Monday, March 08, 2010

ECO-FASHION: a sincere attempt to save the world?

“Be Green!”, “Save the environment!” – how many times have we found ourselves reading logos like these in the subway, on the streets, on the pages of our magazines, on some t-shirts in the stores? Eco-friendly lifestyle has become prestigious and desired by almost everybody.

Sustainability has been a big issue in the world of fashion for a couple of years now. And the reason for that is global warming. Believe it or not, it is bona fide. The evidence is there all year long. Look at the past year. First of all, there’s been a definite raise in the seasonal temperatures. We all have noticed. There wasn’t that much snow last winter, was there?! Secondly, the crazy weather behaviour all over the world: winds, snowstorms, floods. Thirdly, earthquakes: Haiti, then Chile! Aside from that, diseases like cancer, asthma, or allergies clearly have to do with chemicals in our food, clothes, and air, because such diseases were not common in the early 20th century. It gets scarier every year. The result of the human activity is that the sea level is rising, and the land might eventually get covered with water!

As a result of these concerns, a new concept “Eco Fashion” has evolved which is basically fashion made of environmentally-friendly materials. With the whole Eco Fashion concept, there is an easy way consumers could potentially help the environment: by buying eco-friendly clothing and makeup. Nowadays, there’s so much to choose from: numerous popular brands like American Apparel, Giorgio Armani, Levi’s, Patagonia, Roots, Stella McCartney, and Timberland, have incorporated the idea of Eco Fashion and started working with organic cotton, linen, hemp, and bamboo.

Organic cotton is grown without the use of chemicals compared to conventional cotton. That is why organic cotton is the number one eco-friendly material. Linen fabric is strong; it also provides the coolness and sheer. Hemp is very durable; it grows fast and leaves the soil in excellent condition. Bamboo grows fast and absorbs carbon dioxide. It is also hypoallergenic.

As for cosmetics, Stella McCartney unveiled CARE by Stella McCartney, the first luxury organic skincare line, containing 100% organic active ingredients. Brands like Juice Beauty, and Pangea Organics offer moisturizers made with organic ingredients.

So as we can see, top designers have really absorbed the “Green” idea. Marketing is going great. Just flip through the pages of monthly magazines like Elle and Flare – and you’ll see the environmental ads and articles pop up here and there. Buying eco-friendly clothes has become a prestigious lifestyle desired by everybody. As consumers, we strive for what’s trendy. How do we know what’s trendy? We read ads. Ads talk about organic cotton. Well, then it means it’s trendy! We feel that buying eco-friendly clothes proves that we belong to some exclusive group of people, establish some sort of status, are respected and admired by society.

Promotion really is a fantastic thing. The question is: what lies behind it? Is it an honest attempt to help our environment? Or is it another way of attracting more customers and making money?

A lot of people do get sucked in by fashion trends. Some even get a shopping addiction. Eco Fashion is quite expensive. But in our minds “expensive” usually associates with high status. So let’s face it, when people are purchasing a luxurious item, they unconsciously want to show the world “I am buying this because I am rich or cool like that”. So when it comes to Eco Fashion, do consumers really buy it for the sake of the environment? How many of us actually think of helping our planet when we buy that organic cotton T-shirt? Do we think of global warming when we go for that Stella McCartney raincoat? Probably not. The question in this case is whether we, consumers, are being sincere about helping fight the global warming by purchasing eco-friendly clothing.

This is the question of ethics. It is in human nature to be selfish. It is natural for marketers to advertise Eco-Fashion for the sake of increasing their budgets. It is natural for consumers to shop for organic clothes as a way to establish high status. I’m not saying that nobody cares about the future, I’m saying it is questionable whether everybody is sincere about helping the Earth when promoting or purchasing Eco-Fashion.

The problem of global warming is terrifying in the long term, but it seems that so far people are neglecting it. There are still cars that emit gas; there is still garbage on the streets. Seems like the big “Be Green!” or “Save the environment!” logos haven’t done much yet.

Personally, I’d rather do something as small as recycling my plastic bottle, than walk around in a T-shirt with a big logo saying “GO GREEN!” Because knowing I did something for our planet would make me feel good about myself. And wearing a branded T-shirt wouldn’t change anything.

It feels good to be a part of a great cause. It doesn’t mean that you should spend money on what some ad in the magazine tells you. It means doing the simple things like recycling bottles, not littering, giving away unwanted clothes, saving the energy, using subway instead of a car. Things like that could make a huge difference. Things like that would make you feel good about yourself as a human being. Things like that should really matter now.

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