Can sustainability and fashion co-exist?
Over the course of the past few years we all got a bit of a reality check regarding our consumer choices. It turned out that one of the main offenders in terms of environmental impact is actually the very clothes that we wear.
First, we all learned that fast fashion is the second most polluting industry on the planet, slightly lagging behind the monstrous oil industry. And this made perfect sense to all of us. Clothes were never meant to be mass-produced in such grotesque quantities. We are living in an exceptional time in history where access to new clothes is almost on-demand.
People who buy their stuff at fast-fashion retailers normally part ways with their purchases in less than one year. Neither the quality, nor the design is is there, so the clothes just don’t last. And we’ve all seen the "True Cost of Fashion" documentary, that opened our eyes on how the fast-fashion industry is essentially a form of modern slavery.
So we learned about the horrifying environmental impacts of fashion - polluted lakes and rives, toxic chemical dyes in water supplies, copious amounts of fabric and clothes waste. We learned about the devastating working conditions of people manufacturing those garments.
Then, a lot of started thinking about the general state of fashion. Is fashion the last stronghold of capitalism? Is it the ultimate luxury that we all must renounce for the sake of our future and the future of our planet? My answer is - yes (sort of), but there are always ways to indulge in something, without creating a huge mess. So let’s talk about what fashion should look like in 2019, and how to still be somewhat vain but do it sustainably.
● Stop buying fast-fashion
Fast-fashion barely existed 15 years ago, and people still had clothes. And even more than that, people were way more stylish than we are today. Every item was designed with thought and attention to detail, just like it should be
● Start buying second-hand items
Second-hand and vintage items are the coolest way to express yourself with fashion. No single item is the same, they all have a history, a specific vibe, a unique style, but most importantly, they are hight quality pieces that already lasted for quite some time, and will last you for decades to come. The second hand clothing market is already worth $24 billion dollars in the U.S. and projected to grow to $65 billion dollars in 10 years, leaving the fast-fashion market in the dust
● Order custom-made items
I truly believe that ordering custom-made items, just like your parents or your grandparents did in their days, is the future of fashion. First of all, you’re getting a bespoke piece that actually fits your body, and your personal style. Second of all, you’re creating jobs in your community. And finally, it’s the opposite of an impulse purchase. It requires research, planning, buying fabric, and finding the right person to make your garment. It’s the definition of slow fashion
● Repair and up-cycle
What could be better than simply keeping your beloved items for as long as you can. How do you that? Well, stop using your drier first, it is literally chipping away at your items every time you put them in it. And don’t throw away the items that have holes, or broken zippers, or any other visible flaws. Use your creativity to take them to the next level, or just simply find a good clothing repair shop. It’s that easy
● Rent or swap
There are numerous stores and online retailers out there that stock designer items that you can rent out for a period of time. So there’s absolutely no need to buy those “I just need this one dress for this one very special night items anymore
Swapping clothes is probably the most fun and the coolest way to update your wardrobe. You get to hang out with your friends (or completely strangers - whatever tickles your fancy), get rid of items that you’re not wearing anymore, and score some free things that somebody else is giving away. It’s an absolutely win-win for everybody!
● Shop ethical & fair
Just google “ethical clothing brands” and you’ll discover a whole new world. Dozens of small, local business all over the world, changing the face of fashion by producing items that are ethically made out of sustainable materials, don’t pollute the environment, and support their workers. So many brands to choose from
● Invest into designer pieces
This one is an oldie, but a goodie. Invest your money into an expensive designer item that will last you forever. So instead of having five sweaters get a really expensive one made out of the best wool in the world, and produced by some phenomenal brand that specializes in knitwear. Buy the most expensive pair of shoes made out of Italian leather, that you’ll wear for the next 20 years. I, personally, have items in my wardrobe that have been with me for over 12 years now, and still get compliments on how incredible they look.
Timeless design + outstanding quality is the best combination when it comes to purchasing new clothes. It might not be the greenest option out there, but still somewhat sustainable because of the quality of those items
● Stop putting so much emphasis on how you look
This one is especially important. As long as we continue to obsess over how we dress, we’re going to continue to live in a society that believes that what we wear somehow determines our worth. And by doing that, we’re creating more demand for all the things that we’re already consuming in excess and creating so much unnecessary waste (as well as mental health issues). I encourage you to join the global challenge of not buying any clothes for a whole year, and see how your perception of yourself and your personal need changes over the course of this challengeCan sustainability and fashion co-exist?