What is Sustainable Fashion Really?

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A few weeks ago I caught up with my friend Lastrina, and found out that since her COP21 moment in Paris last year (you can read about it here) she has taken great strides to get Singaporeans to be more concerned about climate change, and, more importantly to take action.  She co-founded, Singapore Youth for Climate Action (SYCA) with three other amazing ladies who were also attended COP21 - Melissa Chong, Cuifen Pui and Juliana Chia.  One of the initiatives under SYCA is the Learning and Leadership Programme, which involves deepening youth knowledge on climate-related topics in the local context; and secondly understand oneself better, and enhance skills needed to start movements.

SYCA invited Connected Threads Asia to be resource people during one of the sessions (23 April) and I was very honoured to facilitate the session.  Participants experienced a session of exploring their values, understanding the supply chain of the fashion industry, and working as teams to define what would be the most sustainable garment. For me one of the points that came to mind during the session is how everyone has a different take on what sustainable fashion is. In fact, many people I speak to don't realise that to achieve sustainability in an industry :

a) It takes time. Existing companies are huge mammoth like structures with supply chains that extend across the globe, so change happens a step at a time. Positive changes have been made since Rana Plaza, some people say not fast enough,  but remember because so many parties involved things can't happen over night.

b) Systemic change has to happen and for this to occur, collaboration is needed. And when I mean collaboration, I mean with EVERYONE who is part of the system, including the authorities.  Take for example, a few stores setting up a clothes recycling bins is only a small step, but collaborating with the local authorities to have an official collection .... now that's big impact and everyone can get involved. If you are looking for alternative technologies to recycle mixed textile blends or a create a waterless dye, why not work together with other brands to develop it so you get economies of scale when it comes onto the market. It's a win-win for the brands and the environment.

And then there is this .... the vast amount of information on the internet .... there is so  much that people jump to conclusions and they don't dig deeper. If in doubt, try searching for the information yourself, treat what you see that gets posted or shared with a pinch of salt.

The slack that some brands such as H&M and Levis are getting are a case in point.  Business model aside (yes, I don't like the fact that seasons change EVERY week to promote consumerism) , brands that are making positive changes to their supply chain (be it environmental or from an ethical point of view) and are transparent  about it (varying degrees, I might add) appear to be the ones that are usually picked on. Remember the World Recycling Week campaign? Many people were accusing H&M of being unsustainable and forgot about the things that they were doing for positive change. Rather than point fingers and be a keyboard warrior, why not work together towards something better? Why not get the ones who are not making any change at all to do something?

And what do you think about the backlash to Australian brand Gorman? They posted a #whomademyclothes post in response to the Fashion Revolution Day campaign. Unfortunately, or fortunately, they were called out by the public - their parent company were graded an "F" in The 2016 Australian Fashion Report.  What does the grade "F" mean? What would your response be?

 A lot of the people who commented on Gorman's instagram did not know what the grade "F" meant or did they read the report.  What would you do?

Please note, I'm not defending all these organisations, nor do I buy from fast fashion ones either because I believe in 2nd hand / upcycled or ethically made purchases.  You might not believe in the same things I do, but I do believe that everyone should be well-informed to make the right choices.

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1 comment

  1. Agy, I appreciate that you tackle all this! We all need to know it. You are so right... and from one side, yes, there is so much valuable information, but I bet no one will be willing to go over a report of 65 pages to get informed, IF they are not professional. On the other hand, for fashion going sustainable is not the best we should ask. It is to go mindful what would be the consequences in long term future!

    I do respect what some brands are doing to be more "eco" and "ethical", but, hey, do they say: "Wow, we produce too much and exhaust Earth's resources, we need to slow down and think what we are leaving for next generations instead of just profits" (movie "The Road" gives really good apocalyptic image what our children could face one day!).

    We need to trigger more conversations like this but in other, such as fashion, craft or DIY blogs, with simple words and true exposed. I appreciate all that you do in the "real world" and write on your website. Also, that you're choosing second hand. This I find really good "safe" way - not to trigger big brands hunger for more sales (and production/profit), but also to reduce the textile waste too!

    Have a great day,