Every time I hear someone advocating for ‘sustainable fashion’ my face involuntarily cringes. Certainly not because I don’t think it is important to address the sustainability issues, not at all. My skepticism stems from the fact proven beyond any reasonable doubt that whatever comes under the umbrella of ‘sustainable anything’ will essentially be blunt and boring. In the context of fashion, it will most likely mean slouchy mumsy cuts and bleak colour palette. The lack of funding for skilled experienced designers, pattern cutters, trained labour, decent quality control – you name it – go hand in hand with ‘sustainable fashion’.
Luckily, it doesn’t bother those who wear sustainable… Or does it? For some unknown reason, the manufacturers of sustainable clothing certainly believe that the appearance of the clothing is a tributary factor and the idea of aesthetics or quality should be abolished like rampant slavery in distant sweatshops.
The voice of potentially ‘caring fashionistas’ -myself included- and many others who would love to support sustainable apparel brands are not taken into account. If there was something remotely fashionable to look at, would help the cause enormously. The designers are more concerned with ‘improving the living standards’ in remote villages in even more remote countries than with lives of our own local manufacturers, who also have to make a living. It occurs to me that for ‘sustainable designers’ it is all about making a political statement rather than building up a brand of statement apparel that is capable of creating the difference.
The flaws of sustainable garment production are seemingly many and the truth is that the ‘sustainable fashion’ doesn’t sell en masse. We can only speculate as to the real reasons behind this trend and will hardly ever know for sure. However, what is undeniable, is that the production can only remain ‘sustainable’ if it is aimed to serve just a few. A few farmers in one region producing enough to dress one yoga class is probably where the true ‘sustainable fashion’ – and anything sustainable in general – ends.
Deforestation, CO2 emissions, exploitation of natural resources, growing social inequality, and fuelling corruption are all by-products of ‘sustainable fashion’ gone mass production. Add to this process profiting, certifying bodies and the cause loses its juvenile romantics altogether.
Causing as little harm to the environment as possible is a noble desire worth acknowledging and discussing. But the word ‘sustainable’ desperately needs a new spin to it. And even more so does the ‘sustainable fashion’. Patterns and colours that don’t change from decade to decade are safe options but this concept -AKA Communism- simply doesn’t belong to the fashion world where new collections are presented to the public twice a year. It is the bare minimum that must be recognised by sustainable entrepreneurs.
They say that everything ‘new’ in fashion is simply the re-invented ‘old’. But even re-inventing something old requires a bit of creativity and desire to step beyond the ‘familiar’ and ‘safe’. This is the very reason why we applaud such icons as Lagerfeld, Galliano, or Tom Ford. Sustainable fashion needs an ambitious visionary who will be passionate about fashion, not only the environment or the well-being of some remote community.