Fashion & values: how conscious choices can change the world

“Each one of us matters, has a role to play, and makes a difference. Each one of us must take responsibility for our own lives, and above all, show respect and love for living things around us, especially each other.” – Jane Goodall

Our choices can change the world more than ever before. It’s not that we have never had this power, instead that now we are more aware of it and can therefore, make more informed choices for the better. At this point in time, we are living in a world that seems so vast but is also so connected through technology and media, we know more about how our actions make an impact than ever before.

This is why it’s even more important now that we make choices that match our values. We have so much at our fingertips but we need to be aware that what we invest in has an effect, whether that’s on communities or nature - and often, they are interlinked. And this is the first point we want to look closer at: why keeping sustainable values, letting them shape your actions/choices as well as using your voice to spread those values is important.

Secondly, we also want to help you try to make those more informed choices, tell you what questions you should ask yourself and how to stay motivated on this greener path. Particularly, we’ll be talking about how to do that through fashion because, like any other industry, it can be tricky especially since in recent years slow fashion has had growing popularity and offsetting trends that favour it, bringing it to the mainstream.

Though it may seem like individual actions may not make a difference in our big world, we want to show you that they truly do and hopefully, from there, we can collectively come together to create a better world.

The importance of values

When it comes to why we should all develop conscious values, we have many reasons. Switching over to a lifestyle that’s more sustainable is something that’s beneficial in many ways to our world, of which we’ll point out the main two:

1. It’s how we can help preserve our environment on an individual level and curb the destructive effects of climate change.

  • Making small but integral changes in your lifestyle, whether it’s avoiding single-use plastics or opting to cut out meat from your diet as much as you can, is a great way to start telling the world - that being brands, manufacturers, governments etc. - that a sustainable shift needs to occur.
  • As more people take on a more conscious lifestyle, environmentally harmful practices become less favoured meaning less waste, less carbon emissions, less toxic chemicals put into our natural ecosystems, all leading to a cleaner, greener world.

2. Our communities, from farmers to tailors and more, will positively benefit as conscious values also prioritise ethical standards in industry.

  • Naturally, when we prioritise sustainable practices, that also means treating our communities in a more ethical way. For example, It’s no secret that fast fashion brands are notorious for mass producing their products with the help of sweatshops (you can read more here about how these systems are still in place and their effect) - these being factories that employ workers, giving them very low wages for long hours under poor conditions. Conscious values include slowing down, buying less, appreciating what we already have as well as advocating for the health and well-being of all living things (which, of course, includes us), and would therefore mean that we have less need to churn out fashion at such a high rate that perpetuates these systems that take advantage of often underprivileged communities.
  • Moreover, these values would ensure our environment as well as the people helping create any product are not surrounded by toxic chemicals that would harm the first or the former - healthier, more natural systems would take its place to make sure of this.

To illustrate these points, you can also take a look here where we depict how your values can help change our world:


A look into reality

So, why is it important that we actively hold on to our values? Well, in recent years, as we mentioned earlier, slow fashion has come into the mainstream slowly but surely and with that, brands want to meet that demand.

This has resulted in a large amount of greenwashing by fast fashion brands - a term coined to describe how a brand/company will intentionally boast sustainable practices to create “an ecologically responsible image among the public” when their claims are not accurate. Some of the biggest names accused of greenwashing include Zara and H&M, the latter of whom we’ll be discussing more in this section. And though these instances still do occur and these brands continue producing and existing, the public has become incredibly aware of their dishonesty, and are ready to call out brands resulting in countless articles being written that echo these sentiments. So, why does this help change our world? Well, with more articles being written and more people sharing their thoughts on social media, more people grow aware, it starts to shape their outlook on certain brands that they may have bought from in the past and could urge them to decide that it’s not something they want to support.

This brings us to another discussion that’s currently taking place, mostly here in India, addressing the Sabyasachi X H&M collaboration. As SUI itself is a brand that is based in Delhi, India, operating in the slow fashion space, this occurrence plus looking at the different viewpoints delving into what this collaboration represents has been an insightful look at and learn from - and so, we wanted to talk it through a little bit to help others understand the importance in values within industry.

