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Fashion, its Sacrifice Zone, and Sustainability

by Sandra Niessen

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This article proposes a revision to the customary framework of sustainability that is being used by dress scholars, environmental activists and policy makers, so that it includes the putative “non-fashion” clothing traditions of the world. Why, until now, the traditions of the Other have been systematically undervalued and obscured is explained from a decolonial perspective. They constitute a “sacrifice zone” of fashion, the emergence of which is connected to the ethnocentrism embedded in the fashion system and fashion scholarship. This failing is a legacy of the colonial era that has been insufficiently addressed but rather obscured by layers of theory and practice. Only by recognizing and correcting systemic ethnic bias, and thereby eliminating the sacrifice zone of fashion, can the fashion industry achieve sustainability. The article concludes with a call for a radical re-writing of fashion history.

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