Our clothing says a lot about who we are, but no one wants their clothes to say that they support labor exploitation or contribute to environmental waste. Sustainable fashion is an umbrella term that is used to describe the ethical production and consumption of clothing garments. The life cycle of a garment is important to consider when it is being classified as sustainable fashion–this includes the garment’s design and uses outside the original intent. Sustainability is an ever-growing trend, and the average consumer is becoming more aware of the dangerous effects that our spending habits can have.
The three main types of sustainable fashion are as follows:
- Eco-fashion, which refers to the effects clothing has on the environment;
- Slow fashion, which refers to increasing the lifespan of clothing and slowing down the fashion seasons; and
- Ethical fashion, which refers to the ethical standards surrounding the production of a garment.
Many of us have been turned off from the idea of sustainable fashion due to concerns with cost and accessibility, but being ethical about your shopping isn’t as difficult as it seems. I’ve put together a beginner’s guide to sustainable and ethical fashion without limiting your style choices. Here are four ways you can stop contributing to the negative effects of the fashion industry.
- Care for your clothes
- The easiest way to start living sustainably is to value and take care of the clothes you already own. Your clothes will last longer with proper maintenance. When you care for the clothing you own, you expand the lifespan of your most beloved outfits, and as a result, you will tend to shop less. The mass production of garments has only contributed to society’s wasteful attitude towards fashion consumption, and neglecting the clothes you already own is exactly what fashion retailers are preying on. Take care of the clothes you have and you can help slow the high consumption rates caused by fast fashion.
- Shop less
- If you only buy pieces that you know for certain that you’ll get a lot of use of and wholeheartedly love, you will be less likely to shop more clothes. As the saying goes, “quality over quantity;” this is another easy way to incorporate sustainability in your daily life with little hassle. Fast fashion tends to have a reduced quality, as brands create clothing quickly and cheaply, trying to adapt to the trends that quickly come and go. Choose clothes made of better materials that you know are not going to fade or shrink after a couple washes. The more durable your clothes are, the less often you’ll have to dispose of or replace them, effectively ending the toxic trend of frivolous consumption.
- Buy vintage or second-hand
- Buying clothing that is vintage or secondhand has become more mainstream thanks to the surge of retro fashion cycling back into society. A simple way to participate is to shop pre-loved fashions; in doing so, the clothes are being recycled and reused, and the linear cycle of production to disposal is slowed down. Thrift stores and consignment stores are a great way to source second-hand clothing and online shops such as Depop and Poshmark allow you to buy and sell your gently used clothing.
- Support ethical brands
- Reject fast fashion and start shopping locally; purchasing pre-worn clothing or clothing from sustainable brands allows you to support independent designers and environmentally conscious efforts rather than directly supporting a fast-fashion company. There are curated vintage brands such as Shop Suki and sustainable brands such as Reformation which repurpose vintage styles and use locally sourced and sustainable materials.
With the rising popularity of sustainable fashion, many modern clothing companies are making the switch to ethically produced clothing. Consumers can aid in extending the lifespan of the clothing by reusing, recycling, and repurposing clothing we already own or can easily access. Sustainable living seems like a difficult adjustment, but simple acts–such as the ones mentioned in this article–do a lot; an individual can help change the rate of fashion consumption. Every little bit helps to replace the consumerist fast-fashion habit with an ethical closet that is better for the environment.
By: Hannah Tran