Background

Fashion has an array of meaning both in the traditional and contemporary industry. It is presented differently based on the study context. Sociologists define fashion as a form of social expression and societal interaction. Economist on their part understands fashion as a planned obsolescence technique fashion (Turner 1996, p.15). The abstraction definition of fashion is that of an object with no boundary, no content, and has expanded into various industries such as automobile, architectural, and furniture. Economists also believe fashion constantly undergoes changes. As a clothing style, fashion has greatly evolved. There are two fashion periods: from the 14th century to 19th century, and from19th century to the 21 century. The second period of fashion development showed district improvement from the classical to the modernist world. The current fashion originated in the mid-19th century. It developed from class to consumer fashion in the modern history (Mackrell 2005). Towards the end of 19th century, new genres of art emerged including Futurism, Surrealism, Art Nouveau, and Cubism. Most of these artists displayed passion in ideological expression. They artist started to view fashion as a form of life, which can be reflected in artistic work. Some artists heavily influenced the fashion and art industry. Among them included the Ukrainian-French, Sonia Delaunay and Yves Saint Laurent, whose Mondrian style revolutionized the fashion and art industry (Turner 1996, p.81). A while ago, there was a running joke about fashion: that fashion is so ugly that it keeps on changing. The joke stems from the fact that none can keep track of the changes in the fashion industry. Before one can get comfortable with a particular fashion style, it would have already been overtaken by emerging trends. As times or seasons change, people adjust to the new fashion trends in town or society. Changes in tastes and preferences drive people to overhaul their wardrobes. Fashion is influenced by several philosophies (Humes 2009, p. 56). Dressmakers design apparels for various functions. There are garments for weddings, funerals, ordination ceremonies, and uniforms. Even amongst the various categories of garments, designs change now and then. The improvements in fashion are influenced by the creativeness of the fashion designers. Designers are tasked with coming up with new makes depending on the prevailing circumstances.

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Fashion Trends

In the recent days, eco-fashion has been the trend in fashion design. Eco-fashion refers to the fashion with the aim of creating a system capable of self-sustenance. Eco-fashion also referred to as sustainable fashion, is supported by environmentalism and social responsibility. The threat of global destruction from the chemicals used in the manufacture of garments has driven companies to adopt environmental friendly mechanisms. Carbon emissions are contributing to the global warming problem. Manufacturing companies are on the spot for not adopting eco-conscious methods of production. Sustainable fashion is not only a dressing trend; it is also a campaign against climate change (Cline 2012). Initially, companies were encouraged to contribute to charitable causes in the society as part of their corporate social responsibility. However, in the present times, companies are required to adopt friendly production methods that do not contaminate the environment. Besides, the companies must adopt better waste disposal mechanisms to avoid polluting the environment (Rayner, Chamberlain, & London 2012). In the discourse, the role of designers in incorporating eco-friendly methods in production is analysed. Specifically, the passage will examine what steps designers can take, especially if they are not in control of the fabric production process. In addition, the analysis will explore the extent to which the approaches taken by the designers will address the current position on climate change and environmental pollution. Considering different entities handle the growth, processing, and manufacture, designers have the challenge of sorting out the best fabric for use in their process. The research relies on publications in fashion magazines, references to fashion blogs, media outlets, and fashion conferences. However, publications in fashion magazines will inform the bulk of this work. Ultimately, the research will seek to explain the genesis of eco-fashion, the challenges it presents to the modern fashion world, and the possible mechanisms to address the situation. This discourse will tackle the concept in a topical analysis. After this introductory section, the subsequent sections will explore other areas as below:

  1. Section 2: introduces the fashion object under study, its attributes, and timeframe.
  2. Section 3: Case Study 1, its attributes, historical context, artist, and relevance.
  3. Section 4: Case Study 2, its attributes, historical context, artist, and relevance.
  4. Section 5: Case Study 3, its attributes, historical context, artist, and relevance.

