With Black Friday behind us in a whirl of mass consumerism and the gift-giving season facing us in all its gilded glory, the idea of sustainable fashion has never been more relevant.
As a catch-all phase to describe any purchase that is made in consideration of the environment, ‘sustainable fashion’ is being used to counteract the booming fast-fashion industry across the globe.
So instead of your next-day delivery, under a tenner online purchase of a cheap top or a new jazzy formal number, shopping sustainably would aim to keep both the environment, and the workers involved in the item’s production, in mind.
An astonishing 300,000 tonnes of clothes are discarded in the UK each year making the fashion industry’s focus on fast and cheap clothes for trend-focused consumers a detrimental and sinister goal for the pursuit of profit. Toxic chemicals, mounting air miles and excessive waste work together to produce a seemingly insurmountable burden for our struggling environment.
Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. Greenpeace’s latest ‘Detox My Fashion’ campaign is part of a growing movement to change the way we shop. Their focus on the hazardous chemicals used in the production of clothes described in the campaign, and now leaching into our soils and oceans, is part of their efforts to commit international fashion organisations to more sustainable methods of production. After an investigation, the release of their “Dirty Laundry” report linked the use of hazardous chemicals to a range of brands including Nike and Adidas.
But what can you do? 5 steps to change the way you engage with fashion
1) Do you really need it?
Do you though? Do you genuinely need a new pair of polyester flares (a fabric that sheds micro-plastics that don’t biodegrade)? Maybe a rummage through your house-mate’s wardrobe will be the injection of novelty into your wardrobe you’re looking for.
2) If buying new, is the brand interested in sustainable products?
Many brands have woken up to the pressing need to change clothes production. Look for brands that specialise in organic cotton (this avoids the use of pesticides, fertilisers and excessive water) including Lucy & Yak or Weekday. Lucy & Yak take it a step further with their use of recycled plastics; see below for this lush number entirely made of plastic bottles. Or nab Patagonia’s polyester fleeces also produced from plastic bottles. Unfortunately for money-tight students, ethical fashion brands tend to sell clothes more pricey than your average ASOS number because their production process does not cut corners (like Finisterre or Thought) . But lower end brands are cottoning on. For example, be sure to check out H&M Conscious collection too; the brand uses organic and recycled materials where possible at pocket-money prices.
3) If you don’t need to purchase new, can you buy it second hand?
There has never been a better time to rummage through the rails of unwanted clothes brimming from the UK’s charity shops. With a record-high number of clothing items currently residing on our planet, there are ample opportunities to nab beautiful clothes, including the current season’s. Start with your local charity shops to garner any gems before heading to stores specialising in vintage-wear. Although often more expensive, and sometimes a little generic, these are the places to hit up if you are looking for classic brands like Levi. And if you haven’t already (where have you been!?!) download the app Depop – the perfect combination of eBay practicality and insta-aesthetic to pick-up fashion forward garments.
4) Will this product last?
Are you really going to want to wear that logo T Shirt you dropped £40 on next year? The one that shouts edgy meets urban, and hides your cul de sac roots? Source items that you can see yourself wearing a few years down the line and won’t fall apart after three quick-wash cycles.
5) And finally, have you checked the sustainability of your beauty products?
Sustainable living obviously extends beyond fashion (think reduce, reuse, recycle). While we might remember to recycle our milk bottles and take our own bags to the supermarket, often the environmental impact of our products goes unnoticed. If single-use plastic is a concern, a move to plastic-free shampoos and soap is an obvious way to go. Check out Lush’s gorgeous range that excludes nasties and comes plastic free. Swap makeup-wipes (filled with plastic fibres) with a cotton flannel and source cosmetics from brands that aim to reduce waste (think The Body Shop).