The fashion industry has a long way to go to be considered sustainable. Recently, there has been numerous reports, social media posts and activists exposing the fashion industry for contributing to unethical standards, releasing toxic pollution in the air, creating waste and destroying eco-systems. Did you know that nearly 20% of global wastewater is produced by the fashion industry? Yet, it’s unfair to say all forms of fashion is the cause of all the challenges we are currently facing as that’s simply not the case.
Before the early 2000s fast fashion boom, clothing was produced at a much slower rate and many companies used sustainable production systems. However, today trends move faster resulting to companies using cheap materials and conducting unethical practices to keep up. The challenge is if we continue creating clothes at a rapid pace it will guarantee an unstable future, therefore, sustainability is the only option.
We’ve only just touched the surface of sustainable fashion. Although major brands are accountable for the current issues, there are many ways we can change the narrative on an individual basis.
In an ideal world….
For fashion to be truly sustainable, the industry needs to continue without harming the planet, people or eco-systems. Ultimately, fashion brands and designers needs to review their infrastructures, designs and processes to implement sustainable solutions.
In an ideal world, fashion is circular. Currently, fashion is built on designers, organizations and individuals that have a linear approach. This is where garments are designed to an end, so only to be worn. However, if we take a step back, fashion has longevity and meaning. What if fashion was made from biodegradable material, then processed sustainably and then once it reaches the end of its life it can either be repurpose, reused or recycled into something new! Although, fashion circuity is mainly a method for big fashion brands, individuals can also use this ethos in their lives.
How to Contribute to Sustainability?
10 simple ways you can contribute to Slow Fashion
1. Create Awareness about Sustainability
One of the most important ways to contribute to slow fashion is by talking about it. Sustainability is still in its infancy and not everyone is aware of sustainability practices and what they can do to make a difference. Forbes piloted a survey and results stated that 77% of individuals wanting to learn more about sustainable lifestyles. Evidence, proves that now more than ever individuals want to learn about sustainability. Even if you have small amounts of knowledge, it’s ok to share what you know or lead them to the correct source to encourage people to look it up.
We have a long way to go to reach our sustainability goals but we're starting with our best foot forward and raising awareness around sustainability and ocean clean up efforts. Save the turtles!
2. Research, Research, Research
Researching brands or clothing is a great way to find out more about a company and their practices. When your researching you may want to consider the following points:
- Check the company’s website – In the first instance check the company’s website to find out more about a product. Not only is it a legal requirement for companies to showcase information about their product, it’s also should be a credible source… to some extent.
- Check valid sources – it’s worth checking credible sources such as different news publications. Although, social media is one way to find out more information, the risk of circulating shared information from individuals as the information could be manipulated.
- Check Social media – Always be aware when checking social media channels sometimes news shared by influencers and individuals is not always a true. However, you can go on a company’s social media handles to find out more about the company and their sustainable practices. Remember social media is the shop window to any business.
- Contact the company – Sometimes it’s easier to contact the business on social media or directly via email or phone to find the information you’re looking for.
3. Look out for Greenwashing
We want to give others the benefit of doubt and believe they are going to do something good but when it comes to greenwashing it’s harder to identify. According to the experts, Greenwashing is when an organization or business ‘spends time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact”.
Currently there has been pressure on the fashion industry to be more accountable for their impact on the planet, which has resulted to more false advertising on how they are going to be much more sustainable…Be aware that they could be just jumping on the trend. Make sure you check online sources to view their actions and contributions.
4. Meaningful Purchases Only
We are all tempted to keep up with trends and aspirational looks but is this sustainable? Do we really need to add more clothes to the wardrobe? Marie Kondo the ultimate Organisation Guru advises people to ‘Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy.’ By reviewing what you already have and potentially removing the clothes you don’t need isn’t minimalistic it’s just another perspective. By reducing the amount, you purchase and only purchasing when you need to or because you see something you truly want can contribute to slowing down mass-production. For the clothes you don’t need donate, swap or resell!
5. Quality vs Quantity
Big brands such as Pretty Little Thing, Miss Guided often use cheap synthetic fibers to rapidly create clothes to keep up with demand. The problem is, not only is this unsustainable but the quality is poor, therefore the garments lifespan is short. Cheap quality clothes may come apart or tear only after a few uses. In the worst case scenario, sometimes the quality is so poor that it can’t be repaired.
Good quality material is often derived from natural fibers like cotton, wool, cashmere and silk. Arguably more expensive, however can be purchased at a secondhand shop or website.
6. Check the Materials
Checking the materials is extremely important when reviewing clothes as this determines the quality, durability and whether it will biodegrade.
Synthetic fibers are not great the environment. Polyester, a plastic found within lots of fast fashion garments is not biodegradable. Therefore, when purchasing clothes look for biodegradable materials like cotton, silk, bamboo, wool and linen.
Check the labels for more information about the garment, they may also state whether the materials are organic.
Organic vs non-organic materials
Organic materials are often considered to be slightly more ethical and eco-friendlier. Organic materials are not genetically modified and grown without harmful chemicals which go into the air and soil. Organic has a lower impact on the environment for example, organic cotton produces around 46% less CO2e compared to conventional cotton.
7. Purchase Second-hand clothing
The fast fashion is highly disposable; once you wear it your likely to move on to another style. Alternatively, purchasing second-hand is a great way to delay clothing going to landfill.
8. Repair and Mend
If it’s broken, fix it! When clothes rip or tear or loose a button instead of throwing it out, an alternative is to mend it back together. So, you can’t sew? There are no excuses anymore because you probably have access to free tutorials on Youtube and Instagram. Additionally if you don’t have the time, ask someone to help or go to a tailor.
9. Recycle, Reinvent, Resell!
So, when you’ve got to the point where you’re ready to change your style. There are lots of way you can remove it from your life! You can:
- Reinvent it – As a suggestion you can gather up some styles, a sewing kit and bits of scraps and start creating something new! By reinventing a piece of clothing delays, it from going to a landfill.
- Recycle it – If you can’t reinvent a piece of clothing and haven’t got the time to be creative, check your local recycling plants for way you can recycle the items. However, the first step is looking at the material to see whether it can be recycled...UPSAINT use's recycled fabrics when making our shirts so we have you covered there.
- Resell – Make some extra money by reselling your old clothes! Simply create an account on a reselling platform i.e Ebay or Poshmark. Then start selling!
10. Swap or Donate
Purchasing secondhand clothing is affordable, on obviously sustainable option compared to purchasing from a fast-fashion franchise. However, swapping, borrowing and giving your clothes to a good-will store or to a cause is a great way to keep fashion in the fashion cycle. There are plenty of swapping events however to make sure your safe during COVID-19.
Hopefully the top ten points give you a good overview on how you can contribute to the slow fashion movement.