Eco-Fashion Design

Introduction

This section focuses on the role of designers in eco-fashion. Designers are the experts who turn fabric into cloth. Professional designers come up with ingenious, sophisticated, and new designers of making cloth that are appealing. Customers are drawn to buy new designs because of their uniqueness. Unless an item of clothing appeals to a buyer’s taste, they will not spend their money on them. The success of the fashion industry depends on whether people will change their tastes or preferences favourably concerning the new fashion items. In the absence of an appeal, the new clothes will lie in factories or shop outlets. Designers come up with new trends depending on future demands. Before a new style is introduced, professionals brainstorm the society and gather ideas on possible trends. It is based on these trends that concepts for new apparels are made.

Eco-Fashion Designs

Eco-fashion is modelled on the conservationist ideology. Proponents of this concept had the immediate environment in mind when coining the concept. The success of the industry is pegged to its level of responsiveness to the pressing needs of the society. Climate change and environmental conservation are the main ideas informing the development of both public and private enterprise. Methods that promote the use of clean energy reduce the volume of toxic effluents released into the environment, and offer cheaper alternatives are more preferable (Humes 2009). The eco-fashion ideology evolved from civil activism in the wake of severe environmental degradation and increased global warming. Scientific studies pointed to the wastes from industries as the main causative agents of the current situation. Despite the fact that industrial pollution was a whole out incident, stakeholders in the clothing industry took up part of the blame and spearheaded a campaign to reduce pollution by adopting sustainable fashion styles. Movement in fashion design indicates the transition from one fashion style to another. Each transition is triggered by various activities happening in the immediate society or the world at large. Normally, the movement is from a poor fashion choice to an advanced one. Fashion icons perceive the movement to represent changes in consumer tastes or preferences.  The shift from traditional production methods to the modern eco-friendly processes was influenced by a desire to protect the environment and appeal to the customers. Designers became aware that the fabric they use contributed to environmental pollution in various ways. Firstly, the cotton was grown with the aid of several chemicals, some being herbicides or fungicides. Sprays released by the chemicals contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer. Besides, rainwater washed off some of the chemicals into rivers and lakes, endangering the marine ecosystem. Eco-fashion was designed to mitigate the effects of conventional clothes production. Recyclable materials are used in the production process. In the current times, industries are moving towards the use of biodegradable materials (Yang 2013, p. 31). Eco-fashion evolved over a long period. The first stint at this production method was through the action of prisoners in Latvia. Prisoners who were tasked to make their own clothes resolved to make garments that could last very long time. The successes of the project inspired designers to adopt a similar method. In the case, however, the industries wanted to exploit the avenue to reap more profits. Presently, the sustainable fashion is more utilized in the making of bedding. The concept of eco-fashion can best be analysed by specific case studies. In this regard, the discourse will review the following case studies: People Tree, From Somewhere, H&M. These cases illustrate the major milestones made in the fashion industry and point to possible areas of reform. 

People Tree

The Growth of Fashion

The collaboration between artists and designers ha increased drastically over the decades. Today, the market is saturated with various hybrid efforts of similar designs. However, the contemporary fusion of art and design varies greatly with those of the past. Elsa Schiaparelli and Salvador Dali are perhaps the most prominent and designers of their time. They worked with the Surrealists. Italian designers of 1930s were inspired and collaborated with the Surrealists, such as Christian Bérard, Jean Cocteau, and Dalí. Christian Bérard and Jean Cocteau artistic heavily influenced Elsa Schiaparelli’s production. The collaboration led to the development of Elsa Schiaparelli renowned garments of Organza Dress with Painted Lobster of 1937 and Tear Dress of 1938. She also produced the Shoe Hat of 1937 winter collection. The designs marked the foundation of art and fashion. Schiaparelli considered herself as an artist and not a professional. She attributed her excellence to her close association with the Surrealists (Blechman 2013, p.1). While art became prominent in fashion, sustainable fashion growth found its routes in the 21st century. Among the world, sustainable growth champions are the People Tree.

