Sustainable Fashion

Is it a contradiction in terms?

Everyone has probably read or seen something about sustainability in relation to using up our natural resources. For example wood might come from sustainably managed forrest. Fish might be caught from sustainable populations. I recently heard the term “sustainable fashion” which made me wonder if there is really any such thing.

A dictionary definition of fashion is “a popular or the latest style of clothing, hair, decoration” etc. there are lots of definitions that might have different words but mean the same thing.  The key word in the definition in this context is “latest”, because latest is constantly changing. Nothing is ever the ultimate, it will be replaced, upgraded, redesigned in an ever shortening product cycle.

I know little about fashion but I know that most fashion labels, at least the major ones, have main releases of new clothes annually, sometimes supplemented with smaller releases or special individual products more often. For the sake of argument, I will assume annual.

With only a few exceptions, like manual labourers, in the prosperous western nations clothes do not wear out annually in a 12 month period. Frequently they are not worn out when they are discarded. A few find their way to charity stores, to be re-used. A significant number are just disposed of.

The product release cycle of new styles, all of which meet the same basic criteria and function, is usually much shorter than the time it takes to wear out a, not very expensive, set of clothing.

If new products are released and bought, or existing clothing replaced before it is worn out, can we really call it ‘sustainable fashion’?


One thought on “Sustainable Fashion

  1. annamaderight

    There is almost no such thing as sustainable fashion! You’re being kind assuming annual releases, it’s weekly for companies like H&M, Zara, Gap, Banana Republic, Macy’s. That’s where most people shop, which makes this industry so unsustainable – and the second most pulluting industry in the world. Here’s one I just posted, but I’ve got a lot on this topic on the blog if you want to know more 🙂 Thanks for talking about this topic.


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