While strolling through the mall, extravagant retail outlets like Khaadi, Gul Ahmed, Sapphire, etc. which were packed with shelves of unstitched pret pieces in a plethora of different shades, designs and styles caught my eye. As I found myself admiring the outfit worn by the mannequin, I caught myself wondering, the final results are beautiful, but what about the process of producing them?
Before preceding further, let’s dissect the term ‘fast fashion’ first, which is an emerging problem in Pakistan that is poisoning cities like Faisalabad; known as the heart of textile industry. It is defined as instantly-available, inexpensive clothing mass produced by market retailers in response to latest trends, hence stocks are usually instantly sold out due to high levels of demand, which are constantly changing from one season to another. The sustainability and ethics of this ‘fast fashion’ is rather questionable as the industry is heavily based on delivering low to medium-quality clothing keeping a low cost of production at the expense of harm to the environment and workers. Most brands have large factories and mills that emit toxic waste, utilize hazardous, synthetic or non-biodegradable materials and packaging, and a lot of times employ under waged or under aged labor despite all the pricey tags on their final products. It ranges from large corporations like Khaadi, which is Pakistan’s first and biggest established fast fashion brand owning national and international chains, to small stores selling loose fabric at bazaars and marketplaces. As consumers, we possess the power to bring about change through our spending habits, therefore we should ensure our money is spent on supporting and fueling sustainable living, not exacerbating unsustainable or unethical practices. Hence with acts as simple as carefully choosing where and where not to shop at, we can make a difference.
I understand that in current times of economic uncertainty, fast fashion is a cheaper and viable option for most consumers in Pakistan as unstitched fabrics from bazaars or mass-produced clothes at discounted prices are more affordable, as opposed to ethical/environment friendly brands which are inherently on the pricier side. But there are certain practices we can implement in our lives to be more sustainable. Nowadays social media and the internet heavily influences our buying habits (consumerism) so it’s extremely important that we avoid following short-lived fashion trends, because discarded clothes end up in landfills once out of fashion. Instead, we should try to make the effort to donate unwanted/unused clothing so it can be repurposed and reused or cut back unnecessary spending on clothing we don’t need. Stocking up your wardrobe with only a few good quality staple pieces, which you’re sure will last you many years is an appropriate option. Secondly, explore and shop from small scale business or artisans in your locality as they are more likely to be sustainable in their work rather than large corporations which continue unethical practices. This way, you’ll be certain of where your money is going and supporting what cause. At Kaarvan Crafts, aspiring female artisan-entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds design beautiful clothing all whilst being sustainable! Buying from and supporting them will also allow them to pursue their dreams.