Just what exactly is "eco-fashion," anyway?

A few recent articles in the news have praised both Anna Paquin and Livia Firth (married to Colin Firth) on the fabulously “green” dresses they wore to the Golden Globes. (Paquin chose a dress from cruelty-free fashion designer Stella McCartney, and Firth chose a re-purposed wedding dress.)

So what exactly is meant when we talk about sustainable fashion, “green” fashion, or eco-fashion? College of William and Mary professor Regina Root addresses the fashion industry’s often contradictory label in an article on the college’s website, published last summer:

“Some view ‘sustainable fashion’ as the ultimate paradox. Sustainability aspires to preserve the environment for future generations. Fashion, on the other hand, is constantly in flux and has long represented luxury and waste … there’s a lot that the average consumer can do to behave more sustainably.”

Root notes that while the attributes of eco-fashion do include attention to sustainable textiles or other materials, the idea also involves greater awareness of the method of manufacturing, of a material’s given supply and demand, the necessity for workers to be paid properly, even the ability of design to be relevant to the communities it represents. You can read the entire article here.

Regina Root is the author of Couture and Consensus: Fashion and Politics in Postcolonial Argentina, which will be published by University of Minnesota Press in May.

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