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Trends in the Fashion World

Can you say "sustainable" and "socially conscious"?
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Fashion Becomes Responsible

designer accenting her fashion creation

The socially conscious and green fashion trends are making big waves.

From relatively small, unknown designers to big-name companies like American Apparel and Levi's, key players in the fashion industry are making strides toward global awareness.

Publications such as The New York Times and Vogue are using "sustainable" and "eco-friendly" in the same sentence with "fashion." These adjectives may not be on the short list of words we're used to associating with the industry, but clearly, change is brewing.

The enthusiasm building—among both designers and consumers—indicates that socially responsible fashion may be more than a fleeting trend.

Global Awareness as a Fashion Trend

It's not that love for fashion and concern for the global community have been mutually exclusive before now. However, when looking for clothing made with sustainable principles and products, the selection has been slim, historically. So how does an industry that changes with the seasons turn over a new eco-friendly, socially-conscious leaf? This challenge is part of what makes this emerging fashion trend fun.

  • Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. The fashion industry reinvents and copies itself all the time. Carrying this idea of recycling style one step further, some fashion designers are finding ways to use recycled and discarded materials in their designs. This calls for less energy in production and produces less waste.
  • Everything Old Is New Again. Vogue Paris predicts our love affair with '60s prints and shiny fabric will continue to blossom through the early part of 2022 at least, affirming that while fads come and go, pretty palettes are timeless.
  • Finding New Material. Cotton comes from a plant; therefore, it must be "green," right? Actually, according to the World Bank, "Cotton accounts for 16 percent of global insecticide releases—more than any other single crop." So more and more clothing manufacturers and designers are using organic cotton. Other designers are exploring different materials altogether. Textile manufacturers are using bamboo, soy, corn and wood pulp to create environmentally sound alternatives to cotton fabric, and many fashion designers are using traditional, natural dyes as a part of their efforts to create sustainable fashion.
  • Staying Cruelty-Free. Animal cruelty and sweatshop labor have been on our radar for years but now, we're starting to realize it's not enough to know that our clothing wasn't produced in sweatshops; we also have to think about the origins of the raw materials. For instance, the world's second largest cotton producer, Uzbekistan, is known to use child labor to harvest its cash crop. Designers and consumers alike now want to know that their pieces are violence and cruelty-free. Socially-conscious fashion trends require attention to every step of the production process.

Casting an Eye on Worker Rights

The apparel industry has committed to develop corporate social responsibility programs to facilitate positive changes for workers. For example, the Free2Work program implements grades on companies—such as Forever 21, Gap, H&M, Levi's and Walmart— according to whether they pay fair wages, their corporate policies, transparency, training for their workers, and worker's rights. The program is endorsed by the International Labor Rights Forum, who believes admitting responsibility to supply chain workers and putting resources into facilitating change, will create vast improvements for workers in the days, weeks and years to come.

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Fashion Design Degree & Career Guide