Sustainable Fashion 101 - simple hacks to help you sustain your style.
by Eva Fernandez
There are many ways in which a more sustainable ways of consuming clothes can be achieved, and we are here to give you some tips!
1. Consume less
The first and easiest way to implement a more sustainable clothing lifestyle is to consume less. The whole concept of fast fashion is based on the idea that trends change quickly and that the consumer needs to forever (or over)-accumulate new pieces to keep up with changing trends, to stay satisfied and feel relevant in mainstream society. Take the example of Zara, a leading fast fashion brand that releases 20+ collections a year (that's around 840 million garments per year)! With mass exposure to fast fashion marketing throughout social media, it's easy to be swayed by the "fitting in" mantra of constant purchasing and over spending. However, there are essentially no fundamental reasons for us to need these many clothes.
2. Invest in better quality
If shopping and fashion are part of your routine and make you feel good, then smarter ways of shopping might be the way to go. Completely banning yourself from buying clothes altogether can be extreme and a hard habit to stick by when you are used to buying as you please. One of the solutions to satisfy your need for new/ trendy clothes would be to go for higher quality products. Indeed, even if better quality products will essentially be more expensive per unit, they will usually last longer and be worth your money in the long-run.
Fast fashion’s products are part of delocalized, cheap-labor-based supply chain industries. This means that the majority of what is produced is made with the cheapest labor, material and capabilities available. While benefitting from low prices and great quantity of clothes, this means that the output produced will often be low quality and get used up after a few washes / wears. Comparatively, these more expensive clothes will cost you less than fast fashion items because of their long-lasting nature. Instead of buying a Shein top for example, try to go for other brands which provide more environmentally conscious products and uphold sustainable values. They will feel more expensive on the spot, you but will often be able to keep these items for years if you are careful.
3. Buy pieces that will never go out of fashion
Some people speculate that fashion trends come back every 20 - 30 years. While the number of years is probably approximate, it is certain that clothes you buy will always come back in fashion at some point. Take your low waisted flared jeans that you bought in the 2000s and swore you’d never wear again as an example… Many swore they’d never wear them again… However, here we are in 2021 in the middle of a low-waisted clothes mania. Essentially, try to go for classics that will never age and that you can adapt to new trends. A little black dress, a sturdy trench or even a pair of flare jeans can be the pieces in your wardrobe to rely on no matter what the season or year is.
But how to know as a consumer what company to buy from?
4. Do a bit of research!
When it comes to fashion and its environmental consequences, getting educated is key. While eco-friendly and socially engaged messages spread to the media and big fashion brands, new vocabulary and themes around “green-washing” – i.e. the process of communicating a false environmentally conscious image to customers – is complicating customers’ decision making. The best way to proceed when you think of buying new clothes is by asking yourself a few preliminary questions:
Do I really need that?
Do I know about the supply chain of this brand?
Do I know where the material was sourced?
On top of that, there are many books, documentaries, research reports and media outlets you can draw upon to understand a bit more the situation. To get to know more about the environmental and human consequences of fashion, a great place to learn about this topic is in the documentary, The True Cost. If you prefer reading and more market-focused knowledge, McKinsey is known for publishing reports on the fashion industry: go check their “The State of Fashion 2021” one! Finally, “The conscious closet: the revolutionary guide to looking good while doing good” by Elizabeth L. Cline will also help you understand how to grow confident in your responsible consuming while maintaining your sense of style. And remember that an informed judgment will determine the extent of the impact you will have – work smart not hard!
5. Go thrift shopping or charity shopping
Thrifting and charity shopping have gained incredible momentum lately, especially amongst younger generations. It is a fun way of looking for new clothes while contributing to good causes. If you have a little bit more free time during your lunch break or nothing planned on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, go look at the charity shop you always pass by. You might be surprised! One of the main tips for charity shopping is to aim at visiting the shops located in wealthy areas where some hidden gems are waiting for you.
6. Get creative!
Shopping and fashion are fun and there is no reason this has to change! There are plenty of ways in which a more sustainable way of shopping can be achieved. 'Thrift flip' (the DIY process of upcycling thrifted clothes) tutorials , for example, have become increasingly popular on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram. This could be the opportunity for you to get your creative side going and have fun with coming up with your own style, trends, and items. Whether it becomes your primary way of dressing or just a side hustle, thrift flipping can be a great learning experience.
Getting your friends involved can also bring a lot of good times. If your friends and you have many clothes you do not wear anymore or do not know what to do with, dressing room sales are an amazing opportunity. Contact your friends and organize a day in which everyone comes in with their old clothes. This will give you a real shopping-like experience and you will contribute to the circular economy.
In any case, a more sustainable lifestyle all together is accessible and doable for you. It is all about adopting new habits of consumption in different aspects of your life.