Sustainable Clothing: Why Should A Communicator Care?

What’s one thing everyone has in common? Every age group, gender, and race needs this one thing. Clothing.


No – everyone doesn’t choose the same styles, colors, or patterns. The weather forecast varies in different locations. But, generally speaking, everyone puts something on their bodies every single day.


Some type of material is constantly touching our skin. If society is so concerned about the ingredients we put in our bodies and products we put on our bodies, why does no one bat an eye about clothes? I’m convinced this won’t be the case for much longer.


The fashion industry has taken off in the past decade, and people are buying more than ever. With the rise in demand, the trajectory of fashion has changed and fast fashion has taken over. This sector’s main focuses are trendiness, affordability, and fast production, falling short of ethical standards.


The industry used to consist of four lines that perfectly aligned with the four seasons. But recently, The Good Trade indicates that fast fashion created “52 micro-seasons.” This means that fast-fashion retailers like Forever 21, H&M, and Zara are putting out new clothes once a week.


With the increase in clothing lines released, people are fooled to buy more – especially when costs are so low. Why buy one nice top when you can buy 13 different ones for the same price? It’s easy to be blinded by the constant new and exciting trends – but it comes at a cost.


Cheap fashion is made from harmful, petroleum-based synthetic materials. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to this. Retailers outsource production to factories in developing countries and, at first glance, it seems to only affect those countries. The poor materials create toxic water runoff and air pollution in those respective areas.


The toxicity doesn’t necessarily stop there. Chemicals are still embedded into our clothing and are especially prone to release when we wash our clothes. The lifestyle brand, Goop, offers insight on its website under the wellness section, explaining that “when you wash these clothes, NPEs are released into the water, where they break down into nonylphenols – endocrine-disrupting chemicals.”


These chemicals aren’t as far removed from us as it seems. Yes, they’re in our water and air, but they are also seeping into our skin causing health effects like skin irritation, asthma, and even cancers.


People are going to start asking questions. Why are my clothes so cheap? Why am I hearing about the environmental harm of fashion? If there are such dangerous chemicals being released into the air, why would I put that on my body?


That’s where communicators come into play. We need to be one step ahead. Yes, sustainability is a topic of conversation, but ethicality in the fashion industry is on the rise. If clothing is so widely consumed, the issue of sustainable production is bound to blow up. What will we do when it does?


The Public Relations and Communications Association has noticed an increase in sustainability issues being a part of client work, noting that “sustainability issues have come of age, and communications professionals need the skillset to keep up.” (PRCA)


No, communicators can’t know everything. But we can be aware of rising movements. Let’s be proactive, timely, and educated – especially on issues that have the capacity to affect such a large group of people.



Emily Parrish is a junior Strategic Communication major with minors in General Business and Sustainability at Texas Christian University. She is the public relations manager for the Pink Team at Roxo and is passionate about writing, telling brand stories, and building connections with others. In her free time, she researches sustainable fashion and will talk anyone’s ear off about it if she gets the chance. Her favorite sustainable brands are GANNI, Girlfriend Collective, and Shop Redone.

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