by Lina Pyon, our wonderful intern!

The dichotomy of today’s fashion industry is that the quick and expanding emergence of “fast fashion” brands in the last few years alone is being met with rising consumer wants for sustainably and ethically made clothes. So the question is, which one will win and how has the pandemic impacted it?

Photo by UN

Let’s first look at the statistics. During COVID’s peak from January to April of 2020, fast fashion declined 11%, with almost 46% of all fast fashion companies reporting a decline in sales. A study done by Paypal has shown that increased virtual socializing and change in scenery of working environments was a factor in people becoming more conscious about where they are shopping. The Global Ethical Fashion Market was projected to decline at a 3.24% annual rate from 2019 to 2020, but also was expected to increase 10.33% annually by 2023. 

The next step in sustainable fashion’s entrance into society, is shedding light onto what goes into making clothing that is made sustainably and ethically. Since the most notable argument against sustainable fashion is the high price, educating consumers on the higher costs of livable wages, ethically sourced materials, certifications and transparency from companies, and many more reasons will help smooth the transition. A counter argument to the higher price tags of sustainable clothing is that it is predicted that the prices will eventually lower if compared to the trend of organic foods. Organic foods are usually priced higher than non-organic, but over the past few years, the average difference has been lowering. The mindset of ethical clothes needs to shift from “sustainable” being synonymous with “luxury” to rather,” sustainable” becoming a fundamental basis of which clothing should be made. 

What many consumers don’t realize, but clothing companies do is that being a sustainable company is a costly decision for the company. Especially with times of the pandemic, clothing companies are more willing to cut costs in their production. COVID’s downside in regards to ethical fashion is that companies that have been rooted in unsustainable practices are having a difficult time paying their employees from whom they outsource from. “#PayUp” became a trending hashtag for that unfortunate reason. Garment workers were collectively unpaid $3.2 billion to $5.8 billion in wages just in the first three months of the pandemic alone.

Photo by Remake

While “fast fashion” may be in decline, there are still scary statistics about the fashion industry. The fashion industry is the second sector that causes the most damage to the planet, the first being oil. We tend to think positively about fashion because of its connotations of self-expression, art, and empowerment; however, that positive thinking has contributed to the blind-eye that society has created towards the behind-the-scenes of clothing production. If the fashion industry continues the way it is, it will be responsible for a quarter of all carbon production by 2050. 

An important part of this journey for this huge sector is realizing the impact that the fashion industry has on the world and the people inhibiting it. While changes on a global scale may seem like a daunting and impossible task, individuals like you and me, changing mindsets, and ethical shopping habits are first steps to creating long-lasting change. Join us in our Wear the Change 2021 campaign during Refugee Week 2021 to be a part of a larger community that wants to improve the world one garment at a time.

Check out our blog post next week for ways you can do so as well! 

Here is a more in depth breakdown of why sustainable fashion is more costly

Here is a great website that gives insight on current sustainable efforts

Here is a website and app that rates how sustainable clothing brands are 
April 29, 2021 — TSO Staff

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