The sustainability of clothing is becoming as popular and trendy as the styles of the clothing items themselves. Sustainable clothing includes fabrics that are recycled or repurposed, reflecting the values of the designers and brands.
It’s not only the ethics behind sustainable clothing that is fueling the trend, but rather the demand from consumers to have more eco-friendly options. Time will tell whether this is another trend that will pass with the seasons as most trends do, or if designers and brands are moving to a more sustainable and eco-friendly future, for good.
In some ways, sustainability has become political. As political streetwear grows in popularity, so does the demand for these products to be sustainably made. Typically, people who are politically active in terms of social justice and peace, often are also politically active when it comes to climate action and change.
The people who are choosing streetwear are demanding that their style also be eco-friendly, knowing that they are giving back in more ways than one when they are supporting the causes they love.
What Does Sustainable Streetwear Look Like?
Streetwear in general dates back to the 1980s and 1990s, drawing on influences from hip-hop fashion and street skate culture. This type of clothing style is based on comfort. We're talking about hoodies, hats, sneakers, and comfy-cute tops.
This type of style is, to put it bluntly, in direct rebellion to the mall styles. Streetwear encourages more artistic and creative expression from those who wear it. It’s a think-outside-the-box type of fashion expression.
This rebellion against the mall became a rebellion against the norm. Streetwear brands began supporting causes that are important to their consumers. Those consumers are now demanding sustainable products they can add to their streetwear wardrobe. So instead of politically charged screen-printed hoodies and tees, they are marketing politically charged screen-printed hoodies and tees made from recycled fabrics and other materials.
This is the sustainability consumers were looking for, and people are responding by paying top-dollar for items made in an eco-friendly fashion.
How Sustainable Can Fashion Be?
One critique of sustainable fashion is that since there is such a high demand for it, so many items now need to be marketed as sustainable to meet the ever-growing demand. This increase of marketing and in turn, production of mass amounts of sustainable material is now a bit of an oxymoron. Producing massive amounts of anything is no longer sustainable.
Critiques of the massive sustainability movement argue that the true mark of sustainability is purchasing less clothing items (or fewer items in general), not purchasing more and more items just because they are marketed as sustainable. We should continue wearing what we have ad wearing that time and time again, instead of buying new clothes.
A truly sustainable movement would be making bold outfit choices by combining pieces we already have in our closets.
Supporters of the sustainable fashion movement may argue that people were buying tons and tons of clothes they didn't really need anyway, so marketing sustainable products are not necessarily making people buy more clothes, it's just helping them make smarter options. It's a step toward a more sustainable world.
Can Fashion Make A Global Impact?
Clothing and fashion in general powers our world in more ways than one. We can see this in the way that political movements have embraced streetwear. They emblazon their causes with screen-printed garments that signal a collective woke-ness. Streetwear makes a bold statement that demands to be heard.
Fashion is the match that ignites worldwide and national trends. If anything can change the global climate impact, maybe that begins with the fashion industry. If sustainable living can start with what we wear, maybe it can trickle into other aspects of our everyday life as well.
Many of the sustainable clothing labels and brands are truly trying to make an impact. Many brands started out of a desire to make sustainable clothing, instead of other major brands and companies that are making a shift to sustainability.
These small up-and-coming companies who start out with sustainability in mind are the ones who are going to inspire real change within the industry. These small businesses refer to the massive sustainability movement as greenwashing.
Greenwashing is a term that refers to the process of misleading people about how environmentally friendly a company’s products truly are. Sometimes this misinformation can be accidental and is a result of these companies not truly understanding the meaning of sustainability.
We may see greenwashing in some larger companies who are just recently making the move toward a more sustainable business practice. They may mean well, but by using marketing ploys to make their products seem more sustainable than they actually are, they are misleading otherwise well-intended consumers.
What Does Sustainable Streetwear Look Like In The Future?
What society and the consumers of sustainable streetwear must come to terms with is whether or not their idea of what is sustainable in terms of fashion, truly aligns with their ethics and values when it comes to a more sustainable world.
As individuals, we can look without our own closets and reuse the things we already have to be more sustainable. Purchasing a new sustainable hoodie is not necessarily making less of a global impact if it’s just replacing the 5 hoodies we already own.
Critics of the reality of the sustainability movement within the clothing industry argue that even the brands with the best of intentions when it comes to sustainability will inevitably run into some problem that forces them to choose between profit and sustainability.
Whether the problem is an increased demand for the product, which increases production and ultimately consumption, or some other roadblock, there is no easy path forward to a fully sustainable clothing industry.
The most sustainable form of streetwear will be the death of the clothing industry.
In order to be truly sustainable in terms of clothing means not buying any more streetwear, or any unneeded clothing for that matter, at all.