With technology advancing the way it has been, the world is running at an incredibly fast pace these days and the fashion industry is no exception. While there’s been some debate about exactly how polluting the fashion industry is, it still lands a spot on the top 10 polluting industries list and if we don’t act now, it’ll surely climb the list.
Fast fashion isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, but YOU can. If being a sustainable consumer is important to you, you have options. It’s not just about buying less or choosing organic fabrics, although those are great places to start. The best way to become a sustainable consumer is to figure out your why’s and exploring the how’s. If you incorporate sustainable shopping practices that work for you and your lifestyle, you’re not just more likely to stick with it, but enjoy it too. When you feel good about something, you share it. And in sharing your concern for sustainable action and how to tackle it, you’ll get more people on board with you, providing even more impact than you probably think you’re capable of!
Working your way towards a more sustainable wardrobe starts with one place—your mindset. Before diving into any of the following tips, ask yourself why you want to do this. Why is it important to you? How important is it to you? When you come from a sustainable mindset, decisions around building a sustainable wardrobe will come easier because you know where you stand and what you believe in. Is it about the environmental impact? The socioeconomic impact? The quality of life of those working the manufacturing process of this massive industry? If you’re just starting out with sustainable fashion, Take a moment to think about why this matters to you and then take action.
Do your research..
The internet can definitely have its drawbacks, but we’re lucky enough to live in a time where so much knowledge is at our fingertips—literally. You’ll probably have a lot of questions about what exactly makes something sustainable, so be sure to utilize your resources! If you come across a new brand when you’re out shopping and want to know if they practice sustainability, Google it! As sustainability in fashion becomes more and more important to both consumers and businesses, most brands will share how they practice sustainability on their websites. Looking to incorporate more eco-friendly fabrics into your wardrobe? Google it! Take some time to learn about what makes certain fabrics better for the planet so that you can feel more confident in your choices when checking fabrication on garment tags.
Invest in staples..
Let’s face it, fast fashion is everywhere. And while it might feel fun in the moment to grab the next trend, don’t forget about your staples! You know, those anchor pieces of your wardrobe that won’t go out of style in just a matter of months—popular trends that are mass manufactured are often short-lived, encouraging people to ditch what they just purchased and hop onto the next trend as soon as it comes out, usually just weeks later. In fact, the fashion industry has moved from two major seasons (Spring/Summer & Fall/Winter) to 52 micro-seasons, spitting out new styles before you’ve even gotten a chance to enjoy the last! Investing in staples is one of the best ways you can make sure your purchase doesn't just eventually go to waste. Given the classic nature of wardrobe staples, you'll grab them time and time again since they go with just about anything and can take you throughout each season without going out of style.
Go for quality..
We’ve all heard the phrase “quality over quantity” and this definitely comes into play when it comes to sustainable fashion. In order to help reduce our carbon footprint, buying better quality means less pieces that don’t last and end up in our landfills. It can be tempting to grab that $12 blouse given the fact that it might feel like an absolute steal, but is it really? Think about how long it's going to last if it's cheaply made. It may just be $12 now, but how soon will you have to replace it with yet another steal? The more often you have to replace clothing that isn't designed or made to last, the more you'll actually end up spending. So try to go for quality and spend a little extra for something that will have longer life in your wardrobe.
Repair your favorites..
Most of us have certain pieces in our wardrobes that we’re absolutely in love with, so after so much wear & tear, it pains us to let go of them when they seem to have exhausted their stay. When I think of my wardrobe favorites, one particular jacket immediately comes to mind—a deep plum satin and velvet Chinese-inspired jacket I bought on my first trip to the Big Apple. It was 2005 and I was a 17yr old fashion-obsessed teen when I made the memorable purchase, and till this day, I refuse to let it go. So instead of throwing it out, I repair it when needed. This allows me to lessen my carbon footprint since I'm not just tossing it in the trash AND keep something that still sparks joy—who else loves Marie Kondo??
Another way you can build a more sustainable wardrobe is by thrifting! While many people love the thrill of scoring a magnificent and unique vintage treasure, buying used may not sound the most appealing to others. If it’s something you’re up for, shopping vintage means giving new life to old styles and these little treasures won’t end up in our landfills. The upside to thrifting? In a world where mass manufacturing leads to a lot of the same everywhere, you can stand out in something no one else has!
Host a clothing swap..
Have some styles in your wardrobe you’ve loved but are ready to let go of? Why not have some fun in the process? It’s likely that many of the fashionistas in your life feel the same way about some of their wardrobe favorites, so why not trade? Host a clothing swap for you and your friends, family or even co-workers! It’s simple—everyone grabs pieces from their closets that no longer serve them, and instead of tossing them, they bring it to a hosted get-together where they can check out other pieces someone else is looking to get rid of and make some fun swaps. Ever see a friend on a jacket you’re completely obsessed with but aren’t able to find one for yourself or simply don’t want to be a “copycat?” Maybe she’s outgrown it and it needs a new home. Your closet can house this oldie but goodie, giving it new life and purpose. Oh and wine! Lots and lots of wine makes this activity even more fun.
Donate old clothes..
If you’ve hosted a fashion swap and still find yourself with clothing in need of a new home, donate it! Saving them from landfill, simply bag them up and make a drop-off at your local thrift store to make way for vintage shoppers to save the day. Want to make it even more meaningful? Ask yourself if there’s a nearby shelter that could use the donation or if you know anyone personally that could use the help! What my family likes to do is put aside clothing we no longer use or need for family and friends from my dad’s hometown in the Philippines. Once we’ve got a good amount, these pieces are either taken with us on yearly trips to the Philippines or shipped their way! I remember one time when I was visiting the islands, I spotted a young girl on the street my dad grew up on who was wearing a t-shirt I loved as a child. I can’t tell you how happy it made to see another young girl enjoying and giving this little ol’ t-shirt new life. Things don’t have to be disposable. They can carry meaning if you help them.
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*cover photo credit: Pinterest