With Cassell Ferere, Founder & Editor-in-Chief of PAGE Magazine
Fashion makes an impact on all of us. Even if you choose not to participate in “fast fashion” or follow trends and designers, everyone wears and needs clothes, right?
Unfortunately, some malpractices are deeply embedded in the fashion industry. Wasted materials, unethical production practices and overconsumption are all contributing to a massive carbon footprint that is damaging in the near term and unsustainable in the long term.
Despite it’s growing importance, the sustainable fashion movement can feel exclusive. Ethical apparel can be more expensive and might only be marketed to certain demographics or even appear to be impractical for some people.
On the Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation Podcast, our host, Cory, chatted with Cassell Ferere, the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PAGE Magazine, the world’s first magazine covering sustainable fashion. In our latest series on the Impact of Fashion, Cory is speaking with experts across the industry to unearth the true impact of fast fashion and empower consumers to make informed decisions.
Cassell’s work focuses on making sustainable fashion more accessible to everyone. Through PAGE, he’s able to give people a more inclusive perspective on fashion through the lens of sustainability.
In this post, and the accompanying interview with Cassell, we’ll discuss the role of sustainability in fashion, how the exclusive nature of fashion is hurting the sustainable fashion movement and how we can each be more mindful consumers of ethical fashion.
Let’s get to it!
Sustainability in Fashion
The fashion industry is in an incredibly unique position. As it stands, it is one of the most polluting industries in the world. However, at the same time, fashion is the only industry that touches on every single one. of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Yes, every one of the 17 SDGs applies in some way to the fashion industry, from achieving clean water to eliminating hunger, taking action for the climate and preserving biodiversity.
And it’s for that reason that the fashion industry and its future are so important for everyone on earth.
What Does Sustainability Mean in Fashion?
Sustainable fashion boils down to re-envisioning the supply chain of each garment; this includes the cotton grown, the dyes used, factories’ employees, and even garments’ end-of-life. In altering these pieces of the puzzle, both environmental and social sustainability can be achieved.
Consumers are demanding more from the fashion brands they support, and the ethical fashion industry has been steadily growing to meet this demand. Now, for example, some ethical clothing brands use fabrics made from recycled plastic or natural materials like organic cotton and hemp. Materials aren’t the only thing to consider though, as carbon offsetting, fair trade certifications, and reducing the use of chemicals is also crucial for sustainable fashion brands.
Reframing our consumption and embracing mindful shopping are incredibly important in the fight for sustainable fashion. Cassell mentioned his personal experience of grappling with consumerism: “There’s the issue of consumerism, which is big for me because I grew up in a culture that had a habit of consuming and consuming almost blindfolded with no purpose, no internal reason, no research.”
Exclusivity and Inclusion in the Sustainable Fashion Industry
Although the global climate crisis affects marginalized communities more intensely than the white, upper-middle-class population, the sustainable fashion movement can be exclusive in nature. For example, the prices are often higher for garments made with organic cotton by workers earning a living wage.
Not only does this exclude entire swathes of the population from participating in the movement, it also almost fuels the existence of
cheaper, low-quality, high-energy alternatives. As Cassell said, “I noticed that when sustainability was the conversation, and it became an image in that context, the image was not of someone who looked like me.”
Decolonizing the Sustainable Fashion Industry
A key aspect of making sustainable fashion more inclusive is the practice of decolonizing it. Fashion business models, particularly those in fast fashion, have historically extracted labor and materials from the Global South to benefit the Global North. Colonization is inherently an exploitative practice, which many argue has fed modern-day capitalism. By decolonizing the sustainable fashion industry, it can become a more inclusive movement that simultaneously helps to redefine the future of capitalism, social justice, and the climate crisis.
Textile waste is a huge environmental concern because when clothing ends up in a landfill, it releases methane, a harmful greenhouse gas. In relation to this problem, Cassell spoke about the importance of consumers donating or reselling clothes once they no longer want them.
Cassell said, “When I say resell, it’s like not everything is resold. And the amount of clothes that we have that aren’t resold that end up in the Third World countries, the poorest of countries, that they can’t even do anything within nowadays.”
When the Western world uses these countries as a dumping ground, it reinforces a culture of disposability and perpetuates inequality.
Eliminating the Exclusive Barriers to Fashion
Apparel companies rely on consumers to buy what they can’t afford just to stay on-trend. While business models like these are themselves inherently flawed for many reasons, they also relate to the key issues of accessibility and exclusion.
Here’s what Cassell said about making the industry more inclusive: “Accessibility is simply understanding how fashion has always been looked at as the gatekeeper to this exclusive lifestyle that everyone wants to be part of. With streetwear, in particular, there has also been an exclusivity bubble, where if you’re not in the know, if you don’t know certain things, you kind of stand on the outside and you look in”.
Fashion companies that are more inclusive will be better placed to meet social and environmental sustainability goals. By keeping their prices affordable for ethically made garments, using more representative models and remaining transparent, businesses can help society move toward a more sustainable future for fashion.
Reverie: PAGE: Inclusive Ideas, Sustainable Fashion
PAGE brings the world of sustainable fashion to the masses via print and online content. Released bi-annually, the PAGE print magazine serves as both a source of culture and education for readers. It’s printed on recycled paper, uses water-based inks to reduce its environmental impact, and to avoid excessive stock, is only available via pre-order. It does all of this while covering everything going on in the sustainable fashion world, including the people behind the movement.
Instead of perpetuating the exclusionist practices of high fashion, PAGE seeks to make the sustainable fashion industry accessible for everyone. It brings real culture, while staying approachable and showing how we can collectively stand together in the world of ethical fashion.
Cassell Ferere, Founder & Editor-in-Chief of PAGE
Cassell—a filmmaker, photographer, writer, editor and graphic designer—has a wide range of skill sets, many derived from his interest in fashion.
Hailing from Brooklyn, Cassell graduated cum laude from CUNY and, while still a student, he founded Cassell Inc., his hub of creativity.
Cassell is a regular contributor to Forbes, where he writes on the arts. His work has led him to work with icons across different industries from Ed Sheeran to Eric Holder.
“Sustainability is a conversation topic for the rich, but it happens to be a lifestyle for the poor.”
How to Support Sustainable Fashion
As Cassell spoke about in the interview, supporting sustainable fashion can look different for everyone.
- Consume less: Reducing the amount of clothing you consume is a crucial first step to mitigating the damage the textile industry causes to the planet.
- Shop secondhand: The production of raw materials is an intensive process that wreaks havoc on our air, water, land and even human health. If you do need new clothes, try thrifting!
- Consider the end-of-life: If you need to remove an article of clothing from your closet for any reason, be strategic about it. There are very many ways to get rid of old clothes that prevent them from entering landfill and just becoming textile waste.
Closing: A Sustainable Future for All
A more inclusive sustainable fashion industry is becoming a reality because of the work of innovators like Cassell. To play your part in realizing this goal, what steps can you take in your own sustainable fashion journey?
Additional resources and links mentioned in the episode:
- PAGE Magazine
- Cassell Inc.
- Circular Fashion and Dhana Inc.
- The True Cost of Fashion Documentary
Sustainable Workplaces Manager & Writer
Jackie is the Sustainable Workplaces Manager at Urban Green Lab, a sustainability education nonprofit in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s passionate about connecting people with actionable ways to make a positive impact on the environment. She graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Jackie worked in the nonprofit world in Washington D.C. for Ashoka and the National Building Museum.
Jackie enjoys hiking with her rescue dog, finding craft breweries, and traveling the globe in search of plant-based eats.