Sustainable Fashion and Keeping Sane in a Pandemic: What, Why, and How?
Words and Photos by Kudrat Anand.
The fashion industry couldn’t have received a more severe wake-up call. Italy, the heart of the industry, and China, its hands, have been hit the hardest, sending shock waves to the whole world. I, for one, gratefully accept this quarantine as a time when we deny ourselves every external stimulation in order to find space to self-reflect and dive into our own consciousness. We are, in fact, isolated for the benefit of our own selves.
Covid-19 has afforded us cantankerous, hurried people with time and, indeed, a kind of forced introspection, laced with plenty of existential angst. With no man-made noise or light, one can get a glimpse of the cosmos at night, the Milky Way shining down on us; it can also exacerbate our fears and force us to rethink and re-calibrate our place and purpose on earth.
Our lives have come to a crippling halt because of the pandemic, and I find myself wondering, now that I really don’t know what my future looks like, what it really means to live in the moment. How do I even envision a future when professional touchstones like ambition sound hollow?
But now, for the first time, I think, people all around the world are getting a sense of what sustainability really means. It is personal. It is about everyday, ordinary choices that have an extraordinary impact on the world. We know today, living in isolation, that beyond our basic needs — clean air and water, wholesome food and the company of loved ones — everything else seems excessive and greedy. Something that goes beyond wearing an organic tee. So, sustainability will now be an act of conscious living, whereby we acknowledge that ‘more and more,’ ‘faster, not fewer’ and ‘bigger is better’ will not sustain us anymore. While we sit in our homes contemplating a world that will, perhaps, change dramatically henceforth, we have to dig deep to make amends with our past behaviours, especially the blind consumerism that underpins so much of the fashion system.
When we get back on our feet, we must ask ourselves: what does the fashion consumer, the manager, the employee of tomorrow look like? I imagine that there will be a profound awakening after this time of crisis. In order for us to be sustainable as an industry — and as human beings — we must break old patterns and find new, more elevated ways of living. Sustainability is not just about wearing an organic t-shirt. It has to be a way of life. It is not gods and goddesses pixelated in our imagination that will come to save us, but the salvation of our planet that comes from us committing to peacefully co-existing with nature.
Living in a more sustainable and ethical manner first requires realizing what the issue is. Once your mentality has changed, the rest follows organically. Awareness is increasing and it’s even becoming a trendy topic in many countries. Accordingly, there are plenty of websites, blogs and social media platforms that can help you in this journey towards a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle (including this piece, we hope!).
Trying to copy influencers living in New York when you are in a town in Gujarat, is probably not going to work. And a blogger’s mindful morning practice may not serve you in any way when you’re struggling to keep up with your hundred million deadlines and trying to get to your 9:30 am class on time.
Sustainability isn’t not about becoming a different person, but a better version of yourself. We have a huge impact on the environment through the products we consume, and the amenities we use. Capitalism has us convinced that our needs are limitless in order to be happy – a mentality we have indulged in and shaped our lives around. But if you think about it, do we really need so much? Those dresses in your wardrobe you can’t repeat since it’s made it to the gram once already? 50 statement pieces and another 40 statement bags to go with ‘em? The sheer excess of it all is what needs to be done away with and that’s what sustainability is all about.
You don’t have to go overboard and become an extreme minimalist, but reducing your consumption and footprint is a big part of becoming more sustainable. There is no need to go shopping for new clothes every week, and it is still important to close your tap and turn off your lights, when not in use.Become more aware of what you want in life and prioritize what you really need.
We are responsible for the consequences of our demands. Therefore, buy local, sustainable and ethical whenever possible. Do your research and support only those companies that follow the right path.
There are hundreds of little things you can do in your daily life to create a positive impact on the planet. You don’t need to do everything, and you don’t need to get to ZERO. Start with a few actions that might be simple and easy for you. Master them and then build on them.