Sustainable Fashion is the Future, Are We Ready?

This decade has seen the steady rise of fast fashion. Thanks to the internet and more efficient modes of transportation, it is much easier to order and deliver things across the globe. This demand for convenience and the ready availability of trendy clothes for cheap has had some negative impacts on the environment. Simply put, we have become wasteful in our consumption of fashion.

If you walk into any of the fashion boutiques and expos, you will be spoilt for choice. A pair of jeans from china, a pretty top from India, all under one roof. These are just a sample of what is in the market currently. Majority of Kenyans shop for clothes at secondhand kiosks, clothes which are discarded or donated from the USA or Europe end up here. But this is just a fraction of the enormous amount of clothes discarded as trash.

Because fast fashion is made from cheap material and labor, this means that they don’t last very long. If you are lucky you might get a year’s worth of wear out of them and then you are forced to discard. Mostly made up of synthetic fibers and blends, these clothes have little to no chance of decomposing in the landfill. We have to face the bitter truth that our fashion choices are killing the planet!

There is hope yet. There have been efforts to use sustainable methods to produce clothes and fabric. Some of them are quite unique like the use of fish skin to substitute for leather. We all can play a small part in curbing Climate Change and reducing the waste in our landfills.

Newton Owino (R), an industrial chemist, hangs tanned fish pelts with the help of an employee after a soak in a softening formula concorted from extracts, “naturally derived from indigenous plant species”, he says, at his mini-tannery in the Mamboleo suburb, at the lakeside town of Kisumu, in western Kenya, on June 11, 2018. Owino derives the ingredients in the chemicals he uses for tanning and the processing of the skin of fresh water fish from the Lake Victoria known as Nile Perch, from which he then fashions a range of products including leather jackets, bags, shoes, wallets, caps, purses, sandals and belts. / AFP PHOTO / TONY KARUMBA

By buying clothes made from sustainable sources, using them for longer, reusing or re-purposing them, and investing in timeless pieces instead of fashion fads will greatly help with conservation efforts. Additionally, there has to be concerted by the government and the private sector to make sure the country is ready for the change in trend. The signs are there if you look hard enough. Big brands such as Forever 21 are struggling to keep their customers. The change in demographic is also a big indicator of where the trends are heading. Millennials and Gen-Zs are more likely to care about sourcing and sustainability of the clothing they are buying. So, wouldn’t it be prudent of all of us to stay ahead of the wave rather than react to the aftermath?

Let’s establish a supply chain before the flow of secondhand clothes and cheap imports starts to dwindle. The future will thank us.

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