Let's talk sustainable fashion

April will see a whirlwind of environmental and sustainable groups challenge the current norms and organize thousands of events and initiatives as April marks both Earth Day on the 22nd, and Fashion Revolution Week the 22nd – 28th.

With the carbon tax being implemented within Canada, dozens of countries beginning to ban single-use plastics and the push to reduce our waste, there is a major positive movement happening, but there is one industry that continues to pollute and its an industry that is harder to convince people to buy into.

Fashion.

According to reports by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, global textile production has more than doubled in the past 15 years. And typically we don’t wear our clothes enough for them to be considered sustainable, often tossing them within a couple of wears.

So what is sustainable fashion then?

It is hard to give sustainable fashion an exact definition as it encompasses terms like fair trade, ethical, slow, or organic and is meant as a way to stop the wrong in the fashion industry, like animal cruelty, environmental damage and exploitation of workers.

According to study “The values and motivations behind sustainable fashion consumption,” it was found that an average consumer focuses more on the price, quality and appearance of clothing rather than the ethics behind it, while contrastingly a sustainable fashion consumer tends to be aware of the life-cycle of a clothing item and looks beyond their purchase. For example, they ask themselves how they can reuse or dispose of the item at the end of its life whenever they go to purchase a new clothing item.

Because many of us grew up in this fast fashion and quick changing door of fashion, it is hard for us to step back and realize we don’t need our closets full of those one-time clothing items.

So how do we get to the point of needing the latest shirt trend to one where we buy one shirt that will last us many seasons instead?

Well fashion isn’t the problem per say as it gives an individual the ability to express themselves through what they wear, it’s how fashion is produced that makes it a problem. 150 billion items of clothing are delivered out of factories annually, with environments damaged and workers exploited daily.

Its a mindset

You are clearly reading this far which means you at least care a little bit about the issue. So let’s start by changing our mindset. As mentioned in the study, you want to be thinking beyond the purchase. What will happen to this piece of clothing once you are done with it.

Fashion Revolution writes:

We need to break our addiction to the need for speed and volume. We need to realise the true cost of our cheap bargains. Ultimately, we need to buy less, buy better and keep asking questions about the realities behind what we’re purchasing. We need to love the clothes we already own more and work harder to make them last.

And we think this is a positive step forward.

How can you get involved in sustainable fashion?

  1. First, stop shopping - when you go shopping your tendency is to buy something you most likely don’t need. Start off slow by perhaps not going to the mall or shopping for a month unless you really need something.

  2. When it comes time to purchase something new, look toward second-hand first. Second-hand shopping can be a challenging task as you have to physically sort through hundreds of items, but it all comes back to a self-reward. Once you find that good piece among everything else it can feel really good.

  3. Don’t get discouraged when you are looking for a new item. You might not find exactly what you are looking for the first time around when you go second-hand shopping and that is ok. Take your time and eventually you will find what you are looking for.

  4. Still can’t find what you are looking for? Look to sustainable brands first. There are dozens of sustainable brands popping up all the time. The price tag might seem steep, but again it comes back to that mindset of this item will last you much longer and will be of better quality.

  5. Mend and repair first. Often items will be left behind at a thrift store because they don’t fit right or you have a hole in your elbow sleeve which might mean it’s time to toss, but wait and assess the problem. Often a size too big or small hole can easily be mended brand new. If you aren’t big into sewing, there are seamstresses everywhere who charge reasonable rates to make clothes wearable again.

  6. Swap. Swapping with friends is the cheapest and easiest way to get a new wardrobe if you can’t commit to other sustainable changes just yet. If your friends are not your size, we have been seeing more and more clothing swaps happening in the city. Join a Facebook group and get involved. There are people out there who want your clothes.

  7. Join the conversation. As we mentioned previously, the fashion industry is one of the biggest polluters. Join groups, comment on clothing brand pages and ask how they plan to make their brand more sustainable. Open a conversation with friends and tell them about ways they can also reduce their consumption. Understanding and educating yourself and others allows for more change to happen.

If you are interested in taking part in Fashion Revolution Week this year, here are a couple of activities Fashion Revolution Winnipeg is putting on:

Fashion Revolution Gala & The True Cost Screening

Fashion Revolution at The Forks: Clothing Swap and Fashion Show

Until next time, let’s Create Simple