Whether man, woman or child we all like to look good. And why not. Fashion is an outward expression of who we are, and that’s great. But ‘sustainability’ in fashion has been a topic that’s been around for a while and lately has been talked about a lot again.
But, what is sustainable fashion? It is reducing the impact of our fashion choices on the environment. It’s being more aware of the impact that, that garment or accessory we just purchased has on the environment and on people.
“By 2030, it is predicted that the [fashion] industry’s water consumption will grow by 50 percent to 118 billion cubic meters (or 31.17 trillion gallons), its carbon footprint will increase to 2,791 million tons and the amount of waste it creates will hit 148 million tons.” So says an article on The Fashion Law. Fashion will never really be sustainable the experts say. It’s more accurate to call it “more sustainable fashion”. Green Strategy has defined “more sustainable fashion” as,
“…. clothing, shoes, and accessories that are manufactured, marketed, and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects. In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing, and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake and recycling of the product and its components.”
However, a 2018 report I read in the Forbes magazine said that the fashion industry seems to be pulling back on their efforts towards being more sustainable and creating more sustainable fashion. Shocking!? No. Not really. Big business is just that – Business. But here’s the thing, as consumers we hold the power. Basic economics says that if there is no demand for a product, eventually, the supply will have to drop as well.
So let’s temporarily forget the major changes that the Fashion Industry need to make to their production and business practices – though they are very important. There are steps that we can take in our everyday lives that can make a huge impact; and eventually, big corporates will have to change their tune.
7 Steps we can (and must) take towards making more sustainable fashion choices.
Warning! Sustainable fashion is a complete overhaul of your individual thinking patterns. It’s a change in attitude towards certain things. It’s choosing either a piece of clothing [that’s going to be in your closet for a few months and then out again] or the environment – you know that place we have to actually live in.
So here goes:
- Make conscious choices when purchasing
Let’s start with something relatively simple. When you are in the shops and surrounded by all that colour and “new-ness” think of the following
- The durability of the fabric – Will this last me a couple of years? Will it withstand several washes? Or will it fade and look threadbare after the second wash and will I have to throw it out?
- #30WEARS – Livia Firth, found of Eco-Age started the #30wears campaign. She said when making a purchase, ask yourself, ‘will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?’ ‘Is this something I will wear over and over again?’ (and be honest with yourself, if the answer is ‘no’, leave it on the rack/shelf)
- Clothes Swap
So here’s the first point where I think a major overhaul of thinking patterns and attitudes are required. While in the western world clothes swaps and second-hand shops are normal, in some parts of the world it’s not an acceptable practice. They see second-hand clothes as clothes for the underprivileged or as ‘dirty old clothes’.
Tip: Don’t buy dirty old clothes. Don’t swap your dirty old clothes for other people dirty old clothes either.
Instead, take better care of your clothes and swap them with your friends and family for their well taken care of clothes. This refreshes your wardrobe at little or no cost, it gives the clothes being swapped a new lease of life and it’s saving the world from another load of non-biodegradable landfill. Win-Win-Win!
- Donate your unwanted clothes and buy second hand too
Again, remember we are changing our thinking. So, deep breath… let’s read on….
Op shops or Opportunity shops run by various charities are innumerable. So take the load of clothes that you no longer want but is still in good condition over to the op shops and while you are there just browse through their racks of clothing too. You just might come across something amazing for a price so low it will blow your mind. Go on…. I dare you! If you don’t find anything the first time, never mind, come back again.
- Practice ‘Slow Fashion’
What is slow fashion? It’s using what you’ve already got in your closet over and over (and over) again. It’s not turning over your wardrobe every few months (or weeks).
This is why buying quality (rather than quantity) is important. It is also why taking good care of your clothes is important (like washing your jeans inside out, or your soft cashmere by hand, etc.)
Also importantly, either learn to repair damaged clothes yourself or take them to a tailor. Either way, repair, don’t replace – unless absolutely necessary.
- Practice Minimalism
This follows on from the previous point of slow fashion. Over time, build a wardrobe of beautiful, classic pieces. Get used to making the most of a few good wardrobe pieces.
- Invest in trans-seasonal clothes
For those of us living in places with changing seasons. Try and buy clothes that you can wear all year round. Layer up or down as needed.
- Adjust your perspective and how you spend your money
Instead of splurging on an outfit for a wedding that you would only wear once, spend the bulk of your cash on a good quality item that will last you the long haul. Instead of thinking “I would never spend that much on XYZ” remember that you are not going to replace this item for a good long while (several years at least).
A few other things you can and should also keep in mind :
Fairtrade – See if you can find out if any of the brands you are buying from are paying the people who actually make the garments a fair wage. Try and find out (and then avoid purchasing) if they use child labour or have sweatshops. This information should be available on the website of the brand – because let’s face it, it’s a major marketing tool. If the website does not say anything about this or are ambiguous about it, there’s most likely something unethical and fishy going on.
Innovative materials –ever hear of Pinatex? It’s a textile made by a Spanish company out of PINEAPPLES (mmmm yum). Read about it. Other innovative materials are Lenzig, Tencil, Cork, Seacell, Mycoworks (guess what this is – it’s Mushroom skin :D) and of course material made out of recycled plastics and other stuff. H&M have a range of clothing made out of recycled products. I actually own 2 of these tops and let me tell you they are amazing; super soft and comfy, and of course pretty.
Try to buy local – reducing the carbon footprint of our purchases