The growing demand for ethical clothing is taking over the fashion industry, writes Cynthia Madison.

Nowadays, sustainability is a subject undergoing intense study in everyday life. There are numerous news, trends, and data about the way our planet is changing due to the reckless actions of humans. As a result, it (sustainability) has become a trend in every industry. In the last few years, the fashion industry too has accepted it as the centre of its future innovation. The fashion and apparel industry plays a major role in the global economy.  However, this success comes at a high environmental cost that affects us all.

Fashion companies have started to embrace the importance of ethical clothing-changing the loop of the entire product lifecycle by means of recycling and regeneration. The main aimed result is to minimise the effects of fashion on the environment. Contamination of local waterways from toxic chemicals, production of scraps, overuse of packaging, and the use of pesticides on cotton are only a few negative practices that the fashion industry is aiming to reduce or eliminate.

Trends are a big deal in the fashion world. Brands are constantly doing their best to keep up with what is popular and make products that will fit with the demands of the current fashion trends. Therefore, change and innovation are vital parts of staying popular for consumers.

How is fast fashion affecting the environment?

Fast fashion has a huge environmental cost. It focuses on the speed of production and low cost in order to deliver frequent new collections to customers. The pressure to reduce costs and the time it takes to get a final product make fashion companies cut environmental corners. Fast fashion is criticised for its negative impact on the environment, water pollution, the use of toxic chemicals, and increasing levels of textile waste. The blame does not lie with fashion brands alone; consumers are also responsible for the impact on the environment. Such consumers approach clothing as an item they want at the moment and do not care if they have to throw it away in just a few months. As long as the clothes are cheap, the environmental costs are rarely taken into consideration. Therefore, as consumers demand new styles, low prices, and fast shipping, fashion brands have to find ways to meet that demand.

Although it is a growing industry as every individual may hurry to head out to shop during sales periods, the appealing features of garments are achieved with toxic chemicals. As a result of the numerous critiques brought to the industry, fashion brands have been encouraged to act on removing hazardous chemicals and shift to environment-friendly practices to create ethical clothing.

Eco-friendly mindset of millennial consumers

Consumers in the developed world have been used to fast fashion and cheap clothes which were perceived as a throw-away commodity, ending up in landfills. However, protecting our environment is a rising trend that has also influenced the way consumers make their purchasing decisions. The commercial advantages of ethical fashion has become apparent in a marketplace where millennials represent the biggest generation of consumers. Several studies regarding consumer behaviour have concluded that millennials are willing to pay more money for eco-friendly goods. They have a powerful eco-friendly mindset as they perceive themselves as the generation who are willing to take great initiatives for significant changes in protecting our planet. Therefore, sustainable branding done by eco-conscious fashion companies is gaining momentum with millennial consumers.

The shift to sustainable textiles 

When it comes to ethical manufacturing processes in the fashion industry, the fabrics used at the moment need to overcome three vital challenges. Resource scarcity, the lack of recyclability, and the expectation for increasing costs for some virgin raw materials are the changes which the fashion industry needs to face for a more sustainable runway. It looks like the fashion industry is finally starting to prioritise textiles that are easy on the planet. More eco-conscious designers are being mindful of waste considering both the development and production processes. They have started using regenerated fabrics derived from often disregarded fibres that form the outer shell of cotton plants. They are also making great efforts to decrease the consumption of water with the help of advanced technology. Archroma has released Advanced Denim, which is a technology that reduces energy and water consumption. It brings an eco-friendlier alternative to the popular indigo dye.

Aside from colour innovation, shifting to renewable and recyclable materials is another top goal of eco-conscious fashion brands. Cotton farmers are also encouraged to take care of biodiversity and soil fertility by producing cotton in green conditions.

Fur-free future

Are the fur trends falling out of favour once and for all? Consumers' attitudes regarding this say they will. Fur is known to have a complicated relationship with the fashion industry. While some individuals perceive it as a symbol for luxury and glamour, others see it as a brutal killing of innocent animals for the sake of vanity. As customers' opinion about animal cruelty for the sake of luxurious clothing items is changing to criticism, numerous fashion brands are committing to a fur-free future. Tom Ford, Versace, and Maison Margiela are only a few of the brands which have decided to go fur-free. 

Consumers can change everything

As consumer attention on sustainability issues increases, many fashion brands have decided to focus on taking steps for a change for the good. After big oil and agriculture, fast fashion is the third most polluting industry in the world. Massive amounts of toxic chemicals and tonnes of waste create significant problems for our planet. As the ethical fashion movement is a growing trend, fashion companies with an unethical carbon footprint will end up paying a huge price. Not only by means of high taxes and fees, but also by having a negative  public image which will affect their sales and profits.