The other day on twitter, sustainable Nigerian brands were once again the butt of the ongoing joke about how product prices are higher once the brand gives it an indigenous name. Amidst the banter of “The Tomiwa Dress”, the conversation tilted towards the many differences between fast and sustainable fashion.
In the last few years, ethical & sustainable fashion has become a priority for fashion industries all over the world. Brands and fashion enthusiasts alike have become more inclined to advocate for ethical, sustainable and eco-friendly production and consumption of fashion and walk the talk in their shopping habits.
Nigeria isn’t left out in this. With a population of about 186 million and being arguably Africa’s largest fashion consuming market, the high level of environmental pollution in the country increases the urgency with which the issue of sustainable fashion is discussed among the discerning.
Despite the fact that quite a number of Nigerian brands claim that they make use of locally produced and sourced materials for their products, there is an argument for truly examining the relationship between sustainability, ethical and eco-friendly fashion. Granting, they work hand-in-hand, but how do we tell them apart?
What do Sustainable, Ethical & Eco-Friendly Fashion mean?
Sustainable fashion means the products, processes and activities aimed to achieve a carbon-neutral industry built on equality, social justice, animal welfare and ecological integrity- Wikipedia.
Ethical fashion means the reduction of negative impact on people, animals and the planet- Ethical Made Easy
Eco-friendly fashion means manufacturing clothes while considering the environmental impact as well as the health of consumers and the working conditions of laborers- Comfort World
From these definitions, we can deduce a general definition of all three to mean the production & consumption of fashion through processes that are kind to the planet and people. The biggest issue is the structural barriers that prevent people from moving fast fashion to more sustainable, ethical and eco-friendly alternatives. The answer, according to many fashion enthusiasts on twitter following a discussion is, “quite difficult”.
How do we manage the transition from fast to sustainable fashion without breaking the bank or going into debt?
For quite a number of people, it is easier said than done. Granted, there is the general need to “save the planet” but for the most part, they do not fully grasp the dangers of a highly polluted environment or the lack of proper waste management available in the country. It is also important to note that poor people contribute so little to global pollution that their contributions are but a drop in a bucket, for a problem that requires top-down, structurally applied solutions.
The other barrier is the price points of ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ clothing.
“I do not think it is feasible or possible for me as an individual. We have seen the price point of Nigerian brands, where they’re selling co-ords as separates at different ridiculous prices, I cannot afford that. Nobody is shopping for fast fashion because they prefer it, it is just more affordable”-says Iyesogie (a proud shopaholic).
This mirrors the opinion of so many other fashion enthusiasts but as earlier stated, there is a need to create more awareness on how the production cost of fast fashion is way cheaper than sustainable brands. From the condition of workers who have to do double the work for lesser pay, to the potentially harmful materials being used for the production as well as the durability of these products.
There is so much we need to do to integrate the entire Nigerian Fashion industry properly into the sustainable lifestyle and it begins with consumption, after all, if there is no demand, the point of supply is moot.
Editor’s Tips to Transition Your Wardrobe into a Sustainable & Eco-Friendly one.
Reuse & Repurpose
Extremely glad for the fashion babes on social media who constantly show us how to re-style outfits in our wardrobe. Purchasing versatile pieces helps to reduce waste because you can style these pieces at various times in multiple ways ergo there is a need to constantly purchase trendy fast fashion pieces. You can easily repurpose your ready-owned outfits.
Exchange & Thrift
With the rise of fashion thrift stores in the past few years, it is more convenient to dispose of outfits you would rather throw away by sending them to these thrift stores to sell for you. Some even offer exchange programs or link you up with other shoppers looking to exchange pieces that no longer serve their needs.
The trick to taking better care of your clothes is purchasing pieces made from high quality organic fibers that will last you a lifetime. When you know the value of your clothes and follow proper directions while caring for them, you take a step towards practicing an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Sustainable Nigerian brands to look out for
The sustainability wave has hit the Nigerian fashion industry with full force and brands are incorporating the culture into their production process. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, full integration might take some time but, in the meantime, we have put together 5 brands that are well on their way to the Promised Land.
DESIREE IYAMA- Clothing
A slow-luxury womenswear brand “remastering classics and redefining day to night contemporary style”, Desiree Iyama uses upcycled, recycled and natural materials for their garments. Their model of using deadstock, remnant and organic fabrics lends relevance to their promise of putting the planet first and their goal of designing to have a positive impact on people and the planet. A favorite amongst Instagram influencers, their pieces are colorful, structured and classic.
THIS IS US NG- Clothing
This Is Us is an apparel brand “seeking always to use local materials, talents and processes to create cool and functional design objects”. The brand uses Nigerian made Funtua cotton, a beautiful indigo dyed fabric woven in Katsina, and hand dyed in Kano for their pieces. They wanted something indigenous and sustainable. Looking to expand into more than clothing, This Is Us pieces have a traditional chic appeal to them that stand out from other brands. They have an array of items that suit your style needs, regardless of what it is.
Apart from their absolutely unique and quirky designs, Kkerele’s leather goods brand are centered around longevity which seek to eradicate the disposable view of fashion items thereby reducing waste. The brand engages local artisans who produce the goods ethically with traditional methods that achieve lasting quality therefore supporting their values of sustainability, high quality and community.
ZASHADU- Leather Goods
Zashadu prides itself on “African heritage, global sensibility”. A British-Nigerian brand that specializes in hand-crafted leather pieces, Zashadu makes use of sustainable and upcycled leathers in the production of their goods. Produced locally in Lagos, the brand works with a community of artisans who use traditional techniques that have been around for generations.
EMMY KASBIT- Clothing
A perfect blend of culture and storytelling in fashion, Emmy Kasbit is a leading sustainable brand in Nigeria’s fashion industry. With fabrics and materials sourced from women in Abia state which are made through an ancient weaving method called Akwete, Emmy Kasbit produces clean cut, traditional and rich outfits in rich traditional hues. The brand believes in preserving culture and empowering the artisans who have been able to maintain a source of livelihood while doing what they love.
Marie Claire Nigeria wants you to start saving the planet with a step in the right direction. Slay but make it clean and sustainable.