Why is the sustainable fashion movement being led by women?

Sustainable fashion movement

Fashion Revolution’s founders? Female. The CEO of Global Fashion Agenda? Also, female. If you ask me to name the first five sustainable fashion advocates that pop into mind, they would all be female—from celebs like Emma Watson to our favourite sustainable fashion podcasters like Clare Press.

Clearly, women are driving the sustainable fashion movement forward. But why?

Women are leading the sustainable fashion movement

Sustainability is gendered

One possible reason behind the skewed demographic is that women are more active consumers than men. I recently read an interesting article on why sustainability, not just sustainable fashion, is gendered. It mentions that while the push for gender equality has grown over the years, women still spend more time at home doing the unpaid work of taking care of the household.

In a traditional heteronormative household, the man is the breadwinner and the woman takes care of the home. This includes shopping for necessities like food and clothes. In essence, women do the majority of shopping for the family and come to know more about how their consumer choices can affect the environment and our world.

Women need to be better represented on a corporate level

What’s more, a study by Harvard Business School concluded that women in executive roles tend to encourage more corporate social responsibility efforts than their male counterparts. They usually push for causes that hit close to home such as gender equality and the elimination of the glass ceiling in the workplace. BUT if you look at the head of fast fashion brands like H&M, Zara, Forever21, Missguided, and Boohoo, they are all male.

Some studies suggest that only 14 percent of prominent fashion brands are run by women, even though graduates from prestigious fashion design school such as Parsons and the Fashion Institute of Technology are predominantly female.

Do a woman’s position in a traditional household, as well as the lack of female representation in corporate positions, play a role in the fact that the sustainable fashion movement is being led by women who want to witness change in the fashion industry?

“Do a woman’s position in a traditional household, as well as the lack of female representation in corporate positions, play a role in the fact that the sustainable fashion movement is being led by women who want to witness change in the fashion industry?”

Sustainable fashion movementImage credit: Fashion Revolution

Women relate to the plight of garment workers

Another hypothesis is that women resonate more emotionally with the oppression of garment workers. This was a reason that drew me towards the sustainable fashion movement in the first place.

Of course, my experience as a woman of privilege is incomparable to the oppression of many female garment workers. But it’s undeniable that even women in developed countries face gender-based oppression, too. With the surge of calls advocating for intersectional feminism, I believe women including myself have begun to understand that to be a true feminist means supporting women regardless of race, class, or country of origin.

Although the term intersectionality was coined by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, it became a buzzword in the few years leading up to the #MeToo movement. This coincided with the collapse of Rana Plaza in 2013, shedding light on the labour exploitation in sweatshops.

Today, more than 80% of garment workers are women between the ages of 18 and 35. It’s difficult to digest the reality of women your age, who stand to suffer harsh consequences you don’t. That too, all because they were born into different circumstances, by mere chance.

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Fashion revolutionImage credit: Fashion Revolution

So, how can we make the sustainable fashion movement more diverse?

It’s important to identify the reasons behind there being so many women on board with the idea of sustainable fashion. However, it’s also essential to take a step further and ask ourselves how we can ensure more diversity. For the future of the sustainable fashion movement, we need to get men more involved too.

It’s not that the sustainable fashion movement has been actively shunning men up until this point. But we simply need to find more ways to get men on board by bringing their ideas to the table.

However, the answer to diversifying sustainable fashion isn’t as simple as replacing male CEOs of fashion companies with female ones. While I do believe we need more female representation in executive roles, it’s also a means to further sustainability efforts. Because ultimately, female empowerment goes hand in hand with sustainable fashion.

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