Sustainable fashion is an important topic for many people these days. It's also something that we all need to think about when buying clothes. The good news is that there are lots of options available to us, and most of them are pretty easy to implement.
How Can We Start Making Changes Today?
There are several ways that we can make our clothing choices more sustainable. First, we should buy less. This means choosing fewer items, and only purchasing what we really need. Second, we should choose clothes made with better materials. Third, we should avoid fast fashion companies. Finally, we should support local businesses whenever possible.
Let’s dissect this initial point, to buy less. It’s time for a reality check on fashion. Shopping for new clothing used to be an occasional event, something that happened when we outgrew what we had. But something changed about 20 years ago, shopping became a hobby. While we may have been trained over that time that buying less stuff is a negative, research shows that owning only what really matters to us can significantly reduce stress & anxiety, and couldn’t we all use a little of that right now? A recent study on capsule wardrobes (a rotation of versatile basics that dresses you for an entire season) by the International Journal of Market Research had promising results, showing “a positive impact of a 3-week capsule wardrobe on our participants who felt less stressed, detached from fashion trends, have found joy in their fashion style, and enhanced their awareness of conscious consumption.” Only owning the clothes that you really love means less decision fatigue, an organised closet with pieces easily found, a clearer mind and more $$ in your pocket for when that next special piece comes along. For the planet this means less fast fashion going into a landfill and more quality goods circulating in the economy.
When we need to buy occasion pieces like a beautiful gown or bridesmaid dresses, while we might choose to keep them, we also might recognize how easy it can be to recirculate special occasion fashion back into the circular economy for others who will also likely only need to wear them once or twice! Don’t let special pieces collect dust! Give them new life!
Second, let’s choose clothes made with more sustainable materials. What makes a material sustainable you may ask? According to Rutgers, “Sustainable materials are materials used throughout our consumer and industrial economy that can be produced in required volumes without depleting non-renewable resources and without disrupting the established steady-state equilibrium of the environment and key natural resource systems.” Basically, materials that take less from the earth and can easily go back into it as well. Plants that grow naturally, metals that recycle indefinitely or natural fibres that can be recycled and degrade quickly once disposed of are all good examples.
So what are some of the most sustainable fabrics and how can we source them?
- Plant Leather - These leathers—the most common being Pineapple (Pinatex) and Apple Leather—are created using discarded byproducts of the respective fruit, facilitating an additional income stream for harvesters and reducing food waste, all while using less plastic based materials that are common to vegan leather goods.
- Organic Cotton - Organic cotton is safer for farmers to grow and it won’t damage the soil. A lot of organic cotton farms even use rainwater to feed their crop which saves a lot of water! Source your next pair of organic cotton underwear and we believe you’ll be converted for life.
- Linen - Linen is made from flax plant fibres and can fully biodegrade if left untreated (dyed). Flax is resilient and can grow with very little water, plus all parts of a flax plant can be used to make different products (such as linseed oil). Luckily, Australian linen clothing is getting easier to find all the time.
- Hemp - Hemp is pretty much a wonder-plant that can be used to create everything from face oils to the fabric. Hemp is fast growing and is ready to harvest at twice the speed of cotton. Plus, it requires a lot less water and due to the crop’s density, there is no need to use pesticides.
- Cork - Unlike most natural sources, a cork oak tree is not cut down in order to harvest the cork. Plus, each time the cork is harvested, the tree absorbs more CO2 to aid in the bark’s regeneration process. Regularly harvested cork trees store three to five times more CO2 than those left unharvested and help to keep our air clean.
Thirdly, let’s avoid fast fashion companies shall we? Buying cheap trends that are made to wear only a few times is becoming highly out of fashion thank goodness. These companies produce cheap clothes at high volumes, often using sweatshop labour. This means that these companies are not sustainable and have a huge human cost to boot, no pun intended. Thankfully it’s becoming easier than ever to find ethical clothing in Australia.
Additionally, beware of big brands beginning to greenwash their messaging to stay up to date with these positive trends. You likely see more recycling schemes and green propaganda to make consumers feel better about their purchase while only contributing to about 0.1% of any actual recycled textile fabric and likely not changing any worker environments. It’s tricky at first, but worth it to educate yourself about what’s going onto your beautiful body!
Lastly, let’s get local. Locally made goods means less shipping, more value going into your community and typically a lot more transparency & meaning behind the products you're buying. It’s much harder to disguise poor working conditions and criminally low wages closer to home and without complicated invisible supply chains that are ubiquitous with big brand fast fashion names. The future of clothing is already here, let’s push it forward together! Start here with us.