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Is Sustainable Fashion Universally Accessible?

Image Credit: Jessica Daniels Within the next few years, the sales share of sustainable clothing is expected to double. Though the market portion is currently only at 3.9%, the looming expansion signifies that the fashion industry anticipates a growing interest in sustainability. Increasingly, we see fashion brands pledging their endorsements for more sustainable efforts and business practices, but what does this all really entail? And is it actually an initiative everyone can access? What is sustainable fashion?

Sustainable fashion began as a response to the discovery of how much the industry negatively impacted the environment. Alternatively known as ethical fashion, it is meant to reduce the harmful processes that go into producing and distributing clothes. Garments that fall into this category are designed to be environmentally friendly, using components that are sourced humanely, and are meant to last for long-term use. It also promotes the recycling and upcycling of fashion pieces to lessen industry waste. What prevents sustainable fashion from being accessible?

With how positive sustainable fashion sounds, here are the reasons why it only occupies such a small percentage of the market: The speed of fast fashion

An interest in fashion usually means keeping up to date with the latest styles. This is where fast fashion comes in. This refers to the rapid production of clothing, utilizing cheap materials and easy replication methods to create high amounts of garments quickly. Due to low company costs, clothes can be priced cheaply, but are also made poorly, so they are discarded more quickly. Unfortunately, despite these issues, fast fashion brands are usually marketed more widely, so they're popular resources for trend-minded consumers. The cost of clothing

On the contrary, some brands wanted to distance themselves from the affordability of fast fashion and marked up the prices of their clothing. They boast that, unlike fast fashion, their clothes are designed to last for a long time. This has perpetuated the belief that sustainable fashion is expensive. Since most people see that the price of one luxury piece is equal to several trendy garments, they tend to choose the latter since it gives the illusion of a better deal.

How sustainable fashion is inching towards accessibility

Though these obstacles exist, the future of sustainable fashion still looks promising. In recent years, the industry has provided alternatives that allow ethical fashion to be more accessible.

Wider use of sustainable fabrics

Textile waste in fashion produces over 11 tons yearly. This is why many conscientious stakeholders have turned to more eco-friendly fabrics. In fact, the use of such textiles is now a recognized part of building a sustainable wardrobe. Today, many sustainable fashion proponents espouse the use of materials like organic cotton, recycled polyester, and deadstock, among other options. By having clothes made from these materials, there is less wasted textile, and consumers are encouraged to make use of what's already there over something new. This added practical benefit has also helped make sustainable fashion more accessible since it maximizes the cost-per-wear and helps steer consumers away from more popular expensive fabrics.

The popularity of secondhand apparel

Another method of reducing fashion waste is to give clothes a second life. One option to achieve this is to support local thrift shops, either by donating or purchasing from them. Last 2021, the sales value of secondhand clothing was estimated to reach $96 billion worldwide. This number was derived from the sales of both physical and online stores. Consumers were revealed to be mainly comprised of the younger generation, with most of them coming from the Millennial and Generation Z age brackets. This is due to the rising relevancy of being eco-friendly and refraining from consumerism.

Justified pricing

However, this doesn’t mean that consumers fully avoid spending on fashion. Sustainable buyers just prefer to invest in clothing pieces that are priced appropriately. They look at the material’s quality, longevity, and durability to determine its value. They want to ensure that clothing pieces can be kept and worn repeatedly, without risking returns caused by cheap production methods. By doing so, they get their money’s worth for their fashion choices while still saving the planet.

*** Jackie Brickston is a freelance writer who enjoys topics surrounding sustainability, social media, and employment. In her spare time, she practices yoga and attends interpretative dance classes.

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