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The Sustainability Dilemma in Retail

The Sustainability Dilemma in Retail

4 months ago by Ashabori Roi

I moved to Japan about 6 years ago when I was 19 with only one single luggage full of clothes and another full of Bangladeshi snacks. I knew the snacks weren't going to last me long but the clothes would for years. I didn't have the slightest idea how my perception on fashion and style was about to change in the coming years as I was stepping into my early 20's as well as my college/university life. I discovered that my peers had a greater sense of knowledge and awareness on fashion than I did and it led me to compare and breakdown social interactions with people, deciphering how and why everyone's demeanor changed based on how well dressed I was. It was an interesting trip from there onwards as I embarked upon a journey to understand fashion itself and then later on understanding how to retain it through sustainable and feasible choices. And I have to say that it is not an easy path to walk if you feel a higher sense of responsibility for the environment.

What comes to our mind when we say 'Sustainable Fashion'? And where is the dilemma in it? To simply put, fashion that sustains for years to come and does not crumble upon the pressure of following through trends, are environmentally friendly as they help avoid overconsumption, serve up to their full potential before they reach a landfill. Even better if they are repurposed or recycled. However, with the ever so evolving trends (Y2K, 70's style, Coastal Grandma etc.) it often becomes a priority to some to keep up with it and stay relevant in their societal circle. Fast-fashion brands make that possible. If we look back in the time when these super affordable brands didn't exist, we'll notice that trends still existed then, but were just longer lasting unlike the utmost brief time period they last nowadays.

The sustainability dilemma exists from both consumer and market sides. For the consumers, it arises as they face the challenge of balancing their personal style and desire for newness with the responsibility to make sustainable choices. It is then further compounded by factors such as limited access to sustainable options, higher price points for ethical fashion, and the perceived trade-off between sustainability and convenience. The knowledge and alternatives both exist in the market, but what it comes down to at the end of the day is choice. A choice driven by the desire to do better for the environment. Opting for quality over quantity, for well-made and durable garments that will stand the test of time, has never gone wrong in the history of fashion. Additionally, investing in timeless pieces allows for a versatile and long-lasting wardrobe, reducing the need for frequent replacements.

In current market where we have brands like Patagonia coming forward with grand gestures towards protecting the Earth, we merely have any excuse to not research on brands as such. A way to do that would also be looking for certifications like Fair Trade, GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), or B Corp that indicate a commitment to responsible practices. It is important to seek out brands that prioritize sustainable materials, ethical labor conditions, and transparency in their supply chains. Personally I prefer second-hand or vintage stores, online marketplaces for used clothing as well as clothing swaps. Buying pre-owned garments not only reduces waste but also gives existing clothing a new lease on life. Each person that have owned the same piece of clothing, will evidently style it based on their taste and that gives the piece of clothing different senses of identity; making it more versatile than it ever could be with a single use.

When we look at why we should opt for informed feasible consumer choices than just blindly following the trend, the answers are loud and clear. It is just an overall better if not best choice to make in order to live our best life as a fashion consumer. It is not just about reducing waste and conserving resources; it is also about transforming our lives and the planet. By supporting ethical brands, we not only help our environment, but we also uplift garment workers, champion human rights, and dismantle systems of exploitation. Sustainable fashion historically has and always will empower us to curate wardrobes that reflect our values, celebrates craftsmanship, and fosters authenticity. I hope one day we all can recognize the power of our choices and strive to reshape the fashion industry into one that nurtures both people and the planet, through conscious consumption.