So, I am currently sitting on the bus on my way to Berlin to attend the Sustainable Fashion Fair Neonyt, learn new things about the sustainable fashion industry, and meet and connect with people from all over the world that share the desire to educate consumers and create a fairer fashion industry for our planet and the people not only making but also buying the products.
I guess it's important to say at this point that fast fashion companies do not care about you. Quite obvious no ? They care about profit. Which means, they make you buy more, by constantly changing trends and collections, by selling you products that are unwearable after the first wash or by using chemicals and synthetics that are directly exposed to your skin when you wear their products (similar to skincare you should know what you’re putting ‘on’ your skin.)
Imagine wearing a plastic bag in summer, all the heath being trapped between the non-breathable fabric and your skin, holding bacteria and most likely releasing toxins and chemicals. Most commonly used synthetic fabrics, fabrics made from plastic and oil byproducts, are nylon, polyester, acrylic, and rayon. Bringing me to my first point.
1. Check the Materials
Really though, if you do not want to do it for this planet at least do it for yourself. In fact, this was the first thing I started checking when I would still buy fast fashion brands. I would be surprised how some fabrics made of plastic would feel softer than those made of actual cotton, just confirming the amount of chemicals and fabric softener used to get it to that state. I was surprised how when one of my fellow fashion classmates saw me do this she was not even aware that clothes were made of … plastic. So what are alternative natural fabrics ? Most popular and ethical ones would be:
Another benefit to natural fabrics: these fabrics can hold natural dye (from flowers and plants). Can it get any better?
2. Buy Ethical Brands
So, who actually uses these natural materials to make attractive clothing ? There is a number of brands I will share with you over time but lets start with three of my favourite ones:
Unfortunately, the are all based in Australia (Australia is really great at their sustainable fashion brand game btw!) and do not have the lowest price points. If you order a lot online, like me, there are great projects and websites that allow you to calculate and offset your carbon footprint i.e. by planting a tree for you. Of course, you should also have a look at more local and proximate ethical fashion brands.
3. Second Hand and Thrifting
Second hand shopping and thrifting are definitely on the cheaper and easier side of options when trying to create an ethical wardrobe. You can either try and find some local thrift, vintage and second hand shops or try online websites and apps such as Depop.
Pro tip: Antique shops are great for vintage jewellery most of which will have a meaningful story to tell. Yesterday, I saw a ring in an Antique store saying ‘Ewig Dein’ in the old German font which translated to English means ‘Forever yours’.
4. Invest into Designer brands … sometimes
Yes, you read correctly. Designer and premium brands are an option when trying to buy more sustainable. Usually designer brands are connected with craftsmanship, product quality and longevity. No, that does not mean you need to splurge all of your savings to be sustainable. It simply means that you should consider investing into i.e. a winter jacket you know you will wear over and over again every year, instead of buying a new one every winter that ends up looking like a beaten faux animal after the season just buy one or two good coats or jackets (not saying by fur) that will last you for decades. By buying quality products you reduce the amount of waste you create by consuming fashion. First of all due to the quality and longevity of the product lifecycle and second of all due to the fact that you have a higher financial and/or emotional investment into these items and you will be less willing to discard it just like that.
Pro tip: Buy during the sales.
5. Swapping not shopping
I first came across this concept when I attended a sustainable fashion fair in Kathmandu, Nepal last summer. Wherenwear were giving the opportunity to swap by creating a public space for it, but you can just start by swapping with your friends and family or online on i.e. rehashclothes.com.
You can of course also donate fabrics or clothes to those less fortunate in your country i.e. via the Red Cross Foundation. However, be aware that most countries we donate our clothes to have piles of clothes and the items donated are more likely to end up in a landfill.
As you may be able to tell this concept originated from idea of recycling. The idea is simple: instead of discarding the clothes that have flaws and may be out of trend you can use your own creativity to add some of your personal character to it, change the colour or create a completely new item of it i.e. making some long pants to shorts.
7. Timelessness over trends
Last but not least, and burn this into your mind, buy timeless items over trends. This means starting with the basics i.e. a pair of good jeans, a white t-shirt, some quality sneakers. This does not mean you can never buy a trend again just be sure you’re buying it because it resonates with you personally so that there are higher chances of you wearing it for a longer term. Trends (or fabs) can last from a couple of days or weeks to up to over a year. Be aware that you don’t need to follow every trend, creating your own style is way more appealing anyways.
It's not only about what we buy, it's also about how we buy.
So now that we have had a look at how to consume fashion more consciously let us have a look at what there is to remember while buying.
Be aware about the manual labour that has been put into every single item of clothing.
Be aware where of the origin of the item of clothing.
Be aware who makes your clothes and how their working conditions and pays are. You can get information or ask your own brands on Fashion Revolutions website here.
Buy quality over quantity.
Less is more, always.
Use the clothes you buy more than once and no less than 30 times (do not just buy a cheap dress for one event and then discard it).
Buy items that carry an emotional value and identity with you over fast lived trends.
Ask yourself, ‘do I really need this ?’
If you need a guideline to how to be more sustainable when consuming remember the 7-Rs of fashion; reduce, reuse, recycle, redesign, reimagine, restyle, and rewear.