Trade Fashion

For a long time, fashion has been driven by market demand. People Tree transformed the market with a focus on Fair Trade, ethical, sustainable, and organic production. The products are unique and of high quality. The goal of the organization is to ensure market satisfaction at the same time improving its value chain (“People Tree” 2015, p.1). In every step of production, people concern and environmental conservation remains the key driving forces. People Tree culture goes past corporate social responsibility and ethical codes of conduct. They embrace Fair Trade principles across all their operations. The work environment is guided by Fair Trade culture (Goworek 2011, p. 2). As a result, People Tree does not employ high levels of mechanization; rather they use community labour for its production. They are keen on their customers’ demands, and at the same time, positively influence the lives of any person in they touch, the community, farmers, the governments, the employees, and the competitors. The World Fair Trade certifies their operations. The organization prides itself as the first cloth line to be certified across its chain of production (“People Tree,” 2015, p.1).

Sustainable Fashion

The organization integrated a supply system from cotton production point to clothes manufacturing. It is one of the organizations recognized for attaining Global Organic Textile Standard in the developing world. The organization struggles to ensure that their action renders no to limited risk to the environment. Both their raw materials and final products certify the Fair Trade standards. The company sources their materials in the communities they operate, and always select recycle, biodegradable, and less toxic products only. The products are shipped, instead of air lifted. They are hand knitted and are weaved instead of the use of heavy machines. The goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emission into the atmosphere (“People Tree” 2015, p.1). People Tree is the brain behind Fair Trade and sustainable fashion. The organization ensures Faire and sustainable growth across all its supply chain. The core values include ethical and sustainable fashion design.  The organization defines its production as slow growth. Slow growth is an ideology aimed at reducing all forms of exploitation, uniting families, minimizing all forms of exploitations, developing slums and effortlessly trying to curb all forms of environmental pollution (“People Tree” 2015, p.1). Fast fashions are characterized by profit-oriented manufacturing that leads to wild completion, high rates of pollution, and labour exploitation (Goworek 2011, p. 3). The core value of the organization is to uphold the demand of people and the planet at every stage of their production. The company uses traditional mean and natural materials to create their products.

From Somewhere (Orsola de Castro)

Growth of the Company

From Somewhere was started in 1977 as a trial process. Initially, the company was testing if it could manufacture beautiful clothes from discarded material. The discarded materials included paper and cloth fragments. The trial process went through successfully. The company was persuaded to commence the manufacture of clothes immediately. A venture that started as a trial process progressed to become a world-famous production process. Since then, the company has been involved in an aggressive campaign against environmental pollution by insisting on recycling and upcycling processes. Under this model, waste should not accumulate in the environment. In addition, no industrial effluent is released into the environment.

Environmental Impact

Orsola de Castro and Filippo Rici were the masterminds behind the ingenious eco-friendly manufacturing process. The inception of the company was premised on the values of minimal environmental impact, the context of globalization in fashion, ethical fashion, upcycling and recycling, developments in sustainable fashion, and sustainable design strategies. The inception of the company in 1977 was relevant to the prevailing economic and environmental situations. Industries were coming up, each competing for a share of the market.  The mushrooming of industries presented an environmental challenge. Emissions and effluents from the factories discharged directly into the environment. A production method that eliminated environmental pollution was welcome (Brown 2010, p. 17). From Somewhere came in with a new method of production that was eco-friendly. Unlike the other manufacturing processes, the company relied on biodegradable materials. Orsola de Castro clearly exhibits the characteristics of an eco-friendly enterprise. The corporation in question minimizes pollution of the environment by reducing the amount of effluents released into the surroundings. The company has demonstrated that textile industries can run a business without endangering the immediate environment.

