Thanks to the rise of the Fashion Revolution, I have paid closer attention to the clothes I am buying, and that I have in my wardrobe. Have you also become more aware of the realities of the fashion industry?
I’m sure you’re now more exposed to loads of bloggers and influencers telling you about all the amazing do-good brands out there from all corners of the world: eco-friendly, ethical manufacturing, sustainable raw materials, fair trade and all the awareness from Fashion Revolution and so on…
But hold on! What about the clothes you already have?
Your sustainable fashion questions answered
Please don’t go on a guilt trip once realising you your wardrobe is filled with ‘fast fashion’ items.
That’s absolutely okay; my wardrobe is also filled with this from the past. We are now more aware. It doesn’t mean we should throw away what we already have or stop wearing these items as that contributes to one of the biggest eco issues in the fashion industry:
Textile waste. Let’s have a look at the stats:
- Second to oil, the clothing and textile industry is the largest polluter in the world. (1)
- Textile industry is one of the top 3 water wasting industry in China (the largest producer of cotton shirts), discharging over 2.5 billion tons of wastewater every year. (2)
- About 15% of fabric intended for clothing ends up on the cutting room floor. This waste rate has been tolerated industry-wide for decades. (3)
- The EU textile industry generates waste estimated at 16 million tons per year. Much of this waste is thrown in landfills or incinerated, with a high environmental impact and at great cost. Valuable resources held within the waste are also lost. (4)
- Consumers throw away shoes and clothing [versus recycle], an average of 70 pounds per person, annually. (5)
- A few communities have textile recycling programs, about 85% of this waste goes to landfills where it occupies about 5% of landfill space and the amount is growing. (5)
- Up to 95% of the textiles that are landfilled each year could be recycled. (6)
- Landfill space is expensive and hard to find. (5)
- Using recycled cotton saves 20,000 litres of water per kilogram of cotton, a water-intensive crop. (7)
On Used Clothes:
- The U. S. is the largest exporter of second-hand clothing. It exports over a billion pounds of used clothing every year. (8)
- Over 70% of the world’s population use second-hand clothes. (6)
- Consumers in the United Kingdom have an estimated $46.7 billion worth of unworn clothes in their closets. (9)
When reading these statistics, did you brain start scanning your wardrobe pieces and history of purchases?
What is the % of your wardrobe that you are actually wearing?
What does Sustainable Fashion mean?
Sustainable Fashion is a rather broad term and it could mean different things to many people.
For some, ‘sustainable’ relates to ecological sustainability. Sustainable fashion can have a positive impact on the environment by using natural and biodegradable plant-based textiles (like hemp, organic linen, and others) that do not require any chemicals (such as pesticides, herbicides, fertilizer etc) for their growth. It also means that the plants are harvested sustainably, ensuring their re-growth.
Another way to produce fashion sustainably is by eliminating toxic dye water runoff. This may involve installing effective filtration systems to stop any dye from entering the water system. And a more effective way is to use plant-based dyes that do not cause any harm.
Another topic that the term ‘sustainable fashion’ covers includes the wellbeing of fashion makers. That their jobs are secured, that they are fairly treated, that they are safe at work.
A lot of ethics would fall under sustainable fashion; from the ecological aspect, the human aspect, and the business aspect. This is why I always a fan of the 3P sustainable business model: PLANET, PEOPLE, PROFITS.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
This season I saw a rise in influencers and stylists hopping onto the 10×10 Fall Capsule wardrobe. First of all, what is a capsule wardrobe? It’s a term coined by Susie Faux, owner of a London boutique in the 1970s. The name refers to a collection of essential wears that would not go out of fashion and could be worn for multiple seasons. The aim was to update this collection with new seasonal pieces to provide something to wear for any occasion without buying many new items of clothing. This is awesome, right? But what I see is many stylists and influencers on the gram changing their capsule wardrobe each season. What happened to that perfectly good sweater you can wear again next year? What happened to those perfectly good jeans you can wear all year round?
So, what is the #10×10?
The #10×10 is an exercise that started in 2015 by Canadian blogger Style Bee. A ‘regular capsule wardrobe’ would consist of something a little over 35 pieces, whereas a 10×10 is a micro wardrobe (in the end its practically the same thing) where you select 10 pieces to wear over 10 days. The trend caught on wildly on Instagram.
Minimalism & Sustainability: How do we make the shift?
It’s a transformation.
The problem, I see, with today’s “capsule wardrobes” is when perfectly good clothes are being thrown away for the new season capsule. What’s that all about? If you are changing your selection every season, then there’s absolutely no point in the whole charade and you are doing more harm than good by contributing to the high amounts of textile waste.
The reality is that most of us do have a vast wardrobe and going back to the question I asked earlier, how much of it do we actually wear from time to time? So the idea of achieving a capsule wardrobe is great, but I don’t think this can happen overnight. Think carefully about how you clear your wardrobe.
How can we move towards sustainable fashion as individuals?
First up – everyone has different situations, budgets, needs and desires. The following tips are what I practice and some might not be for you, but (in my opinion) worth considering.
- Wear your clothes until they are really done with their time. I have items that have been with me for over 10 years for sure. If they need fixing here and there, learn how to do it or find a seamstress who will fix it for you. When they are really past their time, open Pinterest and find ideas on how to upcycle your clothes into useful items. Mine generally becoming cleaning cloths (easy way out? Yes!). Seek organisations that recycle your old clothes and repurpose them for other uses like car seat stuffing or pillow stuffing or even better making new textiles from the old! I’ll get on to this another time.
- Instead of donating your clothes to charity shops (only 10% – 20% of donated clothes are actually resold through charity shops like Oxfam’s) give them personally to people who will definitely be wearing them or sell them online. Over 70% of the world’s population wear second-hand clothes. Participate in clothes-swaps in your city. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
- Don’t shop ‘seasons’: you’ll never keep up anyways as fast fashion houses release new styles every week! Instead, seek items that you can easily mix and match with various styles and has good enough quality that will last more than one season. The next time you’re tempted to buy a new trend, remember the words of Coco Chanel: “Elegance, does not necessarily consist of putting on a new dress.”
- Rotate your wardrobe. Give life to old clothes. I recently re-visited the clothes I left behind at my mother’s house and it was so exciting to bring most of them back to life. Fast-fashion items, yes – there’s no turning back. They’re in my wardrobe and I will continue wearing them until I can.
- Buy new clothes only when you need and make sure it is an item that you will wear for more than one season. Seek sustainable and ethical brands (keep an eye out for my upcoming post about some ethical brands I have bought from or following for my next buys when the opportunity comes!)
What is your opinion? How are you sustainably styling?
If you are interested in Sustainable Fashion I suggest you connect with the Fashion Revolution campaign and learn more. Find out what events and activities are going on in your city and participate in ‘clothes-swaps’.
Remember, if you are going to donate to charity shops please do this diligently. It is probably wiser to sell them off sites like eBay or give them directly to people who will wear them.
The subject is very fast and this post only scratches the surface of what sustainable fashion is about and how we can make better decisions from now onwards.
If you enjoyed reading this you should read my interview with Tammy – Fashion Revolution Country Coordinator
- Timo Rissanen, “From 15% to 0: Investigating the creation of fashion without the creation of fabric waste,” Presenter, Kreativ Institut for Design og Teknologi, September 2005.