The fashion industry (of which we are a part) has a terrible reputation among environmentalists, and rightly so. It’s a big topic so it’s enormously popular among business journalists who love writing about “success stories” in the battle against, for instance, fast fashion.
Fashion manufacturers are urged to meet the sustainability demands of the buying public or risk financial disaster with stories of individuals pointedly avoiding their merchandise. These stories mostly include isolated examples of somebody recycling their wardrobe contents or avoiding cheap fast fashion items as proof of the sustainability demands of the buying public. But how real and how extensive are these anti-fast-fashion sustainability demands?
Who are these people that are demanding fashion sustainability? Who are these people so concerned about their carbon footprint? Where can we see them? I know where we can’t see them. If you want to know where you can’t see them either, visit any one of the wholesale big box stores on any day of the week and they won’t be the people picking over the two-dollar Tees or ten-dollar sweat pants while their truck out in the parking lot is running to keep it comfortably warm for when they return with a shopping cart load of cheap fast fashion.
So, as the expression goes, one swallow does not a summer make. Citing a few isolated examples to create the impression that the buying public is demanding fashion sustainability, is deceptive and unhelpful. Those of us genuinely concerned about the problem of fashion industry sustainability cannot be encouraged by a change of attitude among the buying public until the cheap fast fashion items disappear from stores’ shelves because buyers are boycotting them. And we’re nowhere near that yet so I wish that fashion journalists would stop pretending that we are because it gives the wrong impression and undermines the urgency of the need to reform the fashion industry.
So what’s the message here? Well, keep doing what you can to change the situation, at least in your own sphere of influence. Eventually the tide will turn but it’s nowhere near that point yet; we need to remain committed and keep up the pressure.