While explaining my seemingly “new” concept of sustainable fashion to my uncle in response to his question of why I was moving to Bangladesh, he questioned, “Sustainability?” and shared with me that, “Sustainability starts with your neighbor.” Flabbergasted at the simple complexity of his statement and tempted to attest, I shut my mouth in preparation for a trip to open my mind and thought: surely, it can’t end with that! There must be a more complicated model of development economics outlining in charts and graphs how sustainable development of the fashion industry is to start?!
Listening closely to him and to others I met during my time as a ‘bideshi’ in B-desh, I soon realized that indeed, sustainable development does begin with your neighbor—whether they live next-door or on the other side of the world. During my first month as an intern at Aarong, a BRAC social enterprise, I had the honor of meeting Chandra Shekhar Shaha, a creative connoisseur, master of product development, and oracle of handicrafts. Only after speaking with him and especially after reading this insightful passage on page 75 from his book Behind the Products: A Study on Crafts of Bangladesh which reads:
“Culture is not static; it moves on towards betterment.”
did I finally began to understand the resonance of my uncle’s send-off statement that “sustainability starts with your neighbor.” Now on my last day as an intern, soon to say farewell to Dhaka, I think I fully comprehend my uncle’s words and have attempted to interpret Shekhar Dah’s wise words as I try to be more mindful in my consumption choices.
We each define our own personal style as a
We all express ourselves differently, the most uniform way being through our fashion choices. In a similar sense, we each outfit our personal outlooks, often voicing these opinions through our own choice of words
Naturally, not everyone associates the word sustainable with the same definition and logically, we all have our own representation.
The idea of sustainable fashion, like the terms sustainable and fashion themselves, to me means to re-examine the current thought processes behind existing fashionable operations with a mindful eye of everlasting execution. A more sustainable approach to fashion is more than green-washed terms like “environmentally-friendly” or marketing taglines like “eco-chic.” While these associations are rightful catalysts in the exciting mainstream movement of “going green,” they are wrongful to deter you from forgetting that the true source of change lies in our minds: we must first think individually about our personal consumption choices (myself included!), then collectively change our purchasing and production patterns as consumers, suppliers, and manufacturers, and finally, organize ourselves as citizens who practice conscious consumption, ultimately demanding a less unsustainable industry; we merely need to evolve as a species in order to sustain a new culture.
Think about it: a product changes over time because our needs change, too, so the improved version better suits us. Perhaps this sounds like a whole lot of rubbish, so forgive me for recycling the obvious, but only once we break the cycle—until we “strive towards progress and perfection” (Shaha, 75)—only then will we see a real revolution, in every sense of the word. In order for fashion to fully evolve into its final stage, we must define our needs as a generation—“the source of energy has to change” (75)—no matter how you wear it.