The International Society For Sustainable Fashion were asked for their views on how sustainable fashion can become accessible for more people in a recent i-D magazine article.
The ethical fashion industry is in sore-need of a rebrand. Can stars like SZA be the ones to do it?
"Fuck plastic. Y’all ready to save the oceans or nah?” A few days ago, favourite singer of everyone with two ears and a heart, SZA, shared this caption alongside a series of Instagram stories. In the pictures were sweatshirts emblazoned with slogans like ‘Puck Flastic’ and ‘Sustainability Gang’, all of which seemed to hint that the star is ready to delve into the fashion industry. Other reports have claimed she’s about to launch a plastic-free streetwear line (the slogans adorned Champion pieces) and that the profits will be donated entirely to charity. A new account -- @ctrlfishingco -- tagged in the posts hasn’t yet shared any content, but all the signs indicate that SZA is gearing up to change the sustainable fashion game. We already know that this needs to happen. Fashion is the world’s second dirtiest industry; it pumps chemical dyes into rivers, burns mountainsof unsold ‘deadstock’ and contributes in no small part to the plastic pollution epidemic currently ravaging the world’s oceans. Industry experts may be regularly discussing these issues, but they still rarely make headline news -- until, of course, SZA came along.
"It's great to see that celebrities are willing to put their name to the cause,” says Debbie Moorhouse, co-founder of the International Society for Sustainable Fashion, a non-profit which seeks to raise awareness of the obstacles blocking a sustainable fashion industry. “It really makes a difference, as people are already following their style, plus their endorsement commands media attention and viral traffic -- [they make] these stories more accessible to people.”
Moorhouse points out that SZA isn’t the first star to release a range of ‘ethical’ products. Pharrell’s G-Star collaborations and Will.i.am’s Ekocycle lifestyle range are just two other examples; while elsewhere, Kanye West has praised and worked with Katharine Hamnett, a political designer whose dedication to protecting the environment is well-documented. These collaborations are important not only because they create conversation, but also because high-profile names undeniably drive sales: “Remember how quickly the Yeezy sneakers sold out? That’s what sustainable fashion needs to make it mainstream."
Although there are exceptions, the sustainable fashion movement has been criticised in the past for its inaccessibility. Brands tend to posit themselves as a luxury alternative to cheap, disposable ‘fast fashion’, explaining that clothing naturally costs more when its fabrics are responsibly sourced and its supply chain non-exploitative. But, as NGO Fashion Revolution highlighted with a handy illustration in its #001 fanzine, making these changes isn’t as expensive as we’re often led to believe -- it would, according to their calculations, reportedly only cost an extra €1.57 to ensure a €29 tee was sustainably made.
As Walmart recently discovered, trying to sell low-cost clothing at a slightly higher price is no easy feat. The Fashion Law followed its attempts to make sustainability affordable, penning an in-depth exploration which ultimately revealed that customers were either reluctant or simply couldn’t afford to pay more. Instead, they shifted their focus towards suppliers and were met with positive reactions. The problem with this model is that supply chains can be long, disparate and lacking in transparency -- the fallout from 2013’s Rana Plaza disaster is exemplary of this fact, as some brands claimed to not even know their clothes were being made in the factory. Ultimately, Walmart’s findings revealed that “customers may prefer sustainable practices, yet be unable to pay the premium, even when it’s very little.”