The BAC Law Society hosted an IG Live on July 24th to shed some light on the issues surrounding unethical practices in the fashion industry. The aim of this session was to create awareness on responsible shopping amongst consumers. They invited Raye Padit, a fashion designer on a mission to promote sustainable fashion in Singapore and beyond.
Fashion’s green warrior, Raye, founded The Fashion Pulpit, Singapore’s first ever retail space for swapping and upcycling apparel.
The 40-minute session started with Raye giving his introductory remarks. The first question posed was, “What is ethical fashion?” In the fashion savant’s opinion, ethical fashion should focus on all aspects, not just the profitability of a business. A company should think about whether their materials are sourced from ethical suppliers and whether their employees and those working in the supply chain are treated humanely and paid appropriately.
The moderators then raised the issue of greenwashing (the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound).
Raye explained how nowadays, the ‘behind-the-scenes’ of fashion can no longer be kept secret due to social media. As consumers, we have the power to spread awareness. Companies, of course, have different ways to approach ethical practices but the issue of greenwashing boils down to a lack of uniformity and legislation.
“We are all confused whether these businesses are ethical or not. There are so many factors to consider. The fashion industry has the longest supply chain hence there is a lot to uncover.”
Fashion is a 2.3 trillion dollar industry. With such a massive figure, we should be asking questions like “Why aren’t garment workers paid adequately?”, ‘Are working conditions appropriate?”, “Are materials used environmentally-friendly?”
Raye mentions that due to globalisation, big companies can outsource production to countries that don’t have strong legislations on waste managements, labour wages etc.
He highlighted the launch of Beyonce’s line. It became known that garment workers from Sri Lanka were not properly paid but her company argued that they paid the minimum wage. However, minimum wage in Sri Lanka is disproportionate to their costs of living.
The company was technically following the rules of that specific country and thus, it cannot be reprimanded. But does this mean they have behaved ethically?
Without standardisation, it will remain difficult to reprimand unethical companies. Matters are made worse due to geopolitics and how different rules exist in different countries, making it impossible to hold fashion companies accountable.
The sustainability champion reminded us that fast fashion didn’t start off like this. Its aim was to make fashion accessible to the masses. However, they went beyond what was needed.
Fast fashion now thrives on trends and speed, resulting in consumers accumulating clothes. If we don’t use these clothes, wastage is created, causing a plethora of detrimental issues
Raye explained how our generation is too used to how we purchase clothes.
“When I started buying clothes, I didn’t know the difference between cotton and polyester. I only cared about the aethetics. But we have the power to change this course due to our access to information. We can learn the difference between fabrics, material, how to care for our clothes and other ways that could help with the fight for sustainability.”
When asked how consumers can start practicing sustainable and ethical fashion, Raye explained how everyone is on their own journey to living a more sustainable life and we need to respect that. There is no right or wrong way.
We need to understand the specific issues prevalent in a consumer’s country. In Singapore, there is a waste problem due to overconsumption of clothes. The solution here would be to buy less. Being sustainable entails a slow lifestyle.
“Ask yourself, ‘Do I need 100 dresses, 10 t-shirts? Why do I need so much?’”
We also need to reevaluate how we measure our happiness. Currently, society is so used to judging others based on their material possessions. So, we must change this by looking at the bigger picture and avoid settling for instant gratification.
Raye highlighted how people actually tend to buy from brands that are ethical in nature. But not every consumer would have the time and interest to look deeper into whether these ethical promises are real. Consumers who are able to should take the effort to make this topic easier and more relatable for those who don’t really want to put in the time and energy to learn.
He shared that some companies and independent businesses are creating reports on their sustainability progress which is commendable. Through these reports, we can track their progress of commitment to sustainable fashion.
In wrapping up the session, Raye answered some questions from the keen audience members who absolutely loved his insights.
It was overall a successful IG Live hosted by the BAC Law Society! We definitely picked up some new tips on how to navigate our sustainable fashion journeys.