Sustainability in the fashion industry is the topic du jour, and rightfully so. The adverse effects of fashion on our environment and on humans themselves cannot be overstated. Over the past ten years, this topic has shifted from the world of academia and NGOs to business and consumers. In fact, consumers now identify sustainability as one of the key criteria for determining which brands they shop, forcing brands to adapt. And yet, the reality is far more complex. Just because consumers say sustainability is important pertaining to their shopping habits, doesn’t mean that it truly makes a difference at point of sale. And just because brands say they are sustainable, doesn’t mean they are in practice.
Values are often separate from action--because values can be hard to pin down or define quantitatively, and because they are contextual. But rather than giving up, it’s a reminder that more education is needed, and that knowledge will empower brands and consumers to make more informed and sustainable choices and demand ongoing change.
Maria Soubbotina, a graduate student and research assistant at Parsons School of Design, focuses her time on parsing how people use language as it pertains to fashion and retail. And for the past year, she has been deciphering the conversations happening at our sister podcast, “Retail Revolution.”
“Over the past year, I’ve noticed a shift in how retail issues, including sustainability, are discussed. Sustainability, in general, was primarily a catch-all conversation for anything wrong with the fashion industry, or it was specifically referring to the effects of fashion production on the environment. And rightfully so, since that is a large part of it. For example, water pollution is just one part of the environmental aspect and 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile manufacturing.”
But now, she says, the pandemic has begun to shift the language around sustainability towards the effects on the individual. For example, the extent of the impact that chemicals and dyes used to create clothing have on our skin. “Around 8,000 chemicals are used to turn raw materials into clothing, but the average consumer wouldn’t be able to name even one chemical that’s used in the production process, because it’s not something that’s discussed as frequently.”
Read the full transcript at FCNewsBytes.com.
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