WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE FASHION?
Going through your closet you come across a jacket with the tag still on it.
Are you planning on wearing it anytime soon?
Do you remember why you bought it in the first place?
For me, this was an all too familiar scenario before I started my sustainable fashion journey.
Transitioning from mindless clothing consumption to more strategic purchases has meant I can help the environment AND my wallet. Who doesn’t want that?
That’s really what sustainable fashion is all about.
So… What Exactly is Sustainable Fashion?
Sustainable fashion is one part of a broader framework that aims to address issues caused by fashion through the production and transportation processes and excessive clothing consumption affecting our environment.
When I say environment, I don’t just mean our physical planet.
I mean everything and everyone (including you) involved in the manufacturing, purchasing, repairing, recycling and disposing processes of an article of clothing.
For a fashion brand to be sustainable for example, it needs to take into account hazardous chemicals used in the production of fabrics and the toll that transportation from country to country will have, environmentally speaking.
It also needs to consider socio-economic factors such as worker’s conditions and pay during every stage of this process, to the best of its ability.
Here’s the thing.
Sustainable fashion is twofold.
Meaning while we absolutely need to care about which brands are making sustainable choices, the onus is also on us to shop thoughtfully, extend the life of our clothing and repurpose that garment at the end of its life to the best of our ability.
Notice how I keep saying, “to the best of its ability”?
That’s because sustainable fashion can never be 100% sustainable.
There is no such thing (at least right now) as a single fabric or manufacturing system that doesn’t have any negative side effects.
Take organic cotton for example.
While in theory this cotton is sustainable as it won’t be grown with the use of pesticides, it still may need to be treated with dyes loaded with pollutants and hazardous chemicals at different stages of the processing cycle.
Why Bother With Sustainable Fashion At All?
According to weforum.org, the fashion industry accounts for 10% of the world’s carbon emissions and what’s equally troubling, about 85% of garments end up in a landfill yearly.
Sustainable fashion provides a means to address both of these concerns by ensuring the negative side effects of garment production are reduced at every phase while encouraging thoughtful repurposes of garments to prevent them from landing in a landfill.
Sustainable Fashion Terms
You might’ve noticed there are a lot of terms thrown around when brands want to label themselves as sustainable.
From slow fashion, ethical fashion, eco-friendly fashion- are these terms all created equal?
Yes and no.
All of these terms fall under the main frame of sustainable fashion, but they focus on different aspects of the journey.
Ethical fashion focuses primarily on the welfare of workers and fighting for fair wages.
Eco-friendly fashion aims to tackle aspects of the fashion industry that contribute to carbon emissions and affect water and soil quality.
Slow fashion in contrast, emphasizes purchasing items of high quality, prioritizes garment care and aims to lengthen the life of your clothing as much as possible.
In other words, it’s basically the opposite of fast fashion (hence its name).
Where To Start
One aspect of the sustainable journey that I don’t think is talked about enough is shopping your own closet before you purchase something.
This is something so simple (and free!) that you can do which will help you determine what you actually need to purchase.
Do you really need another white t-shirt?
And who knows?
Maybe you’ll rediscover a piece that you haven’t worn in a while that you forgot how much you loved!
Okay so you’ve looked through your closet, got hit with a wave of nostalgia from a few garments and now you’re ready to buy something… now what?
When looking for your next favourite clothing item, you’ll want to consider fabric.
Yes there is such a thing as the best and worst fabrics for the environment.
To keep this article short, below are some of the best fabrics from a sustainability standpoint. You can learn more about this here.
- Organic and/ or recycled cotton
One main takeaway: some action is better than nothing.
You don’t need to get caught up in trying to do the most or be the best.
Start with small changes like shopping your closet first (more on that here) and you’ll already be on the path to success.
And with each step you’ll be farther and farther away from finding another jacket in your closet with the tags still on it.