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It’s Time to Slow Down Fast-Fashion

It’s Time to Slow Down Fast-Fashion

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by Elizabeth Mascrinhas (text) and Syed Ebrahim (pictures), Temasek Digital

Will vision and determination be enough to push a movement against generations and decades of waste?

They are perceived to be shallow and self-entitled but according to a 2015 Nielsen study, millennials are actually an ethically conscious bunch.

When polled, almost three-out-of-four are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings, like consciously-designed furniture and organic and ethically-sourced food– up from approximately half from the previous year.

These post-Gen-Xers are also championing a movement against fast-fashion.

Co-founder of Artisan & Fox Sy Chia, 29, is one of them.

Sy Chia, 29, the co-founder of Artisan & Fox is going to change the way you think about waste.

Artisan & Fox is an ethical marketplace that serves as a platform for artisans from developing countries to sell their crafts on the global market.

Sy is also a participant of this year’s upcoming UNLEASH conference in Singapore, a global ‘innovation lab’ that will bring 1,000 young talents from across the global to create disruptive solutions to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“We often choose to ignore the environmental effects of fast-fashion due to its low cost and convenience,” says the Design and Visual Communications graduate.

Fast-fashion is the phenomenon in which clothing trends change at breakneck speeds, with new styles being pushed out as quickly as on a weekly basis.

As he puts it succinctly, “What is best for us is to shop better, instead of more.”

 

To reduce chances of waste, the team at Artisan & Fox makes sure they always sell off the batch of their goods before taking on another load.

The rise of sustainable fashion

Here in Singapore, homegrown fashion brands like Esse, MATTER and Source Collections are cottoning on this movement of promoting sustainable fashion.

Artisan & Fox’s craftsmen are also encouraged to use sustainable materials like organic cotton and upcycled metal for their craft, which has low ecological and carbon footprint.

“Fast-fashion has no regard for the planet or the resources that it takes to create the types of products at the rate in which they are producing now,” says Laura Francois, another co-founder of Artisan & Fox.

Laura Francois, co-founder of Artisan & Fox and country coordinator for Fashion Revolution has helped shape the way the brand approaches their goods.

Laura is also the Singapore coordinator for Fashion Revolution - a global movement that calls for greater transparency within the fashion industry.

The dyes used in the production of fast-fashion not only harms our environment, but also our health. Laura explains that when we wear clothes treated with toxic chemicals, our bodies sponge up these cancerogenic toxins through our pores. This is exacerbated by Singapore’s humid weather.

“It’s a small start but I feel that only by being curious and asking questions can we incite change,” says the 27 year old social impact designer.

Much change is needed. According to the National Environment Agency (NEA), the amount of textile and leather waste has increased 37% in the last decade, and currently stands at 150,800 tonnes.

Laura adds: “2,700 liters of water is required to make one cotton T-shirt, as a lot of water is needed to not only grow the cotton, but to dye and treat the T-shirts as well.”

Adds Sy: “When we’re overseas and look at huge rivers or lakes, we see them aesthetically as landscapes, instead of as resources.

I think we need to present Singaporeans with figures of the amount we waste through everyday Singaporean life. When we dabao kopi bing siew dai (Singlish for iced coffee with less sugar) or cai peng (mixed vegetable rice), it always comes with a Styrofoam box, a straw but can we cut down on that?” he says.

Empowering people

Yet at its core, sustainability is not just about the environment. It is also about empowering the people behind your clothing.

Artisan & Fox created Threads of Syria in collaboration with Tight-Knit Syria, a non-profit organization helping to rebuild the lives of Syrian refugee women displaced across the Middle East.

Sy cites the 2012 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, where 1,100 garment workers were killed, as a grim reminder why practices within the fashion industry need to improve.

Over 80% of the people who work in the garment industry are women who are unfairly treated, says Laura, citing research published by Fashion Revolution. “The irony is that when we buy T-shirts with pro-women slogans, we fail to see the suffering of women behind those T-shirts,” she says wryly.

Sy believes the efforts of enterprises like Artisan & Fox, which has worked with craftsmen from countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Nepal, will promote more transparency and create discerning, socially conscious consumers.

A conscious generation is going to come out from this, what we’re trying to do now is only going to get more mainstream. We want to be part of that.

Sy Chia, 29, the co-founder of Artisan & Fox

Here at Temasek, we place sustainability at the core of everything we do. We strive to build a better world, always with tomorrow in mind.

Temasek is partnering with UNLEASH alongside Ecosperity, which is a series of conferences that places the spotlight on sustainable development across Asia and beyond. The UNLEASH Innovation Lab 2018 will be held in Singapore from 30 May to 6 June.

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