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Why Ethical Fashion?

Is there a solution to reduce the harms created by fast fashion? The answer is - 'Ethical Fashion'

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Fashion is an essential part of our lives, almost a form of self-expression and individuality. Whether we follow latest trends or not; what we wear still communicates something about ourselves. It is what makes us unique. Yet we are mostly unaware about how our clothes are made, who makes it and what it is made of? Today we are least bothered about these questions but this drives a massive impact on our environment and our people.

This is an era of Fast Fashion. Our mainstream fashion industry relies on mass produced garments that are transformed from design to retail in just a few weeks. Customers are easily swayed to purchase more and more with retailers selling the latest fashion trends at a very low prices. This is often boosted with attractive promotions, heavy discounts & deals. But this over consumption often comes with a hidden price tag, and it is the environment and the workers in supply chain that pay the price.

While cost of living is constantly increasing, fashion is becoming cheaper and cheaper every day. To make cheap fast fashion products, brands and retailers source their products from the countries where labour is cheap and often use substandard quality raw materials. Countries like Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar and even some African countries like Ethiopia have become the sourcing hub of fast fashion. Most of the factories in these countries depend on the big brands and retailers for their business. So, when these factories are approached to produce cheap products at faster pace, they don't have a choice but to accept the orders to stay in the business. The ever-growing demand for fast fashion with shorter lead-time from months to just a few weeks naturally puts pressure on the supply chain. Majority of these factories don't have means and expertise to manage this effectively so to make profit they employ cheaper labour with limited benefits and poor working conditions. While we consumers are happy about fast fashion products, the hands creating these products work for as long as 16 hours a day, suffering from uncomfortable and unsafe working conditions and sometimes pay the price with their lives in incidents like Rana Plaza Disaster that happened in April 24, 2013 in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Fast fashion significantly depletes our natural resources like water and fossil fuels. Fresh water reservoirs are increasingly diminished for cotton crop irrigation. Man made products such as synthetic fibres, pesticides and other chemicals are also being used in greater amounts increasing their presence in nature. Hazardous chemicals are released in the environment during manufacturing contaminating water bodies and soil. As such, ecosystem is being damaged and destroyed leading us towards critical issue of climate change, affecting everyone at large scale. To understand the intensity of pollution generated by textile and fashion companies, Greenpeace conducted an investigation on hazardous chemicals in clothing on over 141 varied pieces of apparel manufactured from 29 different countries around the world. About 20 global retailers were scrutinized for this exercise. In its findings, the organization discovered that all companies had products that contained NPEs, a hormone disruptor and some brands also contained concentrations of the gender-bender chemical.

Is there a solution to reduce the harms created by fast fashion? The answer is - 'Ethical Fashion'.

Ethical and sustainable fashion (also termed as Slow Fashion) represents an approach of designing, manufacturing, distributing, selling, consuming and disposing of fashion products which maximizes benefits to people and communities while minimizing impact on the environment.  Ethical fashion is key to neutralize the negative impact we have had due to fast fashion. In recent times, there have been significant efforts to drive the adoption of Ethical Fashion. Number of global movements have been initiated to change perception and create awareness. Still a lot needs to be done and every stakeholder in the business be it Fashion retailers, customers, brands, bloggers need to come together to take this forward.

In the next section we will talk more about Ethical fashion and its benefits, what people perceive about Ethical fashion and how global movements are helping in changing that perception.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Ethical Fashion fashion industry garment sector opinion

Kunal Agrawal

The author is an experienced consulting professional with a successful journey across multiple Fortune 500 organizations. He has worked in global markets like US, UK, India, Central Europe (CZ, HU, PL, and SK), Dubai, Kenya and Singapore. He is currently based out of Seattle, US and drives the data and analytics business for a large technology consulting company.

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Sanil Rangari

The author is an experienced fashion management professional who has worked for multiple leading apparel retailers across India. He is currently working on his own venture to drive awareness on ethical and sustainable fashion in Mumbai, India.

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