In Jamaica, fashion designer Keneea Linton-George has incorporated sustainability into her clothing designs almost from day one. Her company offers samples for customers to view online, and, when they purchase an item, it is manufactured and available within days. Linton-George sells classic, casual and businesswear, as well as swimwear and formalwear for women in airy, bright-colored fabrics and patterns from $40 to around $500. Some pieces are even available for rent.
“We can have [the garment] done in three days and shipped — it is so much more sustainable,” she told OZY during an interview at a cafe in Kingston. “Every time I have tried to shift away to a more mass-produced model, something just keeps pulling me back to the more sustainable, made-to-order, small-batch, more demand-driven model. And people are leaning more toward that model as they are thinking about where their clothes are made and who is making [them], whether the fabric is sustainable, whether the working conditions are good,” said Linton-George.
Consumers are also shifting away from fast fashion and toward sustainability, as they wonder about the source of their clothing, Linton-George added. “Because of the low cost, people will gravitate to it, but people have a conscience. I have customers say to me, ‘I feel guilty, because when I buy this stuff, I can tell it is too cheap to make sense.’”
Robert Hall, a lecturer and fashion officer with the Jamaica Business Development Corporation, agrees that Jamaica, by necessity, has been operating in a relatively sustainable manner. “Because of where we sit in the wider fashion [world] and the economy, a lot of the raw material that has been coming into Jamaica has not been your first-quality goods that are coming off of a mill,” said Hall. Fashion in Jamaica has been built on a supply of waste fabric: the end of a roll and end-of-the-line end of collections, he said. “What we have not realized is we have been working sustainably for a long time.”
Whether in Jamaica, Iceland or the United States, sustainable fashion must catch up for the benefit of the environment, as well as to forge a more profitable industry, says Magnúsdóttir, where less is wasted, wages are higher and products last longer than for one outing.