How to Fix Streetwear’s Sustainability Problem

A recent piece from Highsnobiety argues that it’s time to acknowledge how environmentally destructive streetwear is, and offers some solutions for how to fix it.

As the article’s author, Christopher Morency, explains, because streetwear has long been considered a niche market it “has surreptitiously dodged the bullet in the public eye, both with the media and with consumers when it comes to its harmful impact on the environment and the attached human cost.”

However, now that “Supreme is valued over $1 billion, nearly 25 billion pairs of sneakers are produced annually, and streetwear brands produce up to 350 different items a year, streetwear can no longer be classified as the nascent industry it once was.”

What’s more, sustainability and / or moral manufacturing codes have never been a part of streetwear’s appeal. Instead, as Morency notes, “it’s the cultural relevance that defines the value of streetwear over the intrinsic value of its materials and labor.”

That DNA, coupled with the low barriers of entry for would-be streetwear designers has led to the market being flooded with new companies “for whom environmental and social responsibility are low on the priority list,” which has essentially transformed streetwear into “fast fashion for predominantly young men.”

So what should the streetwear industry do to clean up its act? Morency offers four suggestions: lead with product (if the product is lame to begin with, its eco-credentials won’t make it better); publicly embrace an ethical code (“streetwear brands should equally emphasize trading in knowledge, access, belonging, and experiences, and sell an overall ethos beyond product alone); create reachable goals (small steps toward sustainability add up over time); and educate the consumer (“as sustainability is becoming more of a conversation in youth culture than with any other demographic, streetwear brands, publications and consumers need to speak about the topic and take genuine action today”).

You can read more about it at Highsnobiety.

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