Upcycling and Recycling

Recycling and upcycling also reduced the amount of waste materials dumped in the environment.  Waste materials coming from other manufacturing industries formed the raw materials for From Somewhere. Pre-consumer wastes were used in coming up with ethical fashion items. It was in the year 2000 that Orsola realized the potential of waste discarded by the industry. At the time, waste pollution was endemic. Industries were not conscious of the damage they were inflicting on the immediate environment. Orsola tapped into the potential of waste from industries and turned into one of the greatest fashion designs of all time. In 2010, the company won an award for being eco-conscious. The industry’s operations have been widely acclaimed. After the launch of Tesco in 2010, the company’s operational strategies proved fruitful after a massive sell-out. In addition, the company has dressed various celebrities for the Oscars, including Livia Firth. In line with its philosophy, the company has proceeded with recycling waste and turning it into great apparels. For instance, in 2011, the reused the banned Lzr swimsuits from Speedo and reinvented them. As a result, the company made great profits when the products showcased at LFW. Most of the company’s products are winter apparels. Overly, the company has reached over 50 million people since its inception.

H & M

Growth of the Company

H& M (Hennes and Mauritz) is a lead clothing company that is reputed for its fair trade and fast fashion. Founded in Sweden in 1947, H & M is a pioneer company in the eco-friendly production cycle. The company has collaborated with 61 member states worldwide. The company has taken concerted steps to ensure that it remains profitable. The company’s products are known worldwide, and reputed for being of desirable quality (Yang 2013). Through the global networks, the company has set up many branches worldwide in a bid to tap into the market. The global retail points are christened ‘HM’ for easy of identity. At these points, the company makes and sells furniture, jewellery, and other household appliances. H&M rose to prominence in the year 2008 due to aggressive marketing strategies. Using the theme song ‘Hang On’, the company expanded its markets to the African and Middle East regions. It was during this time that the company’s outfits were featured in the movie Decadent Control. Throughout its existence, the company has used celebrity advertising to endorse the use of its products. Amongst the prominent celebrities who have advertised, the products include Madonna, Roberto Cavalli, Kirsty Hume, Eva Herzigova, and Brad Kroenig. H&M outlets are a network of retail shops set up in various countries worldwide to market the company’s products. Apart from the exemplary products made at the outlets, the centre is also reputed for its policies on social inclusiveness. Notably, the organization is at the forefront in championing for the needy in society. The company has raised over $4.5 million to charity.

Environmental Impact

The H&M case study represents a contrast to the eco-fashion industry. While other companies in the world are moving towards more eco-friendly alternatives, the company is stuck in using synthetic and non-biodegradable materials.  In all respects, the company uses locally available materials in the production of garments and other products. This case study is relevant as it captures all the aspects of opposed to eco-fashion. To begin with, the company uses neither recyclable nor biodegradable material. The cotton used in weaving clothes does not easily decompose once the used clothes are disposed of. Also, the waste products from the manufacturing process portent a health risk to the society. The company engages in environmental pollution by directly discarding unsold stock into the environment. The clothes are first shredded being thrown away to avoid resale. The company impacts negatively on the environment by contributing to pollution. The Materials, which cannot be recycled lead to resource depletion and environmental pollution (Gowerek 2011, p. 79).

Sustainable Fashion

The company was established primarily as a profit making enterprise. The company was established after the Second World War, with the aim of stimulating economic development. The war had wrecked the economy and man states were reeling from its effects. This case study is unique because of its divergence with the eco-fashion ideals. Unlike the earlier case studies that focus on ethical and eco-fashion, H&M illustrates a different case altogether. Garments manufactured by the company are merely fast fashion, designed to attract more customers and boost sales. Besides, the company’s production methods are environmentally unfriendly and contribute to contamination. As is typical with fast fashion, the clothes wear fast and are discarded. The apparels manufactured by the industry are meant to last a season, upon which they go out of fashion. It is for this reason that the company has many unsold items at the retail stores. Once the season lapses, the clothes are shredded and disposed of. Lack of recycling and upcycling options makes the fashion items unsustainable. Fashion sustainability has depended on the notion that the garments are capable of being reused, at least for a meaningful purpose (Gardetti 2013, p. 4). As seen in the previous cases, clothes are capable of being transformed into other useful items of clothing. Waste from the manufacturing process can be harnessed to other manufacturing processes. In the case of H&M, the initial production process ends the cycle for the raw materials used. In turn, the practice will lead to depletion of natural resources and environmental pollution.

