Lifestyle / Opinion

Don’t lose focus on sustainable fashion

This year, Dana Hall students have made steps forward to educate the community about the importance of sustainability on campus and more than that, encouraged change for the better. Recently, supported by the school’s student-run Green Action Committee, students have sold sustainably-made products and held a sustainable fashion show to raise funds for Fashion Revolution. They have also made sustainable clothing more accessible by organizing weekend trips to Savers, a second-hand clothing store. 

 It is vital, even after the sustainable fashion show is over and as we approach the end of the school year, that sustainability is still at the forefront of our minds. So often, people make decisions that unintentionally support institutions that exploit the environment, workers, and consumers themselves.

Over time, fashion has undergone a shift. Fast-fashion has allowed mass clothing production to become cheaper, more accessible, and faster to respond to trends. Social media encourages an ever-faster trend cycle, creating need for new items. In addition, clothes made in high quantity are often low-quality and tossed out more quickly, making room for new ones. These fast fashion trends are often reflected in the Dana Hall population. 

While some things about fast fashion may at first seem appealing, it causes dramatic damage to the environment and garment workers. Fast fashion is the second largest contributor to pollution after the oil industry, and companies cutting costs on worker safety has led to devastating sweatshop conditions. In April, 2013, the Rana Plaza in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed and over 1000 people, mostly garment workers, died in an incident that was preventable. 

Despite the extent of these atrocities, brands are not held accountable, even by consumers. Targeted marketing and “greenwashing,” marketing that portrays a company as environmentally ethical when it often is not, help brands keep their illusion. Additionally, fast fashion is so commonplace that it can be difficult for consumers to find an alternative. These brands control the clothing market; some well-known brands include H&M, Zara, Adidas, Nike, Forever 21, Urban Outfitters, American Eagle, Victoria’s Secret, Gap, Aeropostale, Fashion Nova, Uniqlo, but there are many more. 

With so many options to be avoided, it is difficult to know where to buy from. Solene Rauturier, from Good On You, a company that helps consumers research whether brands are ethical and sustainable, suggests Whimsy + Row, Organic Basics, Afends, Outland Denim, Yes Friends, studio JUX, and Harvest & Mill (which is entirely produced in the US). However, when possible, look for opportunities to upcycle clothing or buy secondhand clothing (Savers is a good and affordable option for this).

Fashion is often a way for us to make a statement about ourselves. By respecting sustainability and ethical labor in your clothing, you are making a statement about your personal values: that you stand against an industry that harms and exploits workers, consumers, and the planet. In addition, if you are looking to take a bigger step against fast fashion, consider donating to Fashion Revolution, an organization that not only promotes education, but has been taking action and hoping to create legislative change.

Image: poster by Cassie Churchill ’23

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