Since the launch of the Sabyasachi X H&M collaboration, there have been plenty of differing opinions as to why it should be applauded and why it should not.

From individuals bringing it up on their personal social media accounts to opinion pieces from notable publications, the outpouring of collective thought has been interesting to take in. In terms of pros, this article helps summarise key points, bringing up H&M’s notable global influence and reach:

“The Sabyasachi label has been unapologetically luxe, in its exploration of Indian crafts and traditions reinvented through signature design motifs. The designer’s earlier collaborations have also been with luxury brands—British serveware brand Thomas Goode, the American Pottery Barn and New York retailer Bergdorf Goodman, for instance—allowing the aesthetics to extend in the same universe. In comparison, the H&M collaboration promises an unprecedented scale of production and consumer reach. As Mukherjee writes, “I was very excited that I could finally reach out to the massive Sabyasachi tribe worldwide, even if it was just this once. They [H&M] had the power and distribution to make it happen.” - The Voice of Fashion

A collaboration with a fashion powerhouse like H&M certainly comes with its benefits, much of it business driven. It’s an opportunity for Sabyasachi to reach new heights in terms of a mass audience like never before as well as tap into a demographic unlike his own who are the “everyman” so to speak.

On the other hand, a notable con comes up when addressing values. As a livemint article brings up, the Sabyasachi label is synonymous with slow fashion. Since its inception, it has always treasured the art of traditional Indian craft, incorporating those slower techniques and ideologies within their production process while also praising the artisan clusters that help make their designs a reality - bringing much deserved attention to their hard work.

In an open letter penned collectively by multiple Indian artisan communities and groups, their main concern:

“We are therefore deeply pained by the missed opportunity that ‘Wanderlust’ has been for artisan livelihoods. The publicity material implies that the range is connected with Indian craft. However, the range is not made by Indian artisans and with no visible benefit to them. This was an incredible opportunity to position India’s design and craftsmanship on the global map, to have become the torch-bearers of what regenerative economies can look like. Apart from the many global stores, stalls and shelves boasting ‘Sold Out’ signs, imagine the sheer potential of this story had it only said, ‘Handmade in India’, supporting millions of jobs, equity and sustainable growth in communities that need it the most. Even if half the collection had been made by artisans, it would have made such an impact at a time of economic crisis like this pandemic.” - dastkarihaat.com

It stands to reason, this case is certainly one that introduces a lot of slow fashion discussions especially when it comes to how socially and environmentally responsible a brand needs to be in every aspect - the public will certainly hold you accountable in this day and age. When it comes to where to go from here, the aforementioned livemint article said it best: “What we need to do instead of calling for a cancel on social media is to give designers and brands a chance to correct themselves. With the right questions, we can actually bring a change, and perhaps get a collection that celebrates the many colours of India, not just one or two.”

What we hope wholeheartedly is that this acts as a catalyst for other larger fashion businesses to truly realise the power they have in shaping every choice, every collaboration, and more, around conscious values. It is not surprising to find so much of the public outcrying and echoing a similar discussion - why go into a partnership that contradicts much of your own values.

We also hope that this instance shows just how powerful individual voices can be to start a conversation that will urge others to think more critically about their choices.

Some green advice

And so, from here, we also wanted to lend some advice for any green heart-er either newly brought into our conscious community or already far into their green journey.These are a few ways to make sure you are practicing your values daily and making sure you’re investing your time and money with brands that you know hold the same principles.

Ask these questions about the brand you are interested in buying from:

  1. Do they disclose where they source their fibres/fabrics from
  2. Are they transparent about what production processes they use
  3. Do they show you who helps create their products
  4. Do they align themselves with like minded brands/individuals
Do your research:
  1. Visit the brands’ website and note how they present themselves.
  2. Dig deeper into if there have been articles criticising their systems
  3. Check for if they have attained any sustainable certifications such as Fair Trade, Global Organic Textile Standard and more - you can read our guide to eco-friendly and ethical labels to understand them better.

We hope this helps guide you on your slow fashion journey. And remember, the best way to a greener planet is to stay informed and share conscious knowledge with your peers as much as you can. Stay green everyone!