Creative Making

How do students find peace with working in fashion?

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In 2017, 921,000 tonnes of used textiles ended up in the household residual waste (Wrap, 2019) and of that, 336,000 tonnes were used clothing. However, the news is not all negative, 620,000 tonnes of used textiles were collected for re-use and recycling in 2018. Nonetheless, students considering entering the fashion industry, facts like these can be daunting, causing them to question their choices, says course leader of Fashion and Textiles at University of West of England.

 

We need to get young people engaged in sustainable fashion. They need to know not only about the negative aspect, but also about the positive changes that are happening, such as the circular economy. The awareness of the negative impact of the fashion industry is everywhere now, but if we start presenting the other side to them at an early age, then there is a balance.

So, what is the circular economy?

The existing industrial system of take, make, throw-away is a linear model. In the fashion industry, this is exacerbated by the concept of fast fashion, a term used to describe an accelerated business model with short product lifecycles, catwalk fashion imitation at affordable prices (Schroder, 2021) and built-in obsolescence, which means that because the clothes designed are at the height of fashion, they will also go out of style equally fast, thus becoming obsolete, no longer needed, and ultimately discarded.

The circular economy on the other hand, involves designing products to be more durable, reusable, longer lasting, repairable and recyclable from the outset (Schroder, 2021). The circular economy has a foundation in sustainability, a term coined by Brundtland in his 1987 report, What is Sustainable Development. Its original meaning is “satisfying the current needs without compromising the future generation’s needs”. Sustainability therefore involves a balance of desire with what is ethically correct for the longevity not only of the planet, but for the health of future generations.

For students and young people, this can be a heavy burden to take on, especially when tackling student debt and new responsibilities as young adults. Moreover, the

low price of fashion products is enticing and pitted against their desire to be ethical and socially aware, these consumers are often finding themselves caught in a duality of desire and belief. However, there are solutions for all of us, not only as consumers but as future designers and fashion and textile industry professionals.

What are the solutions?

These solutions as consumers include re-use of clothing, through donations to charity shops, selling items on apps such as Vinted and Shpock, donating to textile banks. Re-cycling of clothing- new fibres are constantly being developed and tested made from recycled and regenerated fibres to make new fabric from clothing and automotive vehicles and for the aviation industry.

The other option is to buy clothes that last longer, increasing the product life cycle and thereby reducing waste in the first place. These quality pieces of clothing are less about fast fashion and more about remaining in style over time. They can be updated by styling with accessories or other items of clothing such as jackets and belts as well as jewellery.

As professionals in the industry, the same young people once graduated can contribute to the circular economy by working with suppliers who source sustainable fabrics, that means, less polyester and more natural and recycled fibres, design products without inbuilt obsolescence, good quality designs built to last, produced ethically by workers who are paid a fair wage. These people in the industry have an opportunity to do good and make the circle stronger, where it becomes the new established system of business in the fashion industry.

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