Sustainable Fashion is Sustaining…
What is Normal, What is New?
We are all witnessing another milestone in history, unfortunately again not a happy one. COVID 19 is a kind of alarm bell to a lifestyle based on consuming culture and to a normal which seems abnormal when questioned with environmental awareness. Recently we start to hear and read more about the new normal. By remarkably changing our lives during lockdowns, we started to consume less, travel less but spend more time for ourselves. We were like scouts discovering stars inside our body, underestimated but talented singers, artists, writers, designers… Meanwhile, we saw more animals enjoying the abandoned streets. Let’s hope this new normal, which seems more minimal, will consequently be a recipe to cure our lives and also lovely planet A.
For the fashion industry, the sustainability concept is a popular topic for decades. The giant brands are watching the population is going higher in each year with increasing appetite to take a bigger share from the cake. Famous documentary movie True Cost, directed by Andrew Morgan, is telling about the devastating effects of the clothing sector, and saying that we are consuming 4 times more clothes compared to just 2 decades ago. Eventually, the requirement for raw materials is exponentially growing. And we do not have a spare planet in a close distance, which we can use as a source.
Freshwater is one of the main prays of clothes. Most of the phases in the life cycle of a single cotton t-shirt, such as the farming of cotton, spinning the yarn, finishing the fabrics consumes a huge amount of water, which is very precious to sustain the life in earth. Ellen MacArthur Foundation says, textiles production (including cotton farming) uses around 93 billion cubic meters of fresh water per year, which equals to 37 millions of Olympic swimming pools.
If not by considering the survival of nature, then by obeying the rules of mathematics ultimately it was well understood, what was being done cannot be continued. Thanks to all conscious and creative brains striving to mitigate this destruction, for several decades solutions are being designed, alternative materials are being innovated which enabled environmentally friendly production. It started with using Organic Cotton by early 1990s as an alternative to the conventional cotton, which is seriously contaminating water, soil and human body due to uncontrolled use of toxic pesticides. And recycling process followed especially for synthetic fibers such as polyester and polyamide. Now almost all materials do have sustainable options including FSC certification for viscose fibers which prevents the slaughter of rainforests, RWS certification for fibers from animal hairs which ensures that animals are not tortured or prisoned in farms. Currently designers do have a comprehensive material library to create their unique styles completely from sustainable materials.
For sure human is the part of nature so is in the scope of sustainability. Cheap prices in the price tags do not tell much about the slavery concealed in the charm of the dresses. Countries such as China, India or Bangladesh are the main production regions for most of the brands due to very low labor costs. Tough competitions of brands, urgent deliveries to satisfy the fast fashion, lead to very low salaries, bottom life standards briefly meaning a modern slavery for workers.
Longevity is the one core word for all products. Whatever we produce must have a long lifetime so that we can accept it as sustainable. And once that life ends, materials of the products should start a new life, this is circularity. Landfilling is a problem itself, not a solution for handling the wastes. For creative eyes there is no such thing as waste. Swedish company re:newcell, innovated Circulose fiber by chemically recycling old clothes and creating new cellulose fibers. This is giving a new life to a cloth instead of burying it. Such creative solutions are clearly proving, if there is a problem there exists also the solution.
Now, sustainability is on the stage as a timeless star and is sustaining with even higher momentum. It will make fashion great again. It is not just a coincidence that fashion rhymes with passion. Born from colors of nature and the imaginations of pure human intelligence fashion will continue to be a passion for keeping respect and faith to whole life in our lovely earth.
Ahmet Baris Ay