It’s pretty hard to ignore how big companies around the world are trying to get into the sustainable world and to see all this as good news when the French judiciary has just opened an investigation for ‘’concealment of crimes against humanity’’ against Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Massimo Duti, Uniqlo, SMCP (Sandro, Maje, de Furssacr, etc.) and Skechers because their products are made by Uyghur, forced labourers.
According to Raphael Glucksmann, member of the European Parlament, the investigation was entrusted to the crime against humanity pole of the national anti-terrorism prosecutor’s office, facing high sentences – millions of euros in fines and heavy criminal proceedings.
Large multinationals have been above the law for too long. And the European Parliament is working harder than ever to show them that the law applies to everyone, even the most powerful companies in the world. However, for the vast majority of the population, this information is totally unknown.
There is still too much greenwashing. Making both previous and current generations fully trust what they see on social media. And since sustainability has become a trend, especially among fashion brands, greenwashing has become prominent within influencer advertising.
Sustainability is Definitely a Trend
With the right sustainability marketing campaign, even the least ethical brand can be seen as super sustainable, with good intentions towards the environment and garment workers. Without proper research, a lot of influencers end up promoting greenwashing and inevitably passing that info to their followers. Not all sustainable influencers promote greenwashed products, but monetary interest, lack of brand transparency and prior research means that many content creators or influencers end up promoting certain products or brands that are far from being sustainable.
As consumers, it’s important to keep in mind that products promoted by influencers are not guaranteed to be what they claim to be. Content creators are also humans and can make mistakes. There are also content creators as I have said before who are not as ethical as the philosophy of life they are supposed to follow. Always do your own research.
However, the good news is that sustainable influencers have a lot of power. And power and influence can be used to raise awareness and educate the audience rather than promoting the ongoing cycle of overconsumption. I want to believe that we can all use social media, regardless of whether you are in it professionally or not, for good.
Sustainable Fashion VS Ethical Fashion
The terms ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ are often used interchangeably, as both terms seem to define the slow fashion and the industry’s effect on people and the planet. Nevertheless, there are some people who differentiate between sustainable fashion and ethical fashion as:
- Ethical Fashion is human-centred: ethical fashion focuses on garment workers at every stage of production from living wages and healthy working conditions to animal welfare and vegan fashion.
- Sustainable Fashion tends to concentrate more on the environmental aspect of garment production: the way clothing is designed; what materials are used; how those materials are sourced; how products are transported across the world; what happens when we dispose of them and more.
Therefore, in my opinion, brands cannot be truly sustainable unless they’re also ethical, and vice versa. Empowering workers, protecting public health and preserving ecosystems are connected. Sustainable fashion should take into consideration the environmental impact as much as we take into consideration the social impact of the entire supply chain. Sustainability is a way of living and a way of doing business, not a way to make money playing with the feelings of people who care about their children or their grandchildren, and the world we will leave them.
“The Fashion Industry is a Dirty Bastard’’ – Organic Basics
Fast fashion dominates the industry. Fast fashion is a business model that promotes rapid production of cheap clothing to meet the most recent fashion trends. The biggest problem with this is that it has led to enormous quantities of clothing ending up in landfills. According to WRAP, an estimated £140m worth of clothing is sent to UK landfill each year.
Many consumers ease their conscience over their fast fashion consumption by donating their clothing to charity shops. Clothing donations are always welcomed by charity shops, however, donating your unwanted clothes isn’t always the best sustainable solution. Charity shops are not always able to sell all of their donations. In fact, WRAP estimates over 70% of donated clothing to charity shops is sold to textile traders. Donating your clothing is the easiest and most effective way, but it still doesn’t address the phenomenal volume of clothing fast fashion creates.
There’s also limited demand for second-hand fast-fashion and more often these garments can be poorly made which limits re-selling. This is where influencers or content creators play a very important role, as they can be a point of reference for many.
Is second-hand fashion a new impetus for clothing consumption?
Some creators fall into the misconception that by consuming second-hand clothes in large quantities they are supporting sustainability and it’s just another way out for over consumed items. Overconsumption always leads to a waste of money and resources. Even if you buy second-hand items.
It’s interesting how the consumption of second-hand clothing has deviated a little from its main philosophy. We could even say that it has become trendy thanks to apps such as Vinted, Depop or Vestiaire Collective.
