Can fashion ever be sustainable? It's a tricky question with no definitive answer. Whatever the conclusion may be it is important that we take actions to help make our wardrobes more sustainable. To that end, this post will suggest five sustainable alternatives to fast fashion. Alternatives that will hopefully help you curate a beautiful wardrobe that stands the test of time.
1. Buy Less Choose Well:
Sounds dull, but doesn't have to be! Falling back in love with the clothes that you already own is arguably the most fulfilling and sustainable option on this list. Check out style guru Anuschka Ree's Blog or book The Curated Closet for tips on wardrobe minimalism and tricks on how to get more joy out of owning less.
2. Invest in Quality Garments:
Even if you don't buy from ethical brands (but you should anyway!) saving up for garments that are robust can be a more sustainable option as clothes will stay on your hangers for a longer period. A problem with fast fashion is how easy it is to dispose of unwanted clothing. We can head to fast fashion stores, decide we don't like half of the things that we purchased and wear the other half a bunch of times before they're ready to throw out. However, this approach to shopping is massively destructive to the environment and to the people and communities who make our clothes. Instead, if we buy items that will stand the test of time, we can save ourselves some bucks and hopefully give the planet a break in the meantime!
Buying clothes that last not only applies to the quality of the garment; aesthetic also comes into the equation. The 30 Wear Rule, attributed to Liva Firth, is a great question to ask yourself when you're about to invest in a new item. Personally, I prefer, will I wear this still when I'm thirty or will I wear this ten years from now?
3. Repair & Remodel:
We can repair the simple things like lost buttons, fallen hemlines and small holes to extend the lifespan of our clothes. This is what our grandparents did back in the day when fast fashion wasn't an option. It's also pretty therapeutic put on your favourite chilled Spotify playlist, make a brew and the jobs a good'un.
The best part is is that we can get creative with this option by embroidering damaged clothes or embellishing garments that are feeling a little lacklustre. Furthermore, visible repair adds character to your clothes reflecting the individual stories and adventures that you're beloved items have been on. Note: For a visible repair option that looks elegant rather than like you've just come out of a craft workshop with a bunch of glitter crazed ten-year-olds check out Japanese Sashiko embroidery.
4. Go Vintage:
For all the thrift shop lovers out there this option will be no hardship. Whether it be buying from a charity store, through eBay, Depop or more luxurious sites such as Vestiaire Collective the opportunities for vintage shopping are endless.
The benefit here is that there is no additional production taking place in the process as the clothes you're buying are already waiting to be loved! Plus it's always fun to muse over the journeys that vintage clothes have been on. When I pick up a 1920's vintage clutch bag, I always hope that it was paraded by a rebellious sequin-clad flapper girl circulating all the coolest underground speakeasies in New York City.
5. Buy from Ethical Brands:
Buying from ethical brands is an excellent option, as the company will have a neutral or even positive social and environmental impact. The only caveat is that you have to do your research and often, not all tiers of production within supply chains are transparent meaning that information regarding a brands ethical standards is not always available. A further challenge is that many companies who claim to be 'conscious' or 'ethical' are in fact far from it. Fortunately, apps and sites are being utilised by people who have committed themselves to researching the environmental and labour standards of brands. The website Project Just and app Good on You are particularly brilliant for assessing labour, environmental and animal welfare standards of mainstream as well as ethical fashion brands.
Shopping from Ethical Collections is also a reasonable option. Asos and H&M, in particular, are well-known for having 'conscious collections'. The only disadvantage is that if a brand does not integrally value or produce sustainable and ethical goods across their entire product line, then by purchasing from a 'conscious collection' you are still feeding a company that perpetuates exploitation while benefitting from the genuine effort of activists and social entrepreneurs pushing to revolutionise standards within the industry. Ultimately, buying from brands that implement ethical practices across their entire product line is a much better option.
What Else Can You Do?
As outlined in Safia Minney's book 'Slow Fashion' it is possible to promote ethical fashion without buying from often more expensive sustainable labels. In fact, as aforementioned, the most ethical option is not to buy any more clothes!
You can join in the discourse and promote change within the industry by simply sharing an article on Facebook or by participating in a campaign in a small way. For instance, during Fashion Revolution Week (24-30th April) the ongoing campaign '#Who Made My Clothes' gives us the opportunity to take a photograph of the labels we usually wear and ask brands who in fact made these items. Make sure to tag your brand! This is just one creative example of ways in which we can take action to challenge current industry standards.
Ultimately, it is both companies and the buyer's responsibility to challenge labour exploitation and reduce environmental devastation caused by fast fashion. However, it is unlikely that fast fashion companies will have the initiative to eradicate labour exploitation without the pressure of consumer purchasing power steering the market in the right direction.
May the force be with you my fashion loving friends.
Love and Solidarity,