Fashion is an extension of our identity. If our body is considered a canvas, then clothing and shoes are its paint. But what happens when this paint toxifies our rivers, pollutes the air we breathe and drains the planet’s resources?
It’s already happening.
The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Cotton and polyester are most often used in EU clothing, which each bring their own environmental concerns. Can you imagine how much water a person drinks within 2.5 years? It’s the same amount of water that one cotton T-shirt soaks up to be produced: 2,700 Litres. Polyester clothing generally lasts longer and needs less water, but it pollutes our waters with microplastics and isn’t biodegradable.
But let’s not just talk about the doom and gloom of the fashion industry. Are there already some things worth celebrating?
Navigating sustainability can be incredibly difficult with so many factors to consider, and we haven’t even talked about social responsibility and animal welfare yet! Initiatives such as the Good on You database are here to help you out: choose your brands based on impact rates on the planet, people and animals.
These brands don’t have to be boring or unfashionable, which is often the stereotype that comes with sustainable fashion. Notable women in the luxury sector are here to stay, and hereto change:
Many brands are following into the footsteps of these pioneers, which usually involves using organic and/or recycled materials in their collections. For example Gucci’s Equilibrium highlights the release of Off The Grid, the first collection in Gucci Circular Lines. It’s mostly made of Econyl, which is 100% recycled nylon from waste such as abandoned fishing nets and carpets. Reformation proves that such initiatives don’t have to be a one-off sustainability stunt that’s forgotten about in the future. In 2015, they claimed to have cancelled carbon, which means they’ve been carbon neutral ever since. In the meantime, their sustainable material game is still going strong: each web shop item shows how much carbon, water and waste it saves.
In the words of Anne Klein: “Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the women who wear them will”. Whilst sustainably sourced materials should be celebrated, we have to start asking ourselves why it’s normal for fast fashion brands such as Zara to release 24 collections a year, and why there’s a need for us to buy multiple new clothes on a whim.
Regardless of the reasons, we don’t have to keep fixing them with new-made clothes. Most materials last long enough for a second life - some clothes don’t even have to be owned by you to be enjoyed. Re-using clothes amongst individuals and between individuals is going to be the new way of consuming.
You’ve most likely heard of thrifting: shopping in a second-hand shop or vintage store. Whilst you’ll still want to buy in moderation when necessary, it’s a good thing to prevent clothes from ending up in landfill. Second-hand clothing doesn’t have to be stuffy and old-fashioned. The second-hand luxury market is thriving through web shops such as Rebelle, or fresh mid-range markets such as The Next Closet.
Another way of re-use is slightly unconventional, but incredibly inspiring. You know that elegant dress you once bought for that one family wedding, and never wore again? Why bother buying a one-off piece like that, if you can rent a fabulous dress for a day? It inspires you with fashion choices you could have never imagined, and when you’re done feeling like a celebrity, you’ll pass this starstruck feeling onto the next renter. Initiatives such as Rent the Runway, Girl MeetsDress and Lena the Fashion Library are here to serve you.
Last but not least, you can lease clothes for a longer period of time. Mud Jeans is the pioneer of this consumption method. After a year of using your jeans, you can return them to Mud Jeans, which will ensure that the jeans or its materials are properly re-used.
The pandemic has shaken our perception of what’s truly important in life, and hopefully sustainability is on this list as well. With so many initiatives ranging from sustainable materials to new ways of consuming, this conscious fashion revolution has just started. Let’s celebrate the art of sustainability, in style.