So we know that sustainability in fashion is paramount for the protection of our world's natural resources. The only question now is exactly what we humble human beings can do about it.
Ethical practice in fashion is a colossal and multi-faceted issue; one that won't be resolved overnight. And it is undeniable that major change in this area will only come about once major fashion corporations start to give a damn. Luckily, this is increasingly becoming a reality, as companies like H&M and Kering begin to take significant steps in the right direction. As individuals, though, we also have a social responsibility to change, and in order to do that, we need to make conscious choices as far as our own consumption practices are concerned.
1) Shop smart
First and foremost, there are the choices we can make when purchasing clothing. As we have learned, the vast majority of $10 t-shirts available on the market today come with much heftier price tags when it comes to their environmental cost. That said, not all cheap clothing is created equal, so if you would prefer to spend less and buy more, then it is at least worth doing your research beforehand to find out about the transparency of those companies you are buying from. Unfortunately, the general rule here is that clothing produced in a more ethical manner is almost always more costly to make and, therefore, more expensive to buy.
Undoubtedly, class issues can come into play here and many people simply cannot afford to spend exorbitant amounts of money buying luxury clothing each year. The real question, though, should not be much you spend, but instead how wisely you do so.
According to ASIC, the average Australian spends $44 per week on clothing and footwear. That's $2,288 and approximately 228 $10 t-shirts per year. Or one Acne leather jacket, depending on how you look at it. Looking at these figures though, we have no excuse to act irresponsibly with the money that we spend on clothing. Despite what consumer society might have you believe, we don't actually need that many t-shirts, nor do we need the absolute latest of everything.
Rather than treating our clothing as inherently disposable, it would be far more ethical for us to save our pennies and direct them towards a more curated selection of wardrobe basics. Furthermore, this approach will actually serve you better in the long run. Remember that cheapie top that you loved so much, which died on you after just one year of loving wear? That $10 t-shirt may seem cheaper at face value, but when you consider that the quality of raw materials used to produce it was most likely lower than those used to produce a more expensive version, it is bound to have a shorter lifespan in your closet than one of its pricier counterparts. Which brings us to the next point.
2) Take care of your clothing
With a wide array of cheap clothing constantly at our fingertips both online and in real life, it's easy to fall into the trap of treating our clothes as disposable goods. But, given that this in no way serves the greater good of our precious environment, we should all be taking steps to care for our clothing properly. That means actually reading those care labels that are so conscientiously provided for us inside every garment and, what's more, giving a damn about what they say.
When machine washing is not recommended, a simple hand wash can be just as quick and effective — not to mention, your kitchen sink will waste a whole lot less water than your industrial strength washing machine. No tumble dry? No problem. Clothes dryers actually account for a whopping 12% of all electricity use in the typical household, so we could all benefit from more frequent use of that humble clothesline. It doesn't seem that difficult does it? Buy smart, wash smart and, of course, don't succumb to the pressure of ridiculous consumption for consumption's sake. Ergo…
3) Wear your clothes and wear them often
I know that it's completely antithetical to the gospel according to Carrie Bradshaw, but you shouldn't be afraid of wearing the same thing twice. Because, let's face it, if we could all afford an Upper East Side apartment on the salary earned from one newspaper column per week, we'd probably be kicking back on an island somewhere in the Caribbean by now.
Alas, the sum of real life does not equal brunch at fancy New York restaurants every other day and, therefore, our sartorial choices should also reflect this sense of pragmatism. That's not to say you can't dress in awesome new clothing, or that you have to walk out of the house looking and feeling uninspired every day. Instead, choose a couple of key items that you really love each season and save for them. That way you will consume less and appreciate what you do buy even more.
Better still, support your local designers and create a positive culture of conscious and fashionable global citizens. Because, after all, if it's good enough for The Duchess of Cambridge, then who says it's not good enough for us? Kate Middleton may be royalty — and not like the fashion kind, but you know, the old school monarchy kind — yet she is frequently sighted wearing the same pair of boots or item of clothing in public. She has even been known to share pieces with her sister Pippa. This is awesome because it is just so real. The fact is that many celebrities and fashion folk are either gifted or borrow most of the designer wares that we see them wearing. Just like them, you don't need it all, but instead a few great pieces to see you through each season.
4) Donate your old clothing
This might seem like an obvious one, but the harsh reality is that a lot of us don't make the effort to actually donate our old clothing. It's precisely for this reason that such a large proportion of our discarded clothes end up in landfill all over the world, causing irreparable damage to our natural world. So, resist the urge to simply toss all of your former loved items without a second thought. Next time you do a big spring clean of your closet, take the time to bag up your unwanted clothing and drop it off at one of the great charities like St Vincent de Paul or the Salvation Army. One lady's trash really can be another lady's goldmine, so think about the lifecycle of your goods and send them to a new and happy home instead of straight into the ground.
Hell, you can even take it one step further and shop vintage yourself. It could save you approximately $2,128 dollars on that Acne leather jacket, for one that will already be nicely broken in to boot.
5) Recycle your older old clothing
OK, so that band tee you bought in Year Nine has taken a long time to let go of, but one day it had to happen, right? Now in tatters, with too many holes to count and a miscellaneous food stain or two, many of us would assume that it isn't even good enough for the average charity store and therefore just throw it away. This practice is sure to see your beloved tee end up in landfill though, which as we know by now, is the worst possible outcome.
Luckily, companies that offer textiles recycling are growing all the time and old clothes that have outlived their usefulness can now be reborn as mattress filler and all manner of other reincarnations. Some progressive companies like H&M, Puma and The North Face have now introduced policies whereby they accept worn clothing for recycling purposes and, in the case of H&M, these items don't even need to carry the brand's label. On top of this, many good charity stores also have relationships with textiles recycling companies and can accept your ancient wares on their behalf. So, all it takes is some research, a little bit of extra effort and, of course, the desire to make a difference.
It is possible not only to love both fashion and the environment, but for both of these things to coexist in harmony. Importantly, though, we all need to do our part and to think first before we tap our credit cards in exchange for that cheap top next time. Rest assured, it will be worth it in the long run.
We now have an e-store! It's where we house our favourite product from our favourite independent, local designers. Everyone from House of Cards, to Kate Sylvester, to LWB by LIFEwithBIRD to Stolen Girlfriends Club and more are in there, check it out and shop local, why don't you!
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