Discussion Time: How Can Designers and Stakeholders Contribute to Sustainability
Updated: Jun 3
Few days ago, we have had the chance to listen to a talk organised by the Amsterdam Fashion Academy on the Topic of Sustainability. The guest speaker was Dr. Radha Jethu, the assistant professor and program manager of the MBA program Fashion Management at the Business School the Netherlands.
Located in the Museum District in Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Fashion Academy is the perfect location to learn more about the fashion industry!
The focus of the speech was on sustainability, and the role and contribution of fashion designers.
Jehtu starts her speech pointing out that consumers do not feel they should be the ones changing the industry, but the designers. This claim is warning for two reason; are the consumers aware of their purchasing power? Are they too comfortable to be changing the situation? Is the sustainable fashion attractive enough for the consumer?
There is no black and white answer to this one, but to dive deeper in the reasons why consumers are still purchasing fast fashion.
Do they have the financial means of buying sustainable clothes?
To what extent are they aware of the issues related to sustainability?
Is sustainable fashion attractive enough for the consumer?
Unfortunately, in all of these three points, fast fashion is scoring higher. It is cheaper, easier to purchase, and there are plenty of styles present. Until slow fashion changes this, or gives something more valuable to the consumer, I don't see the reason why a (unaware) person would buy a $70.00 White T-shirt (and they are ones supporting fast fashion) However, instead of blaming the consumer, fashion houses should ask themselves: How can we create a short, easy, popular way for consumers to choose our shirt instead of the one from Primark? Don't expect your consumers to think too much- they always will go for the easy option.
Related Article: Is Sustainable Fashion Exclusive?
Let's try to answer the 3 questions which came to my mind:
Do they have the financial means of buying sustainable clothes? To what extent are they aware of the issues related to sustainability?
This is a tricky one, and of course, it depends who we are talking about. If you live in a developed country, have a stable income and do not have to worry what you're going to eat the next day, or whether you will be able to pay your rent by the end of the month, you probably do have the time/sources to think of incorporating a more sustainable lifestyle. On the other side, if you live in a less developed/corrupted country, your priorities are different.
If you buy a new shirt every month from Zara for 20 euros, why wouldn't you save that money and buy a t-shirt which is more expensive, however of better quality and will last longer? Sustainability experts often ask the question: do you really need that extra t-shirt, thinking you don't, but yes, you do. The low quality of clothes and the new collections do make consumption so easy. The culture of consumerism forces you to buy more, throw more, have more, all the time.
There is a lack of creative, likeable, pieces of clothing. The sustainable style unfortunately still promotes a similar style - natural colours, similar fabrics, plain and simple, with a ‘hippie note’.
Luxury fashion houses precisely do not want to identify with this image, as it has negative connotations. How many luxury brands promote being eco-friendly? Not that many. Stella McCartney? I will talk about her contribution in another post. People follow what is popular and of if the brands are running away from this image, no wonder the crowd does the same.
The world of fashion is indeed very complex, and although I might not have a definitive answer to the problems, at least I question: Who Made my Clothes? How?