Who among us doesn’t know that the clock is ticking?
The climate crisis is a phenomenon almost universally acknowledged by today’s consumer. Many people want to make a difference, but don’t know where to begin. The definition of sustainable fashion can be a frustrating, abstract concept, and for someone thinking of the planet when looking for a new outfit, it can be downright daunting. With so many different large outlets all claiming to offer sustainable fashion, how can the current sustainability crisis be tackled, before it’s too late?
Reducing Unnecessary Purchases
The issue of waste is inflamed by our fast, online world. With new digital trends cropping up every few days on TikTok or Instagram, fashion went from seasonal, to changing on almost a weekly basis. A social media savvy socialite might buy an entire outfit to film one 12 second video, and not ever wear it again. Keeping fashion fun but Earth-first is a priority, so people can love how they look without the knock-on effects. We hope to change the online conversation towards reusing and repeat-wearing the clothes people already own, and reinventing old trends from your wardrobe rather than clearing it out for new ones. If people are aware of how dire the situation is, they will be more willing to effect positive change now.
Too many players in the fashion industry can’t seem to agree on what sustainability actually means in concrete, actionable terms. Oftentimes, when you buy a jacket or bag marked “sustainable”, there is no requirement for that claim to actually justify itself. With no “official” regulatory board, companies are able to set their own, convenient definitions of sustainability. This often enables them to exaggerate small token environmental gestures far beyond their actual positive impact. Various certification projects do exist, where a company can voluntarily apply to be recognised as operating in a sustainable way. Companies who sought out B Corporation status, one such certification, have made active and genuine efforts to signal to the consumer “we are sustainable”. However, while doing good work, certification such as B Corp or OEKO TEX, a fabric sustainability credential, are still voluntary, which means companies not certified can continue to churn out polluting fashion and face no tangible repercussions for false claims of sustainability.
Finding a universal, agreed upon, way to say “this is sustainable” and “this is not” that the average consumer instantly understands is an urgent requirement for the industry. Without a clear, good faith, and potentially legally binding definition of sustainability, the buying power of well-meaning consumers might be wasted, and the positive impact they could have had will be undermined when it would have mattered most.
Mainstreaming Positive Changes
Change needs to come from both sides, consumer and industry. Suppliers play a huge role, and they too need to lead by example. Fashion is all about trends, and if a sustainable new fabric can be brought to market, the industry will be more likely to adopt it as the availability increases. Natural fibres derived from crop harvests such as Piñatex, spun from otherwise wasted pineapple leaves, make for an ideal tough fabric for sustainable shoes and clothing. Forbes also recently reported on a number of new fibres being developed from recycled origins, such as Infinna™ and Circulose®, hoping to put end-of-life fabric and agri-waste to good use. Mainstreaming waste-reducing and sustainable fabric is a big step in the right direction for suppliers.
The best changemaking solution for consumers is to highlight better business practices, and real sustainability. Consider the meaning of the word sustainable; where production and consumption can be maintained in a balance with the environment and supply of materials. Start by identifying products that have net neutral or net negative carbon emissions, and choose them over the more polluting option. Focus your fabric choices on recycled and recyclable options, and on organic, plant based fibres. Choose cruelty-free, vegan clothing options, with naturally grown leather alternatives, as opposed to less sustainable synthetic substitutes.
Once you have identified the positive changes you can make in sustainability, champion them in your day-to-day life, and lead by example. Don’t be afraid to be seen wearing the same outfit multiple times - do it with pride! Some high quality vegan shoes could be your go-to pair for a decade before wearing out, as opposed to the endless mill of buy-break-replace that non-sustainable products mandate. And if you do eventually get tired of your look, consider rehoming your outfit with a friend or re-selling it on the vintage market, rather than throwing it away. Pre-loved is the new ‘new’, and helps extend the life cycle of clothes far beyond the toxic fast fashion cycle.
The sustainability crisis isn’t going to get better on its own, but if enough consumers go the extra mile to reconsider and research before hitting buy on a new bag, jacket or shoe, there is a real chance for things to be improved. Choosing clothes with a conscience and planning purchases based on need instead of want will lead to a better climate both in the fashion world, and on planet earth.