It’s no secret that the fashion industry has a huge sustainability problem. From the declining lifespan of clothes (thanks to the rise of throwaway fashion) and turbocharged trend cycle to the increased reliance on water-thirsty cotton & petroleum-based polyester – the fashion industry is destroying the planet. It needs a big ecological overhaul. And it needs it now!
While the millennials and Gen-Z are bringing sustainable fashion to the mainstream and are leading the climate change and social justice movement, ironically, the very same generation is propelling the growth of fast fashion behemoths.
Its ironic that the generation that stands up for women rights, is the very same generation promoting companies that exploit women living in poverty-stricken countries. In case you didn’t know, women working in the fashion industry endure exploitative working conditions, and harassment, are paid terribly low wages and work under appalling safety conditions. These are just a handful of problems the garment industry workers must go through every day.
Look good, feel good – at what cost?
Fashion brands have convinced us somehow that buying new clothes will solve all our life problems. Their cool marketing and smart analytics keep us hooked to their websites. ‘Buy now pay later’, doorstep delivery & returns, throwaway prices combined with never-ending discounts, and ‘you can’t miss this offer’ are just a few tactics that are too hard to resist. Even the best of us gets lured into buying things we really don’t need.
The fashion industry is plagued with environmental issue, human rights issues and animal exploitation. The dyes and chemicals used in textile pollution is polluting our water streams, the sheer bulk of waste created by the fashion industry is filling up our landfills, and not to forget the carbon emissions generated by the industry,
As if things were not bad enough, now fashion brands are greenwashing themselves to win over the hearts of eco-minded consumers. Claims of being “eco-friendly”, “natural” and “sustainable”, without actually being backed by evidence, are ubiquitous and deceptive.
ACE your wardrobe!
Good news is, YOU have the power to bring CHANGE in the fashion industry. You, me, each of us collectively can bring this change. And its not hard.
But where do I start?
Its very complicated.
Do I need to build a new wardrobe and ditch out all fast fashion I already own?
Sustainable fashion is expensive. I don’t have loads of cash to shop from sustainable brands…..
You might have these questions consuming your mind. Don’t fret. I have designed a 3-step ACE system to help you take a more eco-minded approach to consuming fashion, without breaking your bank.
ACE is an acronym for “Avoid, Consider and Embrace”. Every time you think about buying something new, this ACE method will help you make more mindful fashion choices.
Avoid fast fashion brands, brands that do not regard the planet, people or animals. More importantly, don’t buy things that you don’t need.
Of course, I am not asking you to throw away items you purchased from fast fashion brands. In fact, that would be the most unsustainable thing to do. Love what you have, take good care of it, wear it as much as you can. Find a way to upcycle it when it can no longer serve its purpose.
Also, avoid fabrics that are harmful for the planet. Fashion industry has become addicted to plastic-based fabrics in clothing, in the form of synthetic fabrics. The problem is that these fabrics, like polyester, elastane, and nylon, are made from fossil fuels, shed microplastics in the environment, don’t biodegrade, and are a part of the make-take-throwaway culture.
When you shop new, choose 100% natural fabrics and support sustainable brands. By choosing natural materials such as recycled or organic cotton, hemp, linen, and bamboo you can rest assured that the material will not create an endless loop of pollution and will break down eventually.
Also, when you buy new, just look at how the garment looks but also check its quality (is it built to last?), the entire supply chain, production processes, and product afterlife. There are several platforms like Good On You, where you can find the sustainability ranking of fashion brands and how they score on people, planet and animal treatment score.
Opt for fashion brands that are doing good-paying fair wages, using eco-friendly fabrics, adopting sustainable practices, and giving back. However, this is still not the best option because buying “new” still puts a strain on the planet, even if it is sustainably produced. That’s why I believe in embrace.
The most sustainable outfit is the one in your wardrobe. Instead of buying new items, shop from your own closet or purchase from second-hand fashion stores. If something doesn’t fit from your wardrobe, get it altered instead of throwing it away.
Embracing what you already have and experimenting is really fun and will activate your creative side. In case that doesn’t work, then shop pre-owned, borrow, swap or rent.
The fashion industry perpetuates overconsumption. Overconsumption and consumerism are the main drivers of all the environmental destruction that we are now facing. But we can all make better choices.
See it wasn’t so hard? Buy pre-owned, rent, swap or borrow and shop from your own wardrobe.
You really don’t have to compromise on your style or ethics to be sustainable. By being aware, asking the right questions and changing your attitudes to shopping you can make a huge impact.
Let’s make sustainable fashion cool!
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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