Fair trade and sustainability in fashion

Pollution On The Pier. Photo Credit: Indi Samarajiva (Flickr)
Pollution On The Pier. Photo Credit: Indi Samarajiva (Flickr)


Pollution On The Pier. Photo Credit: Indi Samarajiva (Flickr)
Pollution on the Pier. Photo Credit: Indi Samarajiva (Flickr)

Sustainability has finally reached the fashion world and it’s on the rise! The amount of designers working with fairly traded materials has increased massively throughout the years and so has the buying audience. People are starting to become more aware and interested in where and under what circumstances their clothes are being produced. The controversial working conditions of garment workers all over the globe are no longer left out.

High street brands like Zara and H&M already have taken a step in the right direction in producing their clothes under water saving techniques. Special organic collections like H&M’s conscious collection show, that fair trade fashion doesn’t have to be expensive but still can be stylish at the same time. The Swedish brand even uploaded a list of its suppliers and talks about the fair living wage for seamstresses on their website. But still, we’ve got a long way to go.

Speaking with Astrid Dober, a green party member and environmental activist from Upper Austria, we learned what sustainability is all about. The main focus lies on nature itself, sustainability makes sure all techniques and materials used tend to be as natural and raw as possible. The natural resources should not be exhausted completely, but allowed to grow normally without any interruption by humans. The goal is not to destroy or damage the environment. We take what we are given, but leave behind what is not meant for us. This theory might sound good while saying but is way harder to accomplish in the brutal reality that’s called economy.

The process of recycling and turning an old shirt into this new beautiful dress, it is kind of a new modern form of art

Next to the nature aspect, the creation procedure of garments is also taking a big part in the fair trade vision. When we asked Astrid how she would describe the current sustainability market when it comes to fashion, she mentioned that the fast growing market especially sets its focus on recycling as well as upcyling already existing products. “They [the designers] acknowledge the natural resources we already have and try to make the best out of it” she explains, that’s why the process of designing and making the clothes is so different, compared to other non sustainability designers. So it’s a wide known misbelief that fashion can’t be stylish and fair at the same time.

Seamstress in India. Photo Credit: Mikko Koponen (Flickr)
Photo Credit: Mikko Koponen (Flickr)

Even though the green activist thinks the alternative scene is growing and people are becoming more aware about the production of their clothing, sustainable fashion hasn’t reached the mainstream high streets just yet. “The field is growing and it definitely can reach out to a wider audience, but as of right now, I don’t think it has what it takes to become the next popular mainstream object”. Not because of its unique style or the higher price range, but because of the people who are still more attracted to cheap clothing and leaving their ethical principles at home, when entering the next big shopping mall. This is based on the inherited laziness of humans and the aspect that sustainable fashion hasn’t fully reached its potential yet. “You have to shop at certain places or online stores, to really have that size comparing selection you get when shopping in the big stores”. So the main issue is not the actual price, as often thought, but the availability.

The creativity level of sustainability designers is wider, they see things from a different point of view

This could easily be solved with bigger companies offering more fair trade or supportable collections or even the creation of an online shop, that involves a higher number of sustainable designers. If we can provide a more effortless access for potential costumers, people would become more interested in buying these products.

However, in the end it all starts and falls with the people. The demand is determined by the supply. If we manage to get into the consumer’s head, we can finally reach the goal of fair wages and the preservation and funding of natural resources.

At the same time we all know what makes your new dress even more beautiful. The knowledge that it has been produced with natural and fairly traded materials, as well as the fact that it is supporting the seamstresses all over the world and their families. So why don’t we wear local, and think global?

A big thank you to Astrid, a nature girl with the devotion to make this world a greener place and people more aware of their consumption.

If you want to know more about the production of clothing and how the system works, check out the trailer of The Real Cost below. This well made documentary will leave you feeling guilty, but no judging here, Im quite a consume loving creature myself BUT we can at least try right? Or buy vintage 😉

Check out this guide to eco fashion designers and how to get your hands on cool and environmental friendly goods 🙂 



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