Ethics in the Fashion Industry, Sustainable Fashion and Fast Fashion

Ethics in the Fashion Industry

Today, ethics and ethical principles constitute one of the most pervasive ideas in modern society. It is, therefore, no wonder that ethics is now generally regarded as a topical issue in the sphere of the fashion industry. According to Blanchet (2017), ethics in the fashion industry is often used in reference to the exceptional decision-making process to promote sustainability and cooperation between manufacturers and persons from different walks of life while also targeting efficient systems. The presence of ethical standards then provides a comprehensive code by which all players are expected to abide by to prevent blatant episodes of unethical behavior.

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At the present moment, the conversation on ethical practices in the fashion industry has morphed into a broad and all-encompassing discourse. Relevant questions and concerns, such as the place of sustainable and ethical fashion in contemporary society, are increasingly being posed by pressure groups given the overall likelihood of a clash between manufacturers and consumer interests in the long run.  An in-depth discussion on the idea of sustainable fashion, fast fashion, fashion consumption, the subsequent supporting Biblical principles, and possible challenges likely to be faced by Christians in the field is, thus, integral when aspiring to gain a better understanding of ethics in the fashion industry.

The Meaning Sustainable Fashion

            The term ‘sustainable fashion’ is a relatively recent notion introduced to address the probable conflict between the fashion industry and society. I personally view sustainable fashion as an important framework where producers source raw materials, design, and manufacture consumer goods based on market demands. Sustainable fashion, within the context of a Christian worldview, should also include the designing and manufacturing of decent and culturally relevant clothing to avoid inflaming the sensibilities of a given society. This approach is crucial in averting preventable conflict, especially in scenarios where certain types of clothing may be deemed unacceptable or contravening long-standing societal morals and values (Attaran, & Eastman, 2019). Furthermore, I strongly believe that the current talk on sustainable fashion should also feature an in-depth discourse on the integration of environmentally friendly systems and practices in fashion. The process of designing, manufacturing, and distributing consumer goods should be workable and eventually serve as an embodiment of conscious consumerism and strict adherence to socially equitable practices.

            Sustainable fashion should also serve as a visible reflection of manufacturers’ awareness of labor rights and the overall importance of social welfare. Producers are required to ensure workers’ rights are always protected while also providing a safe working environment devoid of health hazards. Workers should also be permitted to join a labor union to oversee and clamor for policies geared towards workers’ overall wellbeing. This may include the proper remuneration of workers as per the standards set by the International Labor Organization (ILO) and key guarantees such as the protection of whistleblowers exposing malpractices such as the hiring of underage laborers (Ahn et al., 2016). Multinational companies such as Nike, are currently aware of the overall importance of implementing sustainable fashion standards in all their facilities and global subsidiaries. The revelation that one of their subsidiaries had been sourcing child laborers in Vietnam to work as adults in their manufacturing plants represented an all-time low in terms of ethics in fashion. Consequently, the accompanying global uproar and the united front demonstrated by concerned stakeholders and world governing bodies, such as ILO, was also crucial in reiterating the importance of sustainable fashion today.

Fast Fashion and Fast Consumption

            Ethical fashion, equitable practices, and sustainable fashion are three of the most important interrelated practices in the fashion industry that seek to promote conscious consumerism globally. Theirs is a direct response to emerging and worrying trends likely to impede progress made within the industry over the past century and the overall impact of these practices on society. Currently, fast fashion and fast consumption are the most dominant of these and have sparked a great deal of interest among proponents of suitable fashion.

 Fast fashion refers to the intentional and quick creation of cheap consumer goods to satisfy a specific need identified among the intended target market. Consumer products produced within this framework are often viewed as low-priced and undesirable, resulting in their disposal after momentary use. Shoppers often move on to trendier and newer products which are normally within a similar price range. The problem with this cycle is the fact that it requires the continual production of cheap disposable fashion items causing the depletion of natural resources. Moreover, it also leads to extraordinary wastage while also creating conditions likely to result in the exploitation of employees. This type of mindless consumerism is today linked to the Bangladeshi Rana Plaza factory disaster that occurred in 2013 causing approximately 1,100 deaths (Black, 2016).

This was one of the most apparent displays of the consequences of the fast fashion industry and socio-environmental costs associated with the practice. In comparison, fashion consumption is the frequency and rate at which a given consumer good is purchased by buyers in the market.  This metric has been associated with an unprecedented increase of close to 400% over the past two decades and serves as one of the most expressive demonstrations of consumerism (Bae, & Yan, 2021). Additionally, this exponential increase in fashion consumption has also been linked to the fast fashion phenomenon. Preliminary reports now indicate that 43% of new consumers are driven by the presence of cheap clothing but also by the rapid frequency of emerging fashion trends (Bae, & Yan, 2021). The overall annual increase in the manufacture of textile goods indicates a high demand for the predictions and a further projected increase within the coming decade.

Biblical Principles on Sustainable Fashion and Fast Fashion

         Consumerism, in its purest manifestation, is a demonstration of our preoccupation with material possessions which is highly criticized in the Bible. In particular, a majority of the consumer goods and new fashion trends sometimes seem to be somewhat culturally inappropriate; essentially pitting conservatives against liberals. Modest and humility are important Christian values in stark contrast to emerging fast fashion trends and expressly highlighted in the Bible. Micah 6:8 reads), “Walk humbly with your God” and serves as a clear description of what God expects of mankind, KJV (Shaver, 2012). Appropriate dressing is also greatly emphasized in the Bible and regarded as a virtuous practice. Decent and presentable dressing also functions as a display of adherents’ respect for the faith and a show of respect to society. In 1 Peter 3: 3. Apostle Peter writes “Let your beauty be not just in the outward adorning on putting the fine clothing but the hidden person of your heart.” KJV (Shaver, 2012). This statement further reinforces the idea that we should be preoccupied with other important matters as opposed to focusing only on the quality of our dressing.

As a Christian, which temptations from the book, Killjoys, have you faced or think you may face in the Fashion Industry, and how will you approach these temptations?

            As a Christian, I have encountered numerous temptations similar to the ones from the book, Killjoys. Among the most memorable temptation was when one of my childhood friends tried to convince me to attend an illegal car racing event a couple of years ago. I encountered a great deal of peer pressure from some of my classmates who all claimed that they would also be attending the same event. However, I was also conscious of the fact that the event would be held late at night past my curfew, in addition to a high probability of the presence of drugs and alcohol and inappropriate dressing in the party.  I approached these temptations by relying on deep reflection and meditation. My subsequent contemplation led to a sudden realization that I should avoid the scheduled car racing event and proceed to avoid any of my wayward friends who tried to lead me astray, albeit unsuccessfully.

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