Upcycling and Recycling

In the world where the natural resources are fast being depleted, it is advisable to utilize the available resources in a prudent manner. In the manufacturing and processing sectors, companies are required to optimize their operations and use the least amount of resources as possible. H&M does not incorporate any recycling or upcycling processes. In the company, resources are used once in the cycle. There is no room for recycling of the used products. Most of the clothes are made from synthetic materials, which are not fit for reuse. Materials such as nylon and polyester are not recyclable. Most of the materials used in the manufacturing process are synthetic, usually derived from petroleum products. At one point, all the world’s petroleum products will be depleted. Since carbon products take millions of years to form, companies that depend on these products will run out of business. H&M methods of production are not eco-friendly and do not promote environmental conservation.

Conclusion

People dress up according to the latest fashion trends in the society. Whenever a new fashion style emerges, customers clamour to acquire it, in a bid to fit it in the society. The prevailing production process, cultural taste and preferences, and the creativity of the designers influence fashion changes. Fashion designers are tasked with coming up with new outfits. Buyers in turn reward the designers by buying their clothes. Since the industrial revolution, many companies have come up with various production strategies. Production strategies are influenced by the available technology. However, industries are required to adopt mechanisms that will have minimal environmental impact and lessen environmental pollution. Eco-fashion, otherwise known as sustainable fashion, achieves these objectives by encouraging the use of recyclable materials and controlling pollution. Sustainable fashion incorporates the elements of sustainable design strategies, environment impact, the context of globalization in fashion, ethical fashion, and upcycling and recycling. In evaluating whether a company is eco-friendly, it must satisfy all the mentioned requirements. The agitation for the adoption of sustainable strategies is informed by the fact that resources are fast being depleted. Besides, environmental pollution is a major bother in the modern society. Contamination of the water, soil, and air has destabilized the natural ecosystem. As a result, living organisms are fast dying, and ailments have become common amongst people. Environmental protection is part of the corporate social responsibility, and textile companies should be at the forefront in adopting strategies that least pollutes the environment. The three case studies analysed represent three companies that adopt different strategies in the textile manufacturing. People Tree and From Somewhere have adopted sustainable fashion. From the acquisition of raw materials to the production process and subsequent disposal of wastes, the two companies’ strategies contribute less to environmental pollution. Upcycling and recycling, on the other hand, ensure that the companies do not deplete the scarce natural resources. In most instances, the pre-consumer waste materials form the raw materials for these companies. Reusing materials create a self-sustaining system where fewer raw materials are used at any given time. Besides, the companies procure natural raw material that easily disintegrate in the environment. Biodegradable materials do not contribute to pollution, as compared to synthetic materials. On the other hand, H&M uses the mostly synthetic material to create fast fashion. Fast fashion quickly gets out of style. The rejected clothes once discarded as waste contributes to environmental pollution, as the synthetic material used in the production takes long to decompose. Presently, environmental management and conservation are the main concern for world governments. The rate at which natural resources are being used does not match with the rate at which they are replaced. Besides, environmental pollution is destabilizing the natural ecosystem. At this rate, the natural ecosystem will no longer be able to sustain human life. There is a need to adopt better practices that lessen resource utilization and environmental pollution. Sustainable fashion is a step in the right direction, towards minimizing resource uptake and lessening environmental pollution. {t_essay_1}

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