Buying second-hand does not mean being more sustainable. We have to take into account the same things as if we were buying something new in any shop: durability and versatility. It’s also important to consider the materials from which the garment is made. Not everyone takes this into account, but it is crucial to get an understanding of the life of a garment.
Sustainability as a Marketing Tool
It’s not new that a lot of fast fashion brands are trying to clean their image through conscious collections or picking up old clothes for money or vouchers. Many people fall into the misconception that they are helping the environment and the garment workers and at the same time not giving up following trends on an almost weekly basis. And this, unfortunately for many people, is not sustainable.
This type of marketing is becoming increasingly popular among consumers who, without doubting the brand’s intentions, are contributing to an even bigger problem: many brands that are now emerging claim to be sustainable without actually being so, playing on the trust and ignorance of the consumer.
These brands often shield and justify themselves to possible consumers with vague answers or lack of transparency in the production and distribution of their garments without people questioning their work because until recently nobody cared or bothered to ask who made my clothes, what fabrics the clothes I am buying are made of or what the conditions of the workers in your company are like.
We took it for granted that no company would treat its workers badly and on the other hand, we have grown up in a society and culture where we see these companies and workers far away from our homes. And why worry, right?
The Lack of Transparency is Costing Lives
This is something I see on a daily basis in brands that claim to be locally produced when possibly not. Fashion is an industry that encompasses so many other industries all the way from agriculture to communication. So, saying that a brand is produced in Spain or the United Kingdom to justify certain prices when they buy the fabrics or buttons from countries in which workers’ rights are limited or nonexistent, makes you wonder if their products are really made where they say they are or if they are paying and treating their workers fairly, as there is no way of knowing unless they provide that information to the customer.
As Carry Somers well said: “We believe that transparency will shed a light on all the different issues within the fashion industry, as we know that exploitation thrives in hidden places.”
Not all the burden is on the brands. As consumers, we always have to be a little cautious with any brand and we have to do some research beforehand, or at least look at the website or ask the brand in question directly. If a brand does not offer you such basic information, always be weary.
Influencers Who Launch their Brand in their Respective Countries
I am going to talk about what I have seen and know, and as I have said on several occasions, I am a Spaniard living in the UK. My intention is not to boycott any brand, but I ask for a minimum of respect not only for myself as a possible consumer but for all those people who want to support national brands for any of the above reasons and who may have felt cheated.
I am aware that brands may be reluctant to share information about their company for fear that other brands will try to poach their hard-earned suppliers, question their work or values. But without that transparency, you call your brand’s values into question.
When I have asked brands like Rouje about their lack of transparency, despite not being perfect, instead of hiding and ignoring me, they have answered my questions. However, half a year ago I asked the brand its lava by the influencer Sara Baceiredo about the materials they use for their bags, as a potential buyer, and to this day I still haven’t received an answer. Or the answer is simply ambiguous.
Being in 2021 and having to go after brands asking for the materials they use because they are not specified on their website, seems to me to be quite obsolete. Regardless of whether a material is more or less sustainable, some people suffer from allergies to certain materials. In my personal opinion, I think this should be mandatory by law.
This is not to say that you should not buy and support this brand. By this, I want to encourage you to ask questions so that brands like this one open their eyes and see that the demand is changing and that they can be part of the change.
We Have an Obligation to Lead this Change
It’s time for Fashion Revolution:
- We love fashion but we don’t want our clothes to exploit people or destroy our planet.
- We want fashion to be transparent and accountable.
- We want fashion to stand for solidarity, inclusiveness and democracy.
- We want fashion to conserve and restore the environment. We can call for better through campaigns like #WhoMadeMyClothes.
- We can influence policy.
- We can support small brands and local brands to be better. And these brands can inspire us to do better.
This is a team effort. We all have a role to play in making the fashion industry fairer for everyone and in changing the model we have right now because it is not sustainable in any way.
I believe in the power of social media. Wear your values. Especially if you have a brand with which you preach certain values. It is totally contradictory to be the face of a brand with totally opposite values. If you support national production, buy and promote sustainable and ethical clothing and not fast fashion brands. If you sell vegan accessories, try to reduce your meat consumption and don’t collaborate with brands that test on animals.
I would really like to know what you think about this. Do you think that brands created by influencers can be totally unrelated and share values that are different from their lifestyle?
Thank you for reading this far and if any brand wants to contact me for a chat, my email is always available.