Every year, millions of tonnes worth of clothes are produced, used and discarded. We are in an age where fashion trends are changing every season and social media influencers are promoting a certain lifestyle aesthetic. Keeping up appearances comes at a massive cost and fast fashion has officially reached its threshold, causing immense harm to both the environment and humanity. Thankfully, slow fashion is on the rise and people are becoming more conscious and purposeful with their purchases.
The fashion industry actively contributed to global warming through greenhouse gas emissions. Some of the most commonly used fabrics, including polyester, nylon and acrylic are made of fossil fuels that require significantly more energy in the production process compared to natural or recycled alternatives. So check your labels! As materials such as linen, organic cotton, tencel and hemp are both biodegradable and require less energy and water to produce. Moreover, there are even more weird yet wonderful materials that sustainable brands are pioneering. From coats made of recycled plastic bottles to vegan shoes made from cactus, mango or pineapples, there are a plethora of new and imaginative ways to become more sustainably conscious.
Secondly, sustainable fashion says no to modern salvery. People working in the fast fashion garment industry are subject to pay as low as 2 cents a piece, inhumane hours of up to 70 hours a week, unsafe working conditions and the denial of union rights. Moreover, a devastating 170 million are exploited in child labour to satiate the escalating fashion demands in the west. We must educate ourselves on what really goes on behind the scenes of the pair of jeans we bought last week or the sweater we got on discount. Brands that truly care about sustainability make it apparent and are transparent about workers rights, conditions and their production process.
Higher prices come hand in hand with being a sustainable shopper. It is incompatible to advocate for all of the above and still want to buy a t-shirt for a tenner. Having said that, just because something is expensive doesn't necessarily mean it’s sustainable. And whilst it may be easier for some people to spend that extra bit of cash, our wardrobes should be seen as more of an investment. It can be more cost efficient to purposefully buy a more pricey piece and keep it for years as opposed to succumbing to the cycle of buying every new seasonal trending piece we see in our feeds.
Whilst being a conscious consumer is primary, there are alternatives that don’t even require you to spend a penny. Slow fashion can be accessible and attainable. Upcycle your clothes, turn something old and worn out into something new and exciting. This means no impact on the environment as new materials are not required and old materials do not end up in landfill sites. If you are looking for something new, another alternative would be to do a clothes swap. There are various apps and shops out there that bring ease to this transactional process, acquiring you a whole new wardrobe and removing the clutter too. And lastly, try to build yourself a capsule wardrobe; an idea embodying minimalism to last a lifetime. A simple yet versatile collection of clothing focused on interchangeable items to maximise the number of outfit combinations suitable for any occasion.
I urge you all to ask yourselves whether you really need that new item and if you do, how much wear will you actually get out of it? Question your purchase behaviours and recognise the implications of unsustainable consumerism in order to become a more eco-conscious shopper.