We need to talk about intersectionality

When we talk about ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ fashion, we have to talk about intersectionality. Brands must address social injustices as well as environmental issues in order to achieve the sustainability goals they have set. ‘Sustainable’ fashion involves issues like diversity and inclusivity, but they are often ignored. These topics are complex, but without them brands are simply being performative and not addressing the core issues that will make a real difference.

Intersectionality in sustainable fashion means discussing social factors as equal to environmental factors. It involves protecting people as well as the planet – people from marginalised communities, and those who suffer from the environmental consequences of fast fashion (mostly BIPOC).

We see brands including ethnic minorities in social media campaigns, but this is often performative activism. Without tackling the crux of diversity and representation, these marketing techniques are simply tokenism. This is clear when looking at who brands include on their social media versus the team that makes up the brand itself. This brings with it the topic of identity. In an article written by Celeste Scott, she discusses that in the attempt to inject diversity into the industry, the faces and voices used are usually ones that are palatable to a white audience (light-skinned/biracial).

Ethnic minority groups will struggle to find themselves represented in media, and if they are it feels tokenistic. Therefore when it comes to ethical fashion, intersectionality should be at the forefront alongside environmentalism. This means pushing boundaries and stopping the diverse ‘aesthetic,’ and truly advocating for representation throughout. If sustainable fashion does not do this, then it will have a hard time changing consumer’s minds. It needs to place inclusivity at its core and fight harder to create an intersectional industry. Scott addresses this, saying that ‘Radical inclusivity is about continually asking how we can cast the net wider, opening the space to many more walks of life. It’s about getting to a place where what we consider to be the “norm” in the fashion industry is characterized by a variety of skin tones, body types, gender expressions and ages.’

Intersectionality means constantly reviewing how we are fighting for social equality, asking the right questions, and ridding the industry of tokenism and performative activism. It means highlighting that as well as environmental issues, we need to be talking about social injustices and the importance of inclusivity from marketing to the people behind the brands we shop at.

‘We see brands including ethnic minorities in social media campaigns, but this is often performative activism. Without tackling the crux of diversity and representation, these marketing techniques are simply tokenism.’

S x

Sustainable Development and its Obstacles

The complexity of sustainable development sparks a lot of conversation within the fashion industry. The everchanging attitudes from businesses and consumers means that businesses are being forced to transition to more sustainable practices.

The impact of smaller businesses is just as valued and important as larger businesses despite the odds being stacked against them. The major obstacle for smaller businesses is expense. Transitioning to sustainable materials isn’t cheap, but the long term benefits are worth it. At first, smaller businesses may not be able to make the huge impact that bigger businesses can, but small changes and transparency will push them in the right direction and attract likeminded consumers. This transparency and drive to become more sustainable will gain trust from consumers who are now looking for ethical brands to invest in.

The covid-19 pandemic has put a pause on the industry’s shift towards sustainability; however, people who have been furloughed, made redundant, or working from home have more time to reassess priorities. The conversations surrounding climate change have been rife throughout this year and many consumers have had time to watch documentaries and read about sustainable practice. This shifts direction towards small and sustainable businesses, and in turn this will mean that other companies will follow suit.

Forbes‘ article highlights how the pandemic will force the industry to become sustainable. BCG’s partner, Sarah Willersdorf says the ‘global sales are down 30-40%.’ She continues by saying that despite sustainability being paused, the industry should use this time to strategise ways to accelerate it instead. It isn’t just consumers who have changed attitudes, but employees as well. More people want to work with likeminded companies, so it is now down to the companies to change. It’s time for the industry to move towards more sustainable practice and ‘secure its economic future.’

S x

(I’ve been quite absent from my blog over the past couple of months for various reasons, but during that time I was still contributing to Luxiders sustainable magazine and had another print article published with them. Head over to Luxiders to see what I’ve been writing!)

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