The rise of sustainable fashion

by Paris Belus

SEA OF CLOTHING: A landfill full of textile waste waiting to decompose. As clothes in landfills started to decompose, they gave off a heat absorbing gas called methane. Methane gas warms the atmosphere, which leads to climate change. (Photo by Stan Honda)

Fashion is, at its core, a source of expression and individuality for people around the world, but it also has its flaws. As of late, society is starting to see a rise in sustainable fashion in the clothing industry because of the dangers fast fashion can bring, such as climate change and sweatshops. People have become more environmentally aware of their decisions and the impact it can have on the world around them.

Sustainable fashion is clothing that has been made and distributed in a way that is safe for the environment and human civilization. Fast fashion is the exact opposite. Thrift shopping, buying from sustainable brands, and upcycling are all ways to maintain a sustainable closet. By practicing these tasks, the harmful problems promoted by fast fashion can improve.

“I think the sustainable movement has lately gained popularity because the public has only recently found out the various problems that are happening in our environment due to the practices that humans perform on a daily basis,” said Jessica Sanchez, an employee at H&M.

The start of sustainable fashion came with the increase of consumerist society from advancements during the industrial revolution. The rise got more popular due to the sprout of  the hippie movement of the 60s that embraced natural fabrics, the goth movement of the 60s that embraced vintage clothing and the anti-fur movement of the 80s that boycotted the use of cruel punishment on animals to make clothing . These movements all helped form sustainable fashion into what it is today.

“The history of sustainability in fashion started with us, so it is our responsibility to continue to contribute to the movement,” said Camila Diaz, a sustainable fashion consumer.

Recently, thrift shopping has become a popular activity through the rise of sustainable fashion. Thrift shops sell a huge variety of used clothing, shoes, and accessories for a fraction of the original price. According to the business analysis website Green Story, the purchase of one used item instead of a new one can reduce its carbon footprint by up to 82%, and if everyone would purchase just one used item in the next 12 months, it would save 11 billion kilowatts of energy, 25 billion gallons of water, and 449 million pounds of waste. By thrift shopping, the life of a clothing item can be expanded by keeping it out of landfills.

“I like to go thrifting occasionally. When people wear things that are pre-loved, everyone benefits,” said Amber Quettan, founder of online beauty and clothing store Bijou Beauty.

CLOTHING DISPLAY: A Target clothing aisle in Pembroke Pines, FL presenting long sleeve shirts made from 100% cotton. Target made a commitment to make their company more sustainable by making changes, such as using eco-friendly packaging and selling clothes made of recycled materials. These changes are contributing to the rise of sustainable fashion by eliminating waste from plastic packages and non-biodegradable fabrics. Photo by Paris Belus

The rise in sustainable fashion has brought a chain of sustainable clothing stores. Levi’s and PACT are some of the stores that have introduced sustainable clothing to their customers.      According to the Business Research Company, the sustainable fashion market is expected to grow to $9.81 billion in 2025 and then $15.17 billion in 2030 at an annual growth rate of 9.1%. Sustainable clothing stores use ethical practices that focus on producing clothing in a way that is harmless to people and the environment. They use biodegradable fabrics, such as linen, cotton, and silk to make their clothing. When these clothes are disposed, they break down in ways that are not harmful to the environment.

“I usually gravitate towards eco- friendly materials like line when it comes to the clothing I wear because when I buy clothing made with non- biodegradable materials like spandex, I  feel guilty knowing that my clothing could be a factor contributing to polluting the earth,” Diaz said.

Another activity that has become popular during the rise of sustainable fashion is upcycling. Upcycling is the use of unwanted objects and materials to make new, original clothing. Cutting the bottoms of an old pair of jeans and making them into shorts, embroidering designs onto shirts, or sewing multiple articles of clothing into a brand-new piece are all ways to upcycle previously owned clothes. Upcycling and thrifting often go hand in hand, as well, looking for new clothes to make your own and unique can prove to be hobbies and passions for many.

“My favorite part about upcycling clothing is that I’m able to take pieces in my closet and make them original and my own,” said Jennifer Collins, an upcycler. “I love how you can use it to make a statement.”

However, not everyone agrees with the practices associated with sustainable fashion. Buying from sustainable clothing stores can be expensive due to the materials and resources needed to make clothing sustainable. According to a report from the e-commerce personalization platform Nosto, 52% of consumers do want the fashion industry to follow more sustainable practices, but only 29% of consumers would pay more for sustainably-made clothing. Luckily, there are various ways to maintain a sustainable wardrobe.

“I think fast fashion will be more popular because it provides affordable clothing that is also trending and popular,” said Sheila Bell, a fast fashion shopper.

Fashion has many downsides, but with the rise of sustainable fashion, this can change. By thrift shopping, sustainably shopping, and upcycling, people can have a role in improving the harms that come with fashion.

“I think with the recent rise of sustainable fashion, the clothing industry and therefore, everyone who wears clothes, is going to realize this treasure trove we have and we’re all going to benefit,” Quettan said.

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