The fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world. Cheap trendy fashion has been a part of our daily lives as long as I can remember, and it is finally starting to show. Fast fashion was created to make people buy and spend more, which in the end meant we all ended up with far more cheaply made clothing than we would ever need.
Sustainability can be defined as “the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance” in other words thinking about the future by not using all our natural resources at once or polluting the earth. So sustainable fashion is really just fashion that tries not to be as harmful for the planet as its unsustainable counterpart.
Though for it to really be sustainable the same principles must also apply to the working conditions of the people who makes it, as well as any animals that might be involved. So child labor and plucking goose feathers while the goose is alive, can never been consider sustainable even if it is “organic”.
Different forms of sustainability in fashion
This is a very long topic and it is not really something that can be described in a blog post but here is a short and quick version. The most sustainable clothing is no clothing, but that is rarely an option. So lets look at the next best.
Reduce, Reuse & Repair
The most sustainable thing you can do is really to do nothing, at least until you really have to. Use the clothing you have, take good care of it, and repair it when needed. Buy secondhand or borrow a jean jacket from the back of your moms closet. Only buy new things when you really have to. Learn what you love to wear and what you don’t and change your shopping habits according to that.
Redesign & Upcycle
Are you not liking the look or feel of thrifted clothing. Dig out your scissors and sewing thread and start designing your new outfit. Got an old pair of jeans? Make them into a pair of shorts or a skirt. The internet is full of inspiration and tutorials for upcycling and redesigning your old clothing. Check out this Pinterest board we have created to give you some inspiration. It is also possible to find designers and brands that reuses old clothing to make their designs.
Slow Fashion – Made to last
No fashion is sustainable fashion. Not everyone has the time or interest to be that creative with their outfits and that’s ok. When you have to buy new items look for things that will last you for years, not just in quality but also in style. Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion, and really just means clothing that won’t go out of style. Like a pair of black jeans, a white t-shirt or a trench coat. Items that could also be called stables or basics unlike a neon pink tulle skirt. Look into items that are well made from durable materials, and by brands you know and trust. Buying a white t-shirt from H&M might count as a slow fashion item, but not if it breaks after two washes.
Natural and Sustainable Materials
You might have heard a thing or two about micro plastic pollution by now. Most of the clothing that exist now is made from synthetic fibers like polyester, nylon or acrylic. Each time these items get washed small plastic fibers are released into the water cycle. Since micro plastic is, well micro, the wastewater treatment plants can’t remove all the fibers from the water before releasing it into the ocean. This is where natural materials come in play. While also being made from renewable sources, unlike plastic that is made from oil, natural fibers will decompose in the ocean, forest, waste dumps or where ever in ends up. Some natural materials might be more harmful to the environment in short term, but in the end natural organic or biodegradable materials is the best option.
Zero Waste – From start to finish
Zero waste is not a new concept, it was the way of living, until cheap plastic and consumerism was invented. In the “good old days” you would let nothing go to waste because that would be a waste of material. Like grapeseed oil which is made by using the byproduct from wine production.
Zero waste today is about avoiding all the wasteful packaging our food is sold in or the plastic bottles shampoo and soap comes in, it’s about refilling and reusing rather than buying new things everytime. In the fashion industry zero waste is more about using all the materials and letting nothing go to waste. Like a Japanese kimono was designed to create no leftover fabric. Another way to do it is to reuse the byproducts for something else, like our reusable facial rounds or zero waste clothing items does, until there is nothing left to call waste.
Another part of zero waste and sustainability in general, is to think about disposal of the product since nothing really last forever, except diamond and plastic. But jokes aside at some point our clothing will be too worn out to repair and what then, can it be recycled maybe composted or does it have to be burned?
So how to we make sustainable fashion? You can read all about it here.
To sum it all up as short as possible do as Vivienne Westwood says:
“buy less, choose well, make it last”