In recent years, increased numbers of celebrities have been using their unique platform to highlight the danger the fashion industry poses to our environment. Fashion designer Stella McCartney has cited the greatest challenge to reversing some of the damage is an inaccessibility of ethical and sustainable fashion, promoting ‘education’ as essential to this venture.
Indeed, McCartney has pledged to bring sustainable fashion into the public sphere, claiming that advertising it as ‘sexy’ and ‘cool’ will inspire people to consider the long-term effects of fast fashion. Significantly, the aversion to vegan products in mainstream society could be indicative of a larger systemic problem, namely the public’s attitudes towards waste and mass consumption.
Voices at the forefront of this multi-billion dollar industry could be essential to overcoming the shocking repercussions inflicted on our planet. “The fashion industry accounts for more than a third of ocean microplastics, while textile dyeing is the second largest polluter of clean water globally”, Stella McCartney quoted in a recent article. She believes the responsibility lies within those at the heart of the fashion industry to deter rather than perpetuate the devastating reality of unsustainable fashion.
McCartney is just one of many celebrities to come out in favour of sustainable and ethically- sourced fashion. Emma Watson has long been known as the pioneer of modern celebrity activism, following through on claims to introduce the public to numerous local and ethical alternatives to unsustainable clothing. In collaboration with this venture, she has helped to develop the ethical clothing app ‘Good on You’, allowing users to more easily distinguish between clothing brands through their rating system based on the environment, labour and animal welfare.
In terms of increasing accessibility to affordable and eco- friendly clothing, celebrity activists can be hugely influential to this endeavour, giving an exclusive platform to the problems of uninformed purchasing. Emma Watson comments that “the word ‘change’ can be intimidating, riddled with expectations of outcomes and fear of failure.”
The answer to combatting the reluctance of many people to change their mindset may well be the face of those who are admired within the fashion industry and inspire people to alter their way of living. That being said, one of the greatest lessons we have learnt from the climate debate is that real change will have to come from a “systemic” transformation, as suggested by Stella McCartney, and that institutions are dictating the damage continually inflicted on our planet, rather than individuals.
The problems of unethical fashion go far deeper than personal choices and individual lifestyles, suggesting that removing the stigma surrounding vegan or Fairtrade products will not target the intrinsic issues fundamental to this industry. The idea of fast fashion is characterised by Lucy Seigle, an environmental journalist, as a “production system that brings us clothes at intense volume” which thrives off our “insatiable appetite for cheap clothing.”
It seems that at the heart of this problem, as with many others, a large barrier to significant change is the reluctance to disrupt the status quo. The imposition of celebrity backing could push the issue into the public discourse, as the increase in media attention is clearly affecting the ideology of large scale corporations already.
Paul Dillinger, head of global product innovation for Levi’s, has expressed his interest in targeting the damaging nature of large-scale cotton production, stating that they are “working on a solution that takes old garments, chemically deconstructs them and turns them into a new fibre that feels and looks like cotton but with zero water impact.” Whilst this marks a significant turning point in reversing some of the fashion industry’s environmental repercussions, retailers are aware of the enormity of the task, asserting that “it’s so broadly decentralised that affecting change is nearly impossible.”
Therefore, the desperate need for action is consistently undermined by the consumerist narrative that people’s personal lives deserve to take precedence over a communal endeavour to tackle environmental genocide. Perhaps the continued presence of this issue in the mainstream media will intensify its urgency and finally incite meaningful change.
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