Sustainability Is for the Rich

Sustainability has (thankfully, finally) become a major issue in the fashion industry, and that’s great. But, as The Future Laboratory very accurately points out, most sustainable products are being made exclusively for wealthy customers.

“The luxury premium that currently comes with sustainable consumption means that products are often out of reach for even the average consumer,” the story said, holding up the recently-released $58 Virgil Abloh-designed Evian x Soma water bottle as a prime example.

As Evian’s Creative Advisor for Sustainable Innovation Design (that’s a real title, don’t shoot the messenger) Abloh “claims he is making sustainable design accessible to all,” noting that “one in every nine people still [don’t] have access to safe drinking water.”

But by hiring “a hyped fashion designer,” the story argues, “Evian has tried to separate the idea of water as a necessity for life and water as a luxury product, missing the opportunity to create a whole-system solution that is truly inclusive for all.”

And it’s not a problem that’s isolated to just designer-designed water bottles. The story noted that “the Conscious Consumer Spending Index found that price emerged as the number one reason Americans aren’t spending more on socially responsible products and services.”

And until brands begin to work on affordable solutions, the story said that the “reality is that tackling sustainability on an individual level is an act of privilege for many.”

You can read more about it at The Future Laboratory.

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  • probs

    That’s kind of the issue with “ethical consumption” in general. Even if, as many of this site’s readers do, you try to purchase a lot of your clothing from companies that are attempting sustainability or have some sort of other ethical dimension (labor, environment, etc.), that’s that much less money you could then spend on sustainably or ethically grown coffee, chocolate, produce, etc., less money to give to activist orgs, etc. etc. And if you have so much money that you can afford to do all that, wouldn’t it be better just to have hoarded fewer resources in the first place and have a more equitable distribution to begin with? That doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea to try to do something, just that as long as commerce is the driver, it’s hard to say how much benefit there will really be.