We are personally responsible for our actions, and in order to improve our world we need to accept that responsibility and change our actions. Since childhood, I saw the idea of reusability first hand. I saw how my mother would always evaluate if an item - clothes, kitchen ware or any other textile could be reused before discarding it. It was difficult to comprehend the consequences at that age. This piqued my interest and motivated me to pursuit a career where I studied Chemical Engineering and closely looking at its effects on the environment during my Master's as an Environmental Engineer. Looking at the life cycle analysis of products that I loved buying made me realise how there are greater consequences of our actions.
Taking a closer look at my lifestyle brought me to a realization that I wanted to move from being a part of throwaway society to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. This consists of being cognizant of how an item can be reused. Having lived in NYC, I was constantly stimulated by new fashion trends and wanted to own it. Most of my shopping patterns were impulsive, which led to a lot of unnecessary purchases. The storefronts have a way of conditioning consumers to feel an unrelenting urge to replace their wardrobe on a seasonal basis. This made me started thinking about sustainability in this industry. It was alarming to learn that retail industry comes to a close second to oil industry as a source of pollution.
Sustainability's foundation is based on 3P's ; they are -- People, Planet and Profit. It is important to strike a balance between these three to be successful. Here are how these foundations relate to fashion industry.
People: With the origin of Fast Fashion the industry has become more about fast production without taking into account the cost of this fast pace . Sourcing of material and factory workers that work on the garment are an integral part of the process. As much as possible we need to ensure we shop from stores that pay importance to this criteria to source their garment. Carelessness on this aspect can lead to disaster such as the collapse of Rana Plaza. We are in the era of economic liberalization, which has led to manufacturing process to be spread out in parts of the world where labour costs are low. This has caused a proliferation of labour needs creating more job opportunities. What needs to be taken into account is the operational process adopted in these countries. Manufacturers need to keep a close look at working conditions.
Planet: Statistically, 40% of all the clothes in one's closet is not worn on a regular basis. When we talk about how sustainability initiative by us affects the planet it is important to consider two aspects . Firstly, it is important to consider fabric. A lot of designers are becoming more conscious and preferring to use eco- friendly material for designing clothes. As consumers, some of these materials that you can look out for are: hemp, organic cotton, recycled polyester etc. Maintenance of the fabric in the most energy efficient way contributes to the longevity of life. Secondly, After a piece of garment has gone through the shelf life in one's wardrobe how we choose to discard it is important. We can donate used clothes. Another option is to recycle clothes. As savvy consumers, we should try to ensure we don't contribute to the landfill waste.
Profit: As with any business all fashion retailers are interested in their products helping them make some money. Sustainable initiatives are seen to be an expensive undertaking. We live in a society which appreciates transparency. Brand development and customer loyalty can be achieved by building brand transparency. There is an ascension of ethical fashion. If the companies are able to educate the consumers on the value provided by the ethical steps the company adopts to create a t-shirt which costs $15 versus $5 as consumers we will be appreciative of the brand and this could lead to brand loyalty. A mere transparency in such initiatives could lead to user acquisition cost to go down. Good Corporate citizenship can be translated into revenue. Social advertising is better than going towards the traditional billboard and newspaper media.
Taking a closer look at all these aspects I realised that what misses in the market today is a tool to help customers understand fashion and retail better. As a consumer it is difficult to keep all the different facets in mind while making a purchase. I wanted to make a difference by creating a wave of educated consumerism. What fuels fast fashion is the constant change of trends, which motivates one to buy items. Looking at retail data and Google trends we can see how closely searches are dependent on trends. Explaining trends to buyers will bring a systemic change in how we shop. This along with versatility of how bloggers use an item helps consumer be a little imaginative and think of different ways to utilise the same item. Finally, we link these trends with stores. I aim to handpick stores ,which use sustainable methodologies. I believe these are three elements, which will holistically help shoppers make a more informed decision. This is initial step towards sustainable lifestyle.
To help understand versatility and to make informed decisions I launched my fashion App, ThreadChannel which will help you partake in the circular economy and make better decisions. To get your daily dose of fashion check out our App here
To discover and learn more visit our website at http://www.thread-channel.com/#about or download our iPhone app here.
by Neeharika Sinha, CEO, Co-Founder ThreadChannel
This September The Huffington Post UK Style is focusing on all things sustainable, for the second year running. Our thirst for fast fashion is dramatically impacting the environment and the lives of thousands of workers in a negative way. Our aim is to raise awareness of this zeitgeist issue and champion brands and people working to make the fashion industry a more ethical place.
We'll be sharing stories and blogs with the hashtag #SustainableFashion and we'd like you to do the same. If you'd like to use our blogging platform to share your story, email firstname.lastname@example.org