BY LUCY MARTIN
Ethical, sustainable brands are revolutionising the fashion industry in many ways. They are starting again, building from the bottom to replace an industry that contributes to 10% of carbon emissions around the world (1). Not only does this movement towards a more eco-friendly way of buying clothes reduce the impact of fast fashion on the climate crisis – it also provides opportunities to fix ways that fashion contributes negatively to other issues in society.
For years and years, the way we dressed tended to fit into neat categories of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’, pushed onto us often by societal expectations of what men and women should wear, be and look like. Clothing stores around the world still have sections specifically for ‘men’ and ‘women’, despite significant progress towards androgyny in recent years. The industry as a whole, as promoted through high-fashion shows, advertising and the marketing done by high-street stores, continues to claim heteronormative gender ideals as the ones by which they follow.
New sustainable brands looking to revolutionise the way that the industry contributes negatively to the environment have an incredible opportunity. They can refuse to conform to the traditional gender divides seen in many clothing brands, magazines, catwalks and shops globally. By introducing unisex ranges and refusing to label clothes ‘male’ or ‘female’, these brands can lead the change in allowing gender fluidity to become more socially acceptable, thus lifting the societal pressure to conform to traditional gender norms and allowing people with gender-fluid and trans identities to feel more accepted and validated.
Environmental movements around the world currently stand with other causes, looking to make our society more equal and better for everyone. It would be no surprise, therefore, that many environmental brands might want to make a difference in other ways.
The current fashion industry can feel inaccessible to some. While changes have been made, including companies like Marks and Spencer using models in wheelchairs to advertise clothing, the industry as a whole can feel closed-off to anyone who doesn’t fit into a certain mould. Able-bodied people are disproportionately used to advertise clothing, in fashion magazines and as models for shoots of all kinds. Starting from the bottom with sustainable brands provides the opportunity to cater to people of all types from the very beginning. Incredible strides towards diversity in the skin colour of models used by brands to model clothing have also been made in recent years but there is still a long way we need to go.
Some sustainable brands are already demonstrating their commitment to diversifying their brands, along with reducing their impact on the environment. TALA is an incredibly diverse new eco-friendly brand based in the UK, boasting 92% sustainability with a goal of 100% and making clothing out of factory off-cuts and recycled plastic bottles (2). The models they use are representative of all different sizes, ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. If more sustainable brands are willing to diversify, the industry can be built from the bottom in a much better way.
The real benefits of sustainable brands will be seen in the reduction of waste and negative environmental impact contributed to the planet by the fashion industry. However, these brands also have a great opportunity to redefine our fashion industry, making it more inclusive in so many other ways.
1. Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/fast-fashion-environmental-impact-pollution-emissions-waste-water-2019-10?r=US&IR=T#in-total-up-to-85-of-textiles-go-into-landfills-each-year-thats-enough-to-fill-the-sydney-harbor-annually-6
2. TALA. https://www.wearetala.com/