Written by Kudrat Anand
The fashion industry couldn’t have received a more severe wakeup call. Italy—the heart of the industry, and China—its hands, have both been hit the hardest by COVID-19, sending shockwaves across the globe. I, for one, have gratefully accepted this quarantine as a time to deny myself every external stimulation, to self-reflect and dive into my consciousness. I believe we are isolated for our own benefit. COVID-19 has provided cantankerous, hurried people with enough time for a forced introspection, laced with plenty of existential angst. With no man-made noise or light, one can get a glimpse of the cosmos at night, the Milky Way shining down on us; it can also exacerbate our fears and force us to rethink and recalibrate our place and purpose on earth.
Our lives have come to a crippling halt because of COVID-19, and I find myself wondering, now that I really don’t know what my future looks like, how do I even envision a future when professional touchstones like ambition sound hollow?
For the first time, people all around the world are getting a sense of what sustainability actually stand for. It's personal. It's about every day, ordinary choices that have an extraordinary impact on the world. Isolation has taught us that beyond basic needs—clean air and water, wholesome food and the company of loved ones—everything else is excessive. Sustainability goes beyond wearing an organic tee. It is now an act of conscious living, where we acknowledge that ‘more and more,’ ‘faster, not fewer’ and ‘bigger is better’ will not sustain us anymore. While we sit at home contemplating a world that is bound to change dramatically, we have to dig deeper and make amends with our past, especially the blind consumerism that underpins so much of the fashion world.
When we get back on our feet, we must ask ourselves: what does the fashion consumer, the manager and the employee of tomorrow look like? I imagine that there will be a profound awakening after this time of crisis. For us to be sustainable as an industry—and as human beings—we must break old patterns and find newer, more elevated ways of living. Sustainability is not just about buying that organic product, it has to be our way of life. The Goddesses and Gods pixilated in our imagination won't come to save us; the salvation of our planet depends on us committing to peacefully co-existing with nature.
Living more sustainably and ethically first requires us to acknowledge the main issue - our mentality. Once our mentality changes, the rest follows inevitably. Awareness is increasing and it’s even becoming a trendy topic in many countries. Accordingly, there are plenty of websites, blogs and social media platforms that can help you in this journey towards a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle (including this piece, we hope).
But not all content is useful. Trying to imitate influencers from New York when you live in a small town in India is probably not going to work. A blogger’s mindful morning practice may not serve you in any way when you’re struggling to keep up with hundreds of your own deadlines and trying to get to that 9 am lecture on time.
Sustainability is not about becoming a different person, but a better version of yourself. We have a huge impact on the environment through the products we consume, and the amenities we use. Capitalism has us convinced that in our quest for happiness, our needs are limitless—a mentality we have indulged in and shaped our lives around. But if you think about it, do we really need so much? Those dresses in your wardrobe you can’t repeat since it’s made it to the gram once already? 50 statement pieces and another 40 statement bags to go with ‘em? The sheer excess of it all is what needs to be done away with and that’s what sustainability is all about.
You don’t have to go overboard and become an extreme minimalist, but reducing your consumption and footprint is a big part of becoming more sustainable. There is no need to go shopping for new clothes every week, and it is still important to close your tap and turn off your lights, when not in use. Becoming more aware of what you want in life and prioritising what you really need, goes a long way.
There are hundreds of little things you can do in your daily life to create a positive impact on the planet. You don’t need to do everything, and you don’t need to get to ZERO. Start with a few actions that might be simple and easy for you. Master them and then build on them.
We are responsible for the consequences of our demands. So buy locally, sustainably and ethically whenever possible. Do your research and support only those companies that follow the right path.