for financial reasons.Authentic sustainable brands like Nui, produce for growth not profit, feature timeless collections, and educate their audience with ways to be more sustainable and conscious with their clothing.
If your garment is made of natural fibers but comes in a bigger box than necessary that isn’t recycled (less expensive for the manufacturer), is it really practicing what it preaches?
Compostable and/or biodegradable bags for clothing are used by many sustainable brands and should be something to expect or at least ask the brand to offer.
Knowledge is empowering for customers. Brands that actually want to make the world a better place know this and consistently educate their customers about how to use, care for, and live more sustainable lifestyles, as well as WHY.
Let’s Start a Revolution - a Fashion Revolution
In today’s world - with climate change, deforestation, pollution, microplastics in the ocean, underpaid workers - are unfortunate realities of our past behaviors. But every decision and act by you as we go forward, really does make a difference.
It’s a choice - a choice to pay attention to what matters to you, align your actions to your values, and do what FEELS right to you. Slowing down to take into account lifetime value, the impact of your choices, and seeking a community that supports your high values - are all ways we can make sustainable and conscious living part of our everyday lives.
It’s our planet and we care.