Many of my favourite things start with the letter ‘f’. There’s food: organic and biodynamic of course. There’s fun: there’s too many activities to list here. There are flowers: my first choice are orchids followed by dahlias, carnations and peonies. And then there’s fashion: always sustainable, always ethical.
And as an individual who appreciates beauty in all its forms, I have developed a harmless daily activity of flicking through artistic and inspiring Instagram photos uploaded by the various sustainable ‘eco fashion’ brands and e-tailers that I follow. But then a niggling thought hit me several weeks ago that has been bothering me since it entered my mind. That particular thought bugged me so much that it culminated into the act of writing this particular blog post.
The thought was this: exactly just how eco is eco fashion? Viewing Instagram images of models in beautiful organic cotton garments is a more sustainable option yes – but cotton is an extremely water thirsty plant and being organic doesn’t make it less so. It is advertised as a better option, but I know it isn’t. Garments made from hemp and bamboo are much better options.
I also began to question the motives of some of the ‘eco’ bloggers and ‘eco fashion’ brands that I was following on social media. Upon flicking through countless images, I decided to ‘unfollow’ several because the constant marketing bombardment promoted a shopping philosophy that I fundamentally disagree with: one that encourages you to buy more. How can eco fashion be considered sustainable when it relies on the same capitalistic systems and marketing mechanisms that drive unsustainability in the first place? The truth is that the eco fashion industry still relies on unnecessary consumption as much as the fast fashion industry does.
And herein lies the problem that seems to have permanently wedged itself into the crevices of my brain.
Eco fashion and fast fashion are inextricably linked because the industries both rely on people’s unsustainable practice of mindless consumption. Now I’m not saying that eco fashion is as bad as fast fashion. If you were to purchase a garment, indeed an eco fashion choice is by far the better option – at least it attempts to address environmental issues, as well as social and economic issues. What I am merely saying is that eco fashion has its flaws. To really address the underlying causes of environmental destruction and resource depletion involves transforming the cultural buying habits of much of the Western and developing worlds from unrestrained consumption to one driven more by necessity.
True eco fashionistas understand this and adopt shopping habits that are on a ‘needs’ basis instead of a ‘wants’ basis. They are the ones who can see through ‘green washing’ propaganda. They are not afraid to point out that the greenest action people can take – is not to purchase anything at all!