Sustainability is increasingly discussed online, including by YouTuber Arden RoseArden Rose/Youtube

Sustainability was once a foreign concept in the world of fashion, yet with the ever-rising influence of social media, consumers are increasingly being made aware of the repercussions of their spending. The notion of sustainability is something of a dichotomy in the industry: while consumers feel a moral duty to support ethical brands in light of the polluting effects of fast fashion, the high price tag acts as a profound deterrent.

But what are these polluting effects, and what is fast fashion? Oscar Wilde states, ‘fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months’; this defines fast fashion perfectly. Consumers are fed a tirade of seasonal campaigns, encouraging wardrobe renewals as the weather brings new collections of clothing. Spending surges, with shoppers flocking to the high-street to update their wardrobes. Yet the consequences of this are unprecedented: shocking statistics reveal that six out of ten garments purchased are not being worn by consumers. 

Over 8,000 litres of water are needed to produce a single pair of jeans

This provokes thought into the production of these six unused and disposable garments. A staple clothing item is a pair of jeans, standing the test of time to be included in countless trends and collections over decades of fast fashion. However, do consumers of denim realise the cost behind their favourite pair of jeans, not just financially but environmentally too?

The foremost source of denim is cotton, which causes wide-scale atrocities for the world’s water supplies, with over 8000 litres of water needed to produce a single pair. A prevalent example of the catastrophes triggered by the production of cotton is the Aral Sea, situated between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

While consumers feel a moral duty to support ethical brands, the high price tag acts as a profound deterrent

This sea was a crucial water source for an abundance of local communities, yet with the production of cotton in the Northern area of Uzbekistan, the inflowing rivers were diverted to areas of cotton manufacturing, thus depleting the sea of water. It now exists as the North Aral: the main body of the sea is now exposed land. Disasters such as these cause unparalleled damage to the local population. They expose the unfathomable atrocities undertaken by fashion powerhouses committed to producing fashion on a fast rotation, and at the cheapest cost possible, regardless of the negative impact this will leave behind.

Keeping the industry thriving is gradually becoming inextricably linked with sustainability, and new labels are creating clothing from locally-sourced materials, or recycled garments. The less-polluting manufacturing process allows enjoyment of fashion in a guilt-free manner. Yet a significant journey remains: the sustainable fashion market must become more accessible, as garments can cost three times more than typical high-street price tags. Ultimately, the consumer is paying for the ethical sourcing of the clothing, but the high prices exclude a large demographic and isolate the sustainable market, reducing its potential impact. 


Mountain View

Hiding my body in clothing

As the gap between the ethical fashion and high-street prices is gradually bridged, there are ways in which consumers can limit their endorsing of fast fashion, thus making their own difference to the environmental catastrophes occurring as a result of this highly polluting industry.

Shoppers can apply to their purchases the ‘Thirty Wear Test’, which encourages consumers to consider whether something can be worn at least thirty times. Such schemes cement a more ethical approach to partakers of fast fashion, while also reducing the cost-per-wear of each item. ‘Capsule Wardrobes’ are another easily-implemented sustainable alternative, where shoppers reduce their wardrobe to approximately thirty pieces and ensure no surplus of unused clothes. 

Sustainable fashion is a label that cannot be solely limited to expensive brands that, if implementing ethical policies, are inaccessible for a wide range of people. By partaking in campaigns such as the ‘Thirty Wear Test’, consumers are contributing to a large-scale rise in the awareness of how damaging the world’s second most polluting industry really is.