Sustainable fashion & the choice of decent consumers


“Is fashion really becoming more sustainable, or is the sustainability concept going on to be a new trend that the industry is setting out to deceive the consumers?

… To be truly considered sustainable, a brand may have to change all aspects and stages of its business. To be able to measure “sustainability”, the Global Fashion Agenda leadership forum has created a list of eight top priority topics of sustainable fashion including an absolutely transparent supply chain, the right of the employees’ safety, optimal energy usage, and recycle garment materials. If the brand only has one or two of the above to call it “sustainable”, it does not only do nothing to change but also make the situation worse. Reducing single-use plastic, for example, does not change the ability of 90% of global apparel workers to negotiate their rights and cheap wages. The use of organic cotton will not really be environmentally friendly if there is no move to change the pressure of depleting water resources in the cotton-producing regions of the world (such as India and China). Then, if you keep sending out the message of sustainability, a brand will easily be classified as “greenwashing”, meaning that it uses the concept of sustainability as bait for customers, but not really contributing to the sustainable fashion industry”.

(Excerpted from an excellent article by Thu Vu on Joy magazine – Issue 2)

I knew the concept of sustainability 10 years ago when I was an international student, but to really have a thorough insight and a deeper interest in this topic, it is about 2 years ago that I had the chance to contact, learn, and explore some parts of the problem.

In the past, I had a habit of shopping spontaneously for fashion products, simply because I liked to change, to refresh myself, and to find joy in the materials that were easy to buy. But when I am aware of the consumers’ responsibility for the fashion industry in particular, and the environment in general, I have been gradually changing my shopping habits. My wardrobe no longer had too many fast fashion items, long-time-no-use items, or never-worn items, but instead, there are items from good brand names with well-cared form, good quality, even though the price is many times higher, I can wear it again and be proud of their value, and various 2nd hand items. For the clothes that I rarely wear again, I even use an outfit rental application that is both economical and less wasteful (more details in another post). After all, as Thu said, “despite how many environmental or sustainable fashion organizations are in place, things will still go very slowly if the consumers continue with their spontaneous buying and consuming habits”.

Uniqlo is one of the leading brands that has built a sustainable fashion production process. Maybe you just fall in love with Uniqlo because of its simple yet sophisticated design, convenient functions for each type of outfit, affordable price for casual fashion line (comfortable daily fashion), good service, and conscientious staff; then perhaps you should take one more step deeper into the story of production and branding to add love and admiration for them.

Before launching each product to the market, Uniqlo takes many years to consider the quality of the product, the source of raw materials, and the production process. The Spring – Summer LifeWear Magazine had an article about Pacific Jeans – a garment company founded in 1984 in Bangladesh. “From 2019, the company has sewn and perfected jeans for Uniqlo. Their factory has received Gold certification from the LEED O + M program, an American system that recognizes energy efficiency and environmentally friendliness.” Just making jeans but it sounds so complicated? Yes, that’s it! “Handling denim jeans takes a lot, a lot of water. But water is a finite resource. Denim is a fabric made of a very durable cotton cross-woven fabric that is reinforced with studs at some key points for longevity, often used in jeans and many other products. Since consumers of fashion products love beauty, people want stylish pants. As a result, Uniqlo and its production unit have been constantly researching and developing new sustainable ways, such as using ozone washing technology to fade the jeans to save water and using laser cutting machines to take care of the fading and tearing details, the effects of splattering on the thighs and the frayed marks that appear to have been worn for a long time. Before, jeans makers had to manipulate by hand using pumice stones, chemicals, sandpaper, but the fine dust from this process would make the workshop not clean and endanger human health.

It is just one of the hundreds of thousands of stories about a line of jeans that are very close to us. Launching many different products to meet the sustainability criteria will take a lot of effort and there will be a lot of obstacles. Moreover, in addition to directing consumers to use streamlined and durable fashion to minimize waste, Uniqlo also solves the fashion waste problem by paying attention to every needle line in the process to limit non-standard products which is a waste, by using plastic waste for recycling for the fabrics for some sportswear or allowing consumers to bring to Uniqlo stores the products they no longer use so that Uniqlo can renew them and give them to people with difficult circumstances…

Maybe someone would say sustainable fashion is not for everyone. But I have that belief in Uniqlo. Uniqlo can be for everyone, as long as you are a kind consumer, with care and responsibility for the environment and common problems of the society. As more and more consumers put their attention in the right place, brands are required to meet the needs of the consumers, to truly engage in sustainable fashion, and product costs will decrease accordingly. At that time, sustainable fashion will be for everyone. We have a long future ahead to “pick fruits” from the “seeds” sown today.

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