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9 tips to help you be more sustainably fashionable

By November 22, 2020Blog
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Fast fashion, faster environmental disaster.

As the second largest polluter across the globe, the fashion industry continues to have catastrophic effects on our environment. Not only do clothing factories contribute to 10% of carbon dioxide emissions according to the IPCC, they are also estimated to use around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually and contaminate the earth with chemical waste and microplastics which are exceptionally harmful.

The leading culprit for pollution within the fashion industry is fast fashion. What is fast fashion? It is a term used to describe clothing products that are mass produced at a low cost by a profitable business, which often replicate fashion movements and designer items. These garments are manufactured in rapid succession to keep up with the trends, and more often than not are discarded after a short period of time when they are no longer ‘fashionable’. Fast fashion has significantly altered the fashion landscape by encouraging customers to buy in excess due to the low prices and being able to distribute and produce more at an exceptionally fast rate. Whilst a percentage of the clothes are designed in the US or EU, they are frequently produced in developing countries, where regulations around pollution aren’t as strict. It has exponentially grown over the last two decades after first emerging in the early 2000’s, epitomised by brands such as Zara and H&M, and more recently Pretty Little Thing and Missguided.

Limited natural resources mean that the fashion industry has to drastically change and embrace greener methods of manufacturing in order to battle the consequences of fast fashion on our environment. Big companies that take advantage of fast fashion could primarily focus on creating longer lasting products of improved quality, reduce the use of polyester (which is a non-biodegradable fibre made from petrochemicals) and develop new methods of recycling.  

However, we can’t make these changes ourselves, nor can we go about our daily lives naked, so what are the solutions?

There are many alternatives to mitigate these problems ourselves from the comforts of our homes, the first step lies in your willingness to change perspective and take action.

As crazy as it seems, our clothing is polluting the planet. When you’re doing a load of washing, a single piece of clothing is releasing 700,000 microplastics into the water system. The majority of the time, these end up in the ocean where they will stay for hundreds of years and they will be consumed by fish and a variety of other wildlife. Unfortunately, these will likely end up being consumed by you, when you eat your dinner.

One of the most transformative substitutes is purchasing second-hand clothing, which has the potential to drastically alter the prominence of fast fashion. Second-hand clothing is reshaping the fashion industry for the better, and thrifting is becoming an ever-popular trend. And there’s nothing trendier than saving the environment! Two major categories define the second-hand clothing market, thrift and charity stores, such as Thrift+ and resale platforms, such as Depop and Facebook Marketplace. Platforms such as these that facilitate peer to peer exchanges have been particularly profitable with the younger consumers, who can find their favourite brands at an even cheaper price and have largely fuelled the recent boom of popularity in preloved items.

We spoke to a Fashion Student, who believes that thrift shopping is a huge step in the right direction to help the planet. “As more people learn about the negative effects of the fashion industry, more and more people are turning to thrifting, which has dramatically increased in popularity over the recent years. However, this huge shift towards more second-hand shopping is also making a positive impact on the environment; low prices and unique vintage finds attract people who end up helping the environment, intentionally or not.”

There is also a large community on these sites who ‘fashion flip’, a trend that has recently emerged, whereby people purchase second-hand items and alter them, for the purpose of reselling, that is particularly prevalent on platforms such as Depop, meaning not only are people not supporting fast fashion, but the reseller can also profit.

9 tips to help you be more sustainably fashionable

What can you do to fashionably help the environment?

  • Only buy what you need
  • Buy better quality
  • Mend clothes, instead of replacing them
  • Recycle clothing that cannot be mended
  • Shop with sustainable brands
  • Start thrift shopping. Charity shops have a variety of clothes, including Vintage clothing
  • Choose clothes from countries that have stricter environmental regulations like the EU/US/Canada
  • Look for clothing with organic and natural fibres that don’t require chemicals to be produced
  • Find clothing with low water consumptions, such as linen or recycled fibres

We need to rethink our shopping habits. If you don’t like that top your Aunt bought you last Christmas, don’t bin it. Take it to a charity shop, sell it on Depop or recycle it. It’s so easy to purchase clothing from low cost retailers. As students, we can both understand the habit: it’s cheap and convenient. But investing in better quality, sustainable clothing ensures they will last a lot longer than fast fashion products. 

Sustainability is the new fashion trend.

By Helen Hunt and Isabel Astill

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