Ethical Fashion: Can Fashion Ever Be Sustainable?

Today’s blog looks at whether fashion can ever be ethical, especially in light of the pressure on fast fashion providers to change their ways to improve sustainability and reduce the wasteful culture associated with fashion. In particular, this blog will look at renting fashion garments, an innovative method of consuming fashion which has been implemented by some organisations to tackle the issue of fashion and sustainability.

As an avid consumer of fashion myself, I would like to think the choices I make are quite heavily impacted by ethics- particularly regarding the environment, as I choose to not shop at fast fashion outlets, and try to purchase items when I need them, as opposed to buying clothes randomly for the sake of it. However, I was not aware of the idea of renting clothes – I had assumed this was only for one-off, luxury products and only really used by celebrities for events. I definitely did not realise it was so accessible through an app, and that this method of consuming fashion is a popular choice amongst consumers.

Image: Royalty Free.

One company in particular is By Rotation, established very recently in October 2019, who are paving the way in the clothing rental market in the United Kingdom. According to their mission statement, By Rotation aims to avoid excess textile waste and challenge existing habits of overconsumption. By introducing this concept on an app platform, it makes access to sustainable fashion much easier and challenges the purpose of fast fashion brands- as their products are often promoted on the basis they are an affordable and accessible alternative to premium fashion brands. It also challenges the stereotype rented fashion is only for high-end events and celebrities- By Rotation illustrates that fashion rental can be used for much more than that, with it being a platform to ‘rotate your wardrobe’. Therefore, their business model challenges the environmental issues which could still be associated with other rental organisations, as they do not buy in an inventory of new items- the concept is based on peer-to-peer app users rotating their own clothes. Although I have not considered renting fashion garments before, I would definitely consider it now I have come across By Rotation- would you consider renting clothes using a platform like this?

The innovative By Rotation app. Image: By Rotation.

By Rotation goes beyond simply being a third party hosting the clothing rentals, by providing environmentally-conscious advice- including methods of sending and receiving the garments, and sharing environmentally-friendly alternatives to dry cleaning. By Rotation have been recognised for this, as they have received a number of prestigious awards, such as the Ego-Age Brandmark, despite only being established in late 2019. Arguably, By Rotation are thought leaders in the ethical fashion sector, and I believe they act as a significant step towards tackling fashion waste and challenging the current attitude towards fashion, which incites excess waste and excess purchasing.  

It is clear that some fashion suppliers and consumers are regarding ethics as a top priority- despite the fact that there are a number of brands out there which continue to thrive off of the concept of fast fashion. Arguably, fast fashion will have a relatively short shelf life in the future, due to the increased awareness of the implications fast fashion has on the environment, and even on human rights, in some cases. Therefore, early leaders in the area of ethical and sustainable alternatives within the fashion industry and advocates for ethical fashion are likely to help encourage consumers to make more ethical choices when it comes to fashion, which ultimately improves the ethical and sustainable status of the fashion industry. This is helped all the more by companies such as By Rotation, who make ethical alternatives like fashion rental much more accessible to wider audiences.

In answer to my earlier question, it seems evident that there are innovators within the fashion industry who are paving the way for change, which illustrates that, in my opinion, fashion can absolutely be sustainable- and it can certainly evolve to become more ethical and sustainable than what it currently is. What do you think to this issue- do you think fashion is sustainable enough as it is or do you think more needs to be done to tackle ethical issues within the fashion sector?  

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