Sustainable Fashion: What It Is and Why It Matters
The global fashion industry has been under the spotlight for its environmental and ethical issues, prompting a necessary shift towards sustainability. As Singaporeans, our purchasing habits play a critical role in either mitigating or exacerbating these problems. Recent data revealed that Singapore generated a staggering 92,000 tonnes of textile waste in 2021 (NEA, 2021), underlining the pressing need for sustainable fashion. In this article, we take a closer look at sustainable fashion and explore its growing importance, especially within the Singaporean context.
II. Understanding Sustainable Fashion
Sustainable fashion is an umbrella term that refers to a wide range of eco-friendly and socially responsible practices in the fashion industry. It aspires to address environmental concerns, promote fair labour practices, and create a circular economy within the fashion realm. Key elements include utilizing sustainable materials like organic cotton, Tencel, and recycled fabrics, employing energy-efficient production methods, ensuring ethical labour practices throughout the supply chain, encouraging recycling, upcycling, and responsible disposal of garments, and fostering a shift in consumer behaviour towards slow fashion and conscious consumption.
III. The Importance of Sustainable Fashion
The environmental impact of the fashion industry is vast and far-reaching. For example, the production of conventional cotton, a primary fabric in fashion, consumes enormous quantities of water and relies heavily on pesticide usage. Astonishingly, it takes about 2,700 litres of water to produce a single cotton T-shirt (WWF, 2013). Furthermore, synthetic fibres like polyester, which constitute a significant portion of the textile market, contribute to microplastic pollution in our oceans. This pollution affects marine life and ultimately enters the food chain, posing a threat to human health (IUCN, 2017). By supporting sustainable fashion, Singaporeans can make a tangible difference in reducing the environmental impact of their clothing choices.
In addition to environmental considerations, sustainable fashion seeks to address human rights issues within the industry. The relentless pursuit of cheap, quickly produced garments by fast fashion companies often results in labour exploitation, child labour, and hazardous working conditions. Sustainable fashion emphasizes transparency and accountability, ensuring that workers are treated fairly and with dignity. By choosing ethically made garments, we can collectively advocate for a more humane fashion industry.
Sustainable fashion also offers potential economic benefits for Singapore. As a nation with limited natural resources, reducing our dependency on imported raw materials is essential. Supporting a circular economy in the fashion industry would involve maximizing resource efficiency through initiatives such as developing innovative textile recycling technologies, promoting local production and supporting homegrown sustainable brands, and encouraging collaborations between government, industry stakeholders, and consumers to create a sustainable fashion ecosystem.
IV. The Singaporean Context
Singapore has taken several steps to foster a sustainable fashion landscape. Government agencies like Enterprise Singapore have provided support for eco-fashion startups, while events such as the annual Singapore Eco Film Festival (SgEFF) and the Sustainable Fashion Awards (SFA) bring attention to the movement. Homegrown brands like Matter Prints, Etrican, and Source Collections are leading the way in sustainable fashion, demonstrating that sustainability and style can coexist harmoniously.
V. Supporting Sustainable Fashion in Singapore
As consumers, we can support sustainable fashion in Singapore by becoming more informed about sustainable materials, certifications, and brand practices. Resources like the upcoming EzGreen sustainable app can help assess a brand’s sustainability efforts, while encouraging sustainable actions. Embracing slow fashion by prioritizing quality over quantity and investing in timeless, well-made pieces that withstand the test of time and fashion trends is another way to contribute.
Extending the life of our clothes by repairing, donating, or repurposing them into new items is essential in promoting sustainable fashion. Participating in initiatives like the Repair Kopitiam or The Fashion Pulpit can teach new skills and engage with the sustainable fashion community. Additionally, engaging in environmentally friendly shopping alternatives such as clothing swaps, thrift stores, and online resale platforms like Carousell or ThredUP can reduce waste and provide opportunities to discover unique, pre-loved items at a fraction of the cost.
Lastly, advocating for change by spreading awareness about the importance of sustainable fashion among friends, family, and on social media can help drive the movement forward. Supporting policies and initiatives that promote sustainable practices within the fashion industry is crucial in creating lasting change.
Sustainable fashion is more than just a passing trend; it is a crucial paradigm shift that addresses the environmental, ethical, and economic challenges of our time. As Singaporeans, we hold the power to drive change by making conscious choices and supporting the growth of the sustainable fashion movement. By embracing eco-fashion and re-evaluating our consumption habits, we can contribute to a more sustainable and equitable world for generations to come.
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