Aesthetics + Ethics
We live in a time of hybrids. Interdisciplinary teams, multi-racial families, collaborations between opposites and competitors, fusion ideals, are all the norm. Innovation and doing things differently is celebrated. Fashion is known to be a creative and innovative industry, so I ask why are we still producing like the industrial revolution, just on a global scale? Although this is beginning to shift as consumers become more conscious about how things are made and the impact of it all, it is still not the norm in an industry that employs 1 in 6 people on the planet. I propose that fashion become a well known hybrid industry of aesthetics and ethics.
Fashion will always have aesthetics at its heart. Any attempt to put another value ahead of it will fail. However this has also led to the disappearance of information and curiosity about production and disposal. We see the story of clothing exclusive to the consumer experience with it and not it’s whole life cycle, from the farmer who grew the material to the landfill it unfortunately ends up in. We are left to believe that our clothing magically appears in stores and that it vanishes once we rid of it from our closets. Because we have become ignorant to the whole story, only considering the visual appeal, production and disposal are left to the dark corners of the world, the dirty little secret of the industry. This is not directed at consumers only but brands as well. Our supply chains have gotten so complex and far removed that companies themselves do not know where their clothes are made either. But to produce something that is well made and mitigates as much negative impact as possible, is pointless if no one wants to wear it.
Ethics in the industry are starting to make a come back as people who have been awoken to the systems in place are taking a stand and leading the way both with their products and with their purchasing decisions. The term ethics includes the care and consideration of the people, other beings, and the planet that are impacted every stage of an items existence. The presence and awareness of the ethics involved in clothing is not something we immediately think of when walking into a store. Nor is fashion looked at as a major contributor to social and environmental issues from an activist or political perspective even though it is the second most polluting industry with only two percent of those working in it making a living wage. We need to better understand the impact and reach of the industry and start talking about how we all can make it better.
Both aesthetics and ethics are required for the industry to move forward in a sustainable way. Not one before the other, but in tandem as equals. We need to build stories into our clothing, to recognize them as pieces of our identity and beliefs and the identities of those who make them. To literally wear our values on our sleeves and not support those who lie and cheat and put profit before people and the planet. By viewing the clothes we spend our lives in as disposable is disrespectful to ourselves and those who often risk their lives and well being to create them.
It is the responsibility of all of us to vote with our dollar, reevaluate our consumption habits, and change our perspective on the meaning and value of clothing. We should feel proud of the clothes we wear and how they are made and where they’ll go once they no longer serve us. Let us understand fashion as a hybrid of aesthetics and ethics.