Wednesday, 14 October 2015

What is Sustainable Fashion?

Discovering sustainable fashion is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole – whether you were first introduced to the topic via friends, an article, watching The True Cost, or perhaps through a new and innovative brand like Reformation, there’s so much more to learn and discover that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the abundance of information at your fingertips. Instead, try asking yourself these three questions to make the process of shopping consciously a lot simpler.

1. "DO I NEED THIS?" Sustainable fashion means only buying what you need. 

In the developed world, we all have too many clothes - a recent study suggested that Americans dispose of around 68 pounds of clothing every year, whilst 30% of all the clothes in the UK hasn't been worn for at least 12 months. Excess clothing doesn't just clutter up your wardrobe, but also has a huge impact on both the environment and traditional textile industries in developing countries, which is where most of our unwanted secondhand clothing ends up.

Sustainable fashion means buying something you know you will keep for a long time - an item you will really treasure, that suits your personal style rather than the latest fad trend. By asking yourself "do I need this?", you'll be more conscious of how much you consume, and are also more likely to buy quality, investment items that will form a key part of your wardrobe for years to come.

2. "WHO MADE THIS?" Sustainable fashion means treating the people who make your clothes with respect.

Almost all of our clothing is imported from developing countries, sewn by predominantly female garment workers for incredibly long hours in often unsafe conditions. In 2013, this led to over 1100 workers losing their lives when a makeshift garment factory producing for many global brands collapsed in Rana Plaza, Bangladesh.

By asking yourself "who made this?", you will start to become more aware of where companies produce, and support brands that make the effort to create transparency across their supply chains, creating longer lasting and ultimately safer partnerships that will ensure the well-being of workers. Check the labels of your clothes, do research on brands' ethical practices before buying from them (Project JUST or Good on You are great resources for this), or join the social media campaign Fashion Revolution by taking a picture of the label inside your clothing and asking your favourite brands #WhoMadeMyClothes?

3. "HOW WAS THIS MADE?" Sustainable fashion means treating the environment with respect.

It's not just clothing waste that has an impact on the environment, but all the processes that are involved in a garment - from its production all the way through to how it's washed and dried after you've bought it. It takes 2700 litres of water to produce just one t-shirt, but recent research by Levis has shown that consumer care is also responsible for the most significant energy use and climate impact, representing 37% of the 33.4 kg of carbon dioxide emitted during the lifecycle of a pair of jeans.

By asking "how was this made?" you can also begin to consider the environmental impact of your clothing - from the type of fabric it's made from (start with organic cotton, hemp and recycled polyester), to how it's processed (synthetic vs vegetable dyes), to the garment's original purpose - was it made to dispose of after a few wears, or to pass down through generations?

Sustainable fashion is a journey, and there are many different solutions to the current problems facing the fashion industry. By asking these 3 key questions, you're already on the way to making more informed decisions, and inspiring others to do the same!

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