I like to dress well and look good; we all do. Whether for a first date, an interview or even going out with friends, the right ensemble helps you stand out.
However, dressing well sometimes comes at a steep cost to the environment and your pocket.
The fashion industry is among the largest polluters in the world, accounting for more than 10% of global carbon emissions and 20% of global wastewater.
Fast fashion is particularly notorious, not just for emissions but also for poor labor practices. The rapid production and disposal of low-quality clothing contribute to the industry’s massive carbon footprint and other environmental and social issues.
As a result, there has been a growing movement towards sustainable fashion, a shift towards clothing produced and consumed in an environmentally conscious and ethical way.
In this blog post, we will explore the world of sustainable fashion and show you how to create a stylish wardrobe without costing the earth. Get ready to elevate your fashion game and positively impact the planet.
What is Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion is a clothing design and production approach emphasizing environmental friendliness and social responsibility.
The movement aims to reduce fashion’s environmental and social impact while still producing stylish, high-quality, fashionable, and affordable clothing.
Sustainable fashion is a response and solution to the fast fashion industry, known to produce cheap and disposable clothing to fit fads and trends.
The sustainable fashion movement’s roots can be traced back to the 1960s and 70s. Environmentalism had just started to gain traction. There was a growing concern about industrialization and its impact on the environment, including the fashion industry.
In the 1990s, eco-fashion started gaining traction as designers began to explore the use of organic materials and production methods with a lower environmental impact. The 2000s saw the emergence of more sustainable fashion brands and the growth of the “green” movement.
Today, sustainable fashion has gained mainstream acceptance as consumers grow increasingly aware of the negative impacts of their fashion choices on the environment and broader society.
Why Choose Sustainable Fashion?
There are many reasons to choose sustainable fashion over fast fashion:
Ethical production: Sustainable fashion brands often prioritize fair labor practices, safe working conditions, and a living wage for workers in their supply chain. By choosing eco-friendly fashion, you are supporting brands that prioritize the well-being of their workers.
Quality over quantity: Sustainable fashion is designed to be high-quality and long-lasting, so you’ll get more wear from each item. You save lots of money in the long run and reduce the need to buy new clothes constantly. With the current inflation and ballooning cost of living, sustainable fashion keeps money in your pocket.
Unique styles: Sustainable fashion often features striking designs and styles unavailable in fast fashion stores. Choosing eco-friendly clothing lets you express your style and still stand out from the crowd.
Environmental benefits: Sustainable fashion is designed to have a reduced environmental impact compared to fast fashion. Eco-friendly fashion brands often use organic or recycled materials, minimize water usage and waste, and use eco-friendly dyes and manufacturing processes.
Support small businesses: Many sustainable fashion brands are small businesses that rely solely on customer support to survive. By choosing eco-friendly clothing, you can support small local and online businesses working to protect the environment.
Reduce waste: Fast fashion contributes to significant waste and pollution, as clothes are often discarded after only a few wears. Sustainable fashion encourages a circular economy where clothes are recycled or upcycled, reducing waste and extending the life of each garment.
Sustainable fashion tends to be more ethical compared to fast fashion.
Fast fashion companies often outsource their production to factories in developing countries where labor laws are lax and wages low. Workers in these factories usually get meager wages while working long hours in deplorable conditions.
Some of these factories are glorified sweatshops.
[I recently watched a documentary about an Asian clothes manufacturer with operations in an African country. Something didn’t feel right. I am happy that the employees get to earn a living doing honest work, but the conditions just felt really off, not to mention the poor pay. But, I digress…]
Fast fashion companies usually engage in a practice called “race to the bottom,” where they continually seek to lower production costs, leading to pressure on suppliers to cut corners on wages, worker safety, and environmental standards. This can result in workers being forced to work in unsafe conditions or working excessive hours to meet tight deadlines.
Many fast fashion brands have been accused of using child labor, forced labor, and other labor exploitation in their supply chains. In some cases, workers have been forced to work unpaid overtime or subjected to verbal and physical abuse.
Overall, fast fashion companies prioritize profit over the well-being of their workers, leading to a system that perpetuates labor exploitation and contributes to poverty and social injustice in developing countries.
