It’s Fashion Week in New York, so it’s an appropriate time to ask the question: Can fashion be truly sustainable? Sure, clothes can be manufactured from organic cotton and recycled pop bottles, but is the use of such green materials simply putting a soul-soothing face on consumerism? Or are environmentally-conscious designers bringing about measurable change in an industry that produces an incredible amount of waste?
In an interview with sustainable fashion blog Ecouterre, New York designer Samantha Pleet explains that to her, eco-fashion “means that you are trying a little bit harder to find an amazing fabric that will hopefully make a difference — or not as much of a difference — in the world.”
But is that enough? In the unlikely event that every item of clothing manufactured from now on was made of sustainable fabrics, would the fashion industry still not consume a disproportionate amount of resources, and produce an unsustainable amount of waste? Fast fashion ensures that clothes go from catwalk to coat hanger to curbside in record time. This keeps consumer dollars flowing to clothing companies, and last year’s looks piled in landfills.
For her part, Pleet acknowledges this issue, and hopes that she’s not contributing to the problem. “I like to feel that my clothes are special. I don’t like to think of them as someone just buying to wear once and throwing them away.”
There’s clearly a trend among many designers and consumers to embrace sustainability in their clothing choices. But since small, individual actions are not enough to save the world, can we expect the fashion industry to embrace business models that are consistant with a sustainable economy?