SINGAPORE – Earth Day, April 22, is often marked around the world with a host of environmental protection activities such as litter picking and tree planting.
For the fashion industry, the date coincides with the annual Fashion Revolution Week, which commemorates the 2013 Rana Plaza crash, in which 1,134 people died when a garment factory building collapsed in Dhaka, Bangladesh.
This year, the Singapore chapter of Fashion Revolution, the global activism movement and organization, aims to increase transparency in the fashion industry by educating the public about consumer-driven exploitation of natural resources.
The campaign, which marks the return of physical activities after two years of online activities due to the Covid-19 pandemic, began on Monday April 18 and will end on Sunday.
The public can take part in events such as workshops on sewing and upcycling – transforming old or damaged clothes into new ones – and round tables on sustainable fashion.
Ms. Shen Xingyun, Singapore’s National Fashion Revolution Coordinator, said: “(During Fashion Revolution Week), brands will be encouraged to shift their focus away from endless growth, and consumers will be invited to examine the real value of what we buy.
Overconsumption, spurred by the rise of fast fashion and lack of consumer awareness, is a significant contributor to environmental damage.
Dr. Irene Huang, a senior lecturer at Nanyang Business School of Nanyang Technological University, said shoppers are attracted by the frequent release of new fast fashion items.
She said, “Take (online shopping platform) Shein as an example. It posts over 5,000 new items every day, spoiling shoppers with choice and loyalty programs that keep them coming back.”
Mr Raye Padit, owner of clothing swap platform The Fashion Pulpit, said: “All we see is the glitz and glamor of fashion shows and models on social media platforms, but companies don’t tell us how and where something is produced.
“We are just looking for the next step and following trends. We now treat clothes as disposable products.”
Last year, households in Singapore generated 189,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste, a 38% increase from the 137,000 tonnes thrown away the previous year.
But experts and industry players said sustainable fashion is gaining traction, with retailers offering eco-friendly options seeing more customers.
Ms Raena Lim, co-founder of clothing rental service Style Theory and resale store Second Edit, said second-hand clothing sales had increased 10-fold over the past year.
She added that with the pandemic forcing people to work from home, consumers have become more conscious of their clothing consumption and waste.
Ms Susannah Jaffer, owner of sustainable retail boutique Zerrin, said the movement to promote sustainable fashion was getting more support from local organizations such as the Textile and Fashion Federation.
Ms Susannah, a member of Fashion Revolution, added: “It would be great if more designers, including fast fashion brands, chose to engage in the conversation… More government support to raise awareness of what to what sustainability looks like in fashion can be quite pivotal.”
Dr Sharon Ang, who heads the marketing division of Nanyang Business School, said the growing presence of sustainable fashion companies may be due to the fact that more and more people no longer see clothing rental and the buying second-hand clothes as signs of financial difficulties.
She said: “With the advent of the sharing economy and the sustainability movement, (renting and buying second-hand clothes) has taken on a new aura of social awareness and cool.”
But sustainability enthusiasts say there’s more to sustainable fashion than buying an organic cotton shirt. Caring for clothes already in the wardrobe and extending their lifespan are other ways to consume consciously.
Poet Natalie Wang, 28, mostly wears pre-loved clothes she buys from online marketplace Carousell and thrift stores, and borrows from her mother’s wardrobe.
She said: “Getting into the habit of trying to fix things, even if it means going to a tailor to replace a zipper, rather than throwing things away, is a good way to reduce your footprint. Learn to sew basic things to mend tears and mend pimples.”
Ms Woo Qiyun, 25, a sustainability consultant, said she realized she was buying more than necessary when she noticed that she rarely wore most of the clothes in her wardrobe.
The climate activist said: “Every time you buy something, make sure you ask yourself, ‘Where is this garment from? “”
To learn more about Fashion Revolution Week and its activities, visit the event’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pg/fashrevSG/events/?ref=page_internal)