5 Ways You Can Choose to Value People and Planet in Your Fashion Business

The fashion industry can be ugly to the people who make our clothes and to our planet. But we as fashion brands, professionals, and consumers can change that. This week – the anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 that killed over a thousand garment workers and injured thousands more – is Fashion Revolution Week.

This week is about highlighting the need for greater transparency, social and environmental responsibility, and fair living and working conditions in the fashion industry. With our choices, we can shape a better future with our design, manufacturing, and purchases. Here are five choices you can make in your fashion business to start building a better future for fashion.

Choose quality over quantity

Our society has created a fast-fashion throw-away culture where last season’s clothes are sent to the landfill in pursuit of the next trending look. As a result, we have not incentivized fashion brands to create clothes that last. So many clothes are cheaply made with materials that won’t live through even a few washings.

To combat this and keep excess clothing out of landfills, you can choose quality over quantity in your fashion business. Design clothing that your customers will want to keep in their wardrobes for years. Choose materials that will last wearing and washing over time. Choose to invest your efforts in producing a select group of quality pieces that your customers will value. As a result, you will end up selling fewer garments at a higher price instead of selling mass amounts of cheap items.

Choose to pay your people

As we have seen the past month or so with the Coronavirus pandemic, when one part of the supply chain has to close its doors or is delayed, it has drastic effects on the entire business. Every step of the process from design, to manufacturing, to retail is critical to the success of the whole.

Your design team is not more important than the sewer who stitched the labels in your dresses. They both depend on each other for their livelihood and each have a hand in creating your products. More importantly, they are both humans.

In your business, choose to pay a living wage to the people making your garments. Choose to prioritize their safety over saving a dollar or two on your cut and sew cost. Even during these pandemic lockdowns, choose to pay your factories for the orders they have produced for you.

Choose to be informed

It is so easy to turn a blind eye to difficult truths or to the consequences of our decisions. But to value people and planet, we need to stay informed about the impact our businesses have on others. Make it a habit to check in with your team and partners. Choose to research the manufacturing processes behind your materials. Visit your factories and see the working conditions. And, if something isn’t right, choose to make a change.

Choose (and use) your materials wisely

There is alot of waste created in textile production and in apparel cutting and sewing. Different types of fabrics have more wasteful and harmful production processes than others depending on how much water, what chemicals, and what type of dyes or inks may be used. Educate yourself on different material options for the products you are designing and ask the mills about their production processes. Choose materials that work best for your product and fit with your values.

When it comes to making your garments, you can design them in such a way as to reduce as much material waste as possible. That may mean finding a fabric with a wider roll width so that the pattern for your design fits more efficiently. You may need to add, move, or change a seam on your design so that it creates less waste. During design and product development, choose to make efficient material usage a priority.

Choose ethics over profits

I don’t think ethics and profits are mutually exclusive. However, there will be times when you face the choice between upholding your values and sacrificing them for increased profits. The right choice is usually not the easiest one, unfortunately.

For your fashion business, make a list of your values and things that you aren’t going to compromise on as you make choices for your business. Choose to value people and the planet over profit. I know your designs are wonderful, but pause and make sure the cost to make them is not too great.

If you want to learn more about The Fashion Revolution and how to get involved, visit fashionrevolution.org.

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