Now that the sustainability wave has hit us in various aspects of our lives, it’s high time we figure out how to incorporate sustainability into our fashion and style. Fashion is often seen as unethical, polluting or anti-environment (we have heard activists disrupting fashion shows, protests against fur, fast fashion, etc.). However, being fashionable and caring about the environment don’t have to be mutually exclusive. As of recent years, the idea of sustainable fashion has come into the mainstream. Wikipedia defines sustainable fashion as “a movement and process of fostering change to fashion products and the fashion system towards greater ecological integrity and social justice.” This may include buying fewer clothes, thrifting or boycotting brands that use unethical methods of production. Here are a few tips on being fashionable sustainably.
Swap clothes among friends and family
Be it for the wedding season or an office party, many of us decide to buy new clothes just for that particular occasion and that item of clothing is probably never worn again. We understand that wearing the same sari at all the weddings you go to that week might not be an ideal scenario. But this doesn’t mean you have to buy a new one every time someone decides to tie the knot. The best way to look unique and not repeat the same clothes is to swap it among friends and family. This give and take method not only helps decrease your fashion footprint but also saves you money in the long run.
Donate and thrift
In Nepal, wearing second-hand clothes or hand-me-downs is considered embarrassing or a sign that one is not well off. But all across the world, people from all economic classes thrift and donate clothes, particularly if they are conscious of the impact of textile production on the environment. Just because a piece of cloth is second-hand doesn’t mean that it’s torn or worn out. Instead of buying something totally new, look for clothes on online thrift-shops or peek into the closets of your family to see if you find something you like. The same goes for donating or giving away clothes. Instead of throwing it, pass it down to your sibling or just donate it to your nearest thrift shop.
Take proper care of the clothes you already own
Many times we notice that due to our carelessness in the way we wash or store our clothes, the colors and patterns fade or the fiber gets damaged. And sadly, we are forced to buy new clothes, adding to our fashion footprint. One way to practice sustainable fashion is to take care of the clothes you already have so that you don’t have to buy new ones. We can do so by washing them only when necessary, using fabric softeners and natural detergents, mending them immediately when they get torn, getting rid of stains as soon as possible and properly storing them. This way you can increase the longevity of your clothes.
Avoid clothes with microfibers
Microfibers are tiny strands of plastic that shed off synthetic fabrics like polyester, rayon, and nylon. It’s a no-brainer that clothes with microfibers are terrible for the environment. But because we are so dependent on fast fashion and synthetic materials, microplastic contamination is likely to increase, polluting not only the oceans but also the human system as they make their way into our food. Anyone who cares for sustainable fashion has to say no to clothes with microfibers. Instead, one can opt for more locally made, natural fibers like cotton, wool, etc.
Unfollow fashion influencers who don’t care for the environmental cause
Many of our fashion choices are influenced by films, television, and the internet. We see our favorite celebrity sport a long fur coat and we decide we want it too. Similarly, fashion blogs and fashion magazines make us think we need to buy an item to look cool or beautiful even though there is no practical reason for us to own them. Staying away from these influences is the best way to prevent ourselves from making a guilty purchase. Instead of looking at people who splurge on clothes in the name of fashion, one can look at sustainable fashion influencers on the internet that one can follow like Hoda Katebi, Aja Barber and Céline Semaan for some inspiration.
Consider the impact your garment has on the world
Those against sustainable fashion often argue that it’s absurd to think that a single person buying a simple t-shirt can possibly harm the earth. But you can’t deny the fact that the total greenhouse gas emissions from textiles production is more than that generated by international flights and maritime shipping combined. We may go into a shop saying we’ll just by one t-shirt but so do millions of other people. And we don’t just own a single pair of clothes, we pass through hundreds or perhaps thousands of clothes in our lifetime. Now just imagine how large our individual carbon footprint really is.
Furthermore, global apparel production is projected to grow by 81% by 2030. That’s an insane growth of an already unsustainable carbon footprint. Being knowledgeable about the harms of mass-production and the overall impact of clothes on our environment is also an important part of sustainable fashion, as it helps us rethink our choices when we decide to buy new garments.
Check if the brand you’re buying from is ethical or not
Mass production of clothes has not only polluted the environment, but it has also led to the exploitation of human resources. Though many fashion brands plaster environment-friendly signs on their clothes, they often make it in the news for exploiting labor by overworking them, having horrific working conditions or paying them less than the minimum wage set by the government. Popular brands like H&M, Victoria’s Secret and Zara have all been accused of being unethical time and again. To practice sustainable fashion, you must check if the brand you are buying from follows all the labor rules and get their raw materials from ethical sources. Just a quick search on the internet can help give you a list of brands you should and shouldn’t buy from.
According to various research that have been done on the impact of clothes on the environment, it would not be an understatement to say that clothes are actually killing our planet. To put it more correctly, the mass production of clothes is killing our planet. Be it natural or synthetic fibers, their production requires huge amounts of water, energy, and resources. As these mass-produced clothes are cheap and look so alluring, we are often dragged into the vicious circle of trends and fast fashion, where we buy low-quality clothes that can be thrown out easily once the trend dies. A really good way of practicing sustainable fashion is to buy fewer clothes. Most of the tips on this list encourage us not to buy and make use of what we already own. You could also make a pact among friends to not buy clothes for a single year or choose to save money to buy a quality product from a sustainable brand instead of buying a lot of cheap clothes.