Look before you leap. No-one can be expected to transition to a full on eco-friendly wardrobe overnight, but let there be no doubt it must happen as our current buying attitudes towards the fashion industry is unsustainable.
The Feelgood Factor
First and foremost, it will make you feel better. Selfish? Yes, perhaps, especially to highlight upfront but in this area most people need to be persuaded by something they can relate to. The increased cost of an ethically made, sustainable outfit is without a doubt more expensive. But there are valid reasons as to why that is.
Ultimately you will be taking a step in the right direction for the good of our environment. If you choose ethical or fair trade brands to support, your purchase is produced in a way whereby workers’ rights are being upheld in an industry that is notorious for its harsh working conditions. Being a conscious shopper is a step towards having a positive impact on our environment and those working in the industry.
It Can Save You Money
This may be obvious, but simply change your current spending habits and adopt new ones. ‘’Buy less, buy better’’ is a great mantra to keep in mind.
Where does your need to buy now and send to the back of the wardrobe next week come from? Clever marketing campaigns. By spending your money less frequently and more selectively you can set yourself up with a great capsule wardrobe of classic, timeless pieces and from time to time thoughtfully add in a splash of trend if it really makes you feel better, but be mindful of who you buy from.
DO invest in classic, timeless pieces that you love wearing again and again. A good quality, classic item will work with many pieces in your wardrobe instantly changing it's look. A slightly higher price tag for a good quality item is value for money, sustainable fabrics are far superior than the cheaper alternatives, so your outfit will last longer for that extra upfront cost.
The Healthier Option
It really is healthier. Not only for your mind, due to the feelgood factor, but for our fragile Earth, the farmers, the manufacturing workers and ultimately also for us, the end consumers.
The cheaper, on-trend clothes we've developed a passion for accumulating are typically man-made fibres such as polyester and nylon, essentially chemical compositions. What is lesser known are the potential health risks in addition to the environmental impact (for our waterways and the air we breath from manufacturing plants). The workers involved in producing these clothes have had contact with chemicals throughout production, they are not only breathed in but the skin is also exposed and can absorb these too. Eventually these chemicals will meet with our skin, which is why wash before you wear is highly recommended.
Patagonia the well known and loved outdoor sports clothing company has and continues to research the effects of micro-fibre shedding from such polyester and nylon fabrics. The full effects are yet unknown but what is clear is that with each wash these micro-fibres do end up in our waterways. At the end of an items lifecycle, whether it is left to rot in a landfill site or alternatively incinerated, it releases toxic gases into our atmosphere. Pretty rotten all round.
Every Piece of Clothing Tells A Story
Sustainable brands are calling for better supply chain transparency in a highly complicated industry. We are becoming more aware of the need to know where our clothes are coming from.
Each item of clothing has a story before it even reaches you and involves many different people. I believe that we, as consumers must be aware of this process (even at a high level) in order to understand the retail price points of clothing that is sustainable and ethically made vs a fashion fashion option.
Natural fibres need to be grown and harvested
Man-made need to be manufactured and both turned into their respective natural or chemical fibres
Fibres are sent to fabric mills and the cloth/textile is made
A designer, designs the clothes
A patternmaker produces the patterns
A cutter, cuts the cloth using the patterns
A seamstress sews the clothes together
The clothes are packaged and shipped into the stores (brick and mortar or online stores) to finally be purchased by us, the end consumers.
In the background branding, marketing and PR activities are happening to increase sales volumes
So tell me, how can a top bought for just $10 realistically support the livelihoods or every person involved in the supply chain with a fair and liveable wage regardless of the country they reside in?
You Don’t Have to be an Ethical Purist
Ok, so you’re persuaded to give it a try, great! You don’t have to make the perfect purchase. In fact, if you did try, you may have found yourself unable to make a decision, head spinning, silently screaming. Can I buy this? Is it sustainable? Is it organic? Is it vegan? Is it made in a sweatshop? Is it made locally?
I have felt like a paralysed purchaser before, simply unable to make any decision. And for a long time I also felt unable to commit to starting my small, slow-fashion brand Michelle Schulz because I was in search of the perfect unharming fabric with which to magic up my designs. Quite honestly this is not only extremely difficult to locate as a small start-up brand but also very expensive and in most cases compromises have to be made.
You don’t have to think like this to be an eco-conscious shopper (although I'm sure some would disagree). We know that the fashion industry is one of the top globally polluting industries, so any and every conscious purchase we make, helps. With baby steps and with consumers leading the way on how we wish to make more and more of our buying decisions, then our textile mills and fashion giants will have to introduce better choices, thus making our lives a little easier.
Sustainability must become an intrinsic part of the buying decision process, not just an afterthought.
Remember that none of this is our fault, we’re human and you could argue that our design (flaw) is a need for instant gratification and the intelligent targeted marketing campaigns of companies who gently led us by the hand to a buy now, buy cheap, fast fashion society.
It’s time to change. It’s important to educate our children too so that the future of fashion is greener, because this lifestyle is just not sustainable.
Be better not perfect
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with just one step”
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Edited and re-published 07/09/2018