Choosing Sustainable Fabrics
One of the key components of sustainable fashion is eco-friendly fabrics. Some excellent sustainable materials include:
- Organic cotton: Organic cotton is grown without pesticides, fertilizers, or other harmful chemicals. It is a more sustainable alternative to conventional cotton, one of the world’s most pesticide-intensive crops. Organic cotton is grown using methods that protect soil health and biodiversity, conserve water, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It is also better for farmers and workers who do not get exposed to harmful chemicals.
- Hemp: Hemp is a versatile and sustainable fabric made from the fibers of the cannabis plant. It requires less water and fewer pesticides than conventional cotton and can grow in various climates. Hemp is strong, durable, and naturally resistant to bacteria and UV rays. It can be used to make multiple products, including clothing, accessories, and even building materials.
- Bamboo: Bamboo is a fast-growing, renewable resource that requires less water and fewer pesticides than conventional cotton. It has natural anti-bacterial properties and is soft and breathable. Bamboo fabric is made by processing the plant’s fibers into a pulp and then spinning them into yarn. However, some bamboo fabrics can be environmentally damaging if they are chemically processed, so look for bamboo that has been sustainably and responsibly sourced.
- Tencel: Tencel is a sustainable fabric made from the wood pulp of eucalyptus trees. It is produced using a closed-loop system that recycles and reuses the chemicals and water used in the process. Tencel is known for its softness, strength, and ability to drape well. It is also biodegradable and compostable, making it a more sustainable alternative to synthetic fabrics like polyester.
Upcycling and Recycling
Another key aspect of sustainable fashion is the use of upcycling and recycling.
Upcycling involves taking old clothing and turning it into something new and fashionable. It is a great way to reduce waste and create unique and personalized pieces. Some creative ways to upcycle clothing include:
- Patchwork – involves stitching together different pieces of fabric to create unique designs.
- Tie-dye – the use of vibrant colors and unique patterns on fabric
- Distressing – involves adding holes, frays, and other imperfections to clothing to create grunge or vintage looks.
- Refashioning – which involves transforming an existing piece of clothing into something new. For example, you can turn a t-shirt into a crop top or a pair of jeans into shorts.
Recycling involves taking materials such as plastic bottles or discarded fabrics and turning them into new clothing or accessories.
One of the easiest ways to embrace sustainable fashion is to shop secondhand. Buying gently used clothing instead of new clothing is a great way to reduce waste and save money.
Secondhand shopping also allows you to find unique pieces you won’t find in mainstream stores.
Here are some tips to help you navigate the world of secondhand and thrift shopping:
Research before you shop: Before heading out to thrift stores or online secondhand shops, do your research. Look for stores that carry the types of clothing you’re interested in and check out their returns, exchanges, and quality control policies.
Know your sizes: Unlike shopping for new clothes where you can try them on before purchasing, buying secondhand requires a good understanding of your body size and shape. Take accurate measurements of yourself and keep them handy when shopping.
Check the condition of the clothes: Inspect the clothes you’re interested in for any signs of wear and tear, stains, or damage. If shopping online, ask for detailed photos or a video of the clothes before purchasing.
Look for high-quality fabrics: Some fabrics, like cotton, wool, and silk, are more durable and better for the environment than synthetic fabrics like polyester. Look for high-quality materials that will last you longer.
Don’t be afraid to alter or modify: Secondhand clothes may not always fit perfectly, but don’t let that discourage you. You can modify many items to fit your body shape and style.
Shop frequently: The inventory at secondhand shops constantly changes, so keep going if you find what you’re looking for on your first visit. Check back often to see what new items have been added.
Supporting Sustainable Brands
Another way to embrace sustainable fashion is to support sustainable brands. There are many clothing brands committed to sustainable and ethical production methods. These brands use eco-friendly materials, pay fair wages to workers, and prioritize environmental responsibility.
Sustainable fashion is a growing movement that is helping to reduce the environmental and social impact of the fashion industry. By choosing sustainable fabrics, upcycling and recycling, shopping secondhand, and supporting sustainable brands, we can all make a difference in creating a more sustainable future for fashion.