Sustainability and Fashion – Can They Co-Exist?

sustainability and fashion

Lately, I’ve been very conscious and worried regarding the environment and the crisis that is going through and I couldn’t ignore it. That’s why after a lot of research, trial and error I decided to make some little changes in my everyday life in order to be more sustainable. Replaced my regular toothbrush with a bamboo one, bought stainless steel straws and a reusable bottle, tried bar soaps instead of the liquid ones and generally aimed to reduce my everyday waste and all the plastic packaging that is literally everywhere.

“Big deal Kate”, you might say. To some of you, this change might seem very small and insignificant, but these little steps even though they might not have a huge impact are only the beginning of my transition to a more sustainable way of living.

So what happens with sustainability and fashion? I can’t be sustainable if I ignore that section of my life, right? But on the other hand, what will I do without all of my favorite clothes? And this is where my “transition” to a more sustainable way of life started to get tricky.

sustainability and fashion

But, let’s start with the basics.

  • What do we mean by the word “sustainability”? In general, “sustainability” is the ability to continue a certain action on a long term basis. When it comes to the environment, it is the ability to maintain practices that will contribute to the quality of the environment indefinitely.  When it comes to the economy and society is a system that provides a good quality of life and supports a defined level of economic production for a long time.

The next step is to ask ourselves

  • Why do we need to be sustainable? Well, I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. What is considered one of the most urgent problems in the world today? You guessed well. The extreme and -in the eyes of some pessimists- unreversed pollution of the environment. Without good quality air, clean water, and enough food, living creatures don’t have a chance of surviving.

You understand how that affects us right? We are the living creatures among many others that we have to share this planet with. And if we want to face the facts we are the ones responsible for the harm of our planet and the danger we put the environment and everyone in it, so we have to take action and reverse that situation if we want us and the next generations to have a chance of living a good quality of life.

So, now that we covered the “what” and”why” the only question remaining is “how?”.

(I want to add a little *disclaimer* here. Since this is a fashion related post I will not go into huge detail regarding sustainable practices of our everyday lives, but I will dive into the ways fashion can be less harmful and maybe in the future, not at all bad for the environment.)

Sustainability and Fashion – Can They Go Together?

Did you know that the fashion industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world along with agriculture and oil? So, can we be sustainable while wearing clothes? The answer is not 100%. Actually, the most sustainable way is being naked, but that’s out of the question for now. However, if you don’t want to partake in practices that harm the environment, but also exploit the working people (more on that in another post), there are some ways that you can do that.

camel coat looks1. Avoid trendy items that last one season

I know it’s tempting to dive into the new trends you see on Instagram, especially if they’re styled in a cool way. Before you do that think well if you will actually wear it. In most situations, the answer will be once or twice, so it’s definitely not worth it. Instead, it’s wiser to invest in classic pieces that will last forever. It benefits both your pocket and the environment. If you’re not new to this blog, you may have already read posts about how buying timeless pieces can save you a lot of money and also make you look stylish and put together, season after season. For example, last year I invested in a wool camel coat and I haven’t regretted it even a bit. I know it will last over time and will never be out of style.

2. Quality over Quantity

Buying less, but of better quality clothes might cost you a little more, than purchasing cheap fast-fashion ones, but it will worth it in the long term. A cheap, bad quality garment will last only a few wears after it’s shredded to pieces, whereas one of a better quality be in your closet much longer. It costs more, but you will only need one. Having fewer quality items instead of many bad quality ones is much better and will reduce your carbon footprint as well.

3. Support sustainable and ethical brands

Fast fashion is popular among consumers exactly because is fast and affordable. Items last one season and you can easily end un with a crapy wardrobe that needs to be renewed for the next season. However, the rise of more and more brands that promote transparency and friendly to the environment ways makes it so easy to get a hold of ethical and ecologically conscious made items. Some wildly popular among the fashion enthusiasts are  Reformation,  Stella McCartney, Everlane and Simon Miller.

4. Shop and wear vintage

Buy more second-hand clothes and accessories. This is a way to have in your possession a unique piece, but you also partake in extending the life cycle of a garment. This responsible and mindful way of succumbing in fashion will also benefit your wallet since you are paying less from the original price of an item. There are zero emissions, waisted water, or unethical labor involved in making a used piece since it already exists. See? Sustainability is mostly about being smart. 😉

fabrics and sustainability5. Choose your fabrics wisely

One of the biggest issues that are still in the way is garments that are made out of blended fabrics. There has been a way into recycling clothes, but not the ones that are made by combining two or more different fibers. And that is because there isn’t the capability of dividing these fibers down again. The best way to produce clothes is by making them out of one single material. Then it’s easier to recycle those materials and even decompose them. Opt for fabrics like hemp, linen, organic cotton, silk and textile made out of bamboo.

6. Take proper care of your clothes

It may sound a little obvious, but it is important. Wash your clothes at lower temperatures than you are used to, flip them inside out, or clean them by hand. Of course, if you are buying better quality clothes they will most likely last longer, but with proper care, even the ones of lesser quality will not have to be replaced that often.

repair your clothes7. Repair (or find a good tailor)

A few years back, our grandmothers had so much less and didn’t throw away anything. Instead, they tried to repair it or find a new use of something that has been destroyed. Next time you will find a little hole on a t-shirt grab a needle and thread. It’s not hard at all. Otherwise, seek the help of a professional. Don’t find it as an excuse to buy something new.

8. Donate, sell or swap

When you are bored of an item, don’t throw it away or forget it in the back of your closet forever. You can either donate for a good cause, sell it if it is in a great condition or a designer piece that others want to get a hold on, or either call your friends over and swap your unwanted clothes. What’s more sustainable than upcycling old clothes giving them a new life?

…well, not buying new clothes at all, but you get the point.

In order to reduce the impact fashion has on the environment it’s essential to understand the life cycle of an item. That starts with the sourcing of the materials, the labor put into it and the disposal of it at the end. The silver lining is that sustainability and fashion can co-exist if we become more aware of what we as consumers decide to invest in.

Let’s not forget,

Sustainability in fashion is not the trend of the season. It’s a necessity.

 

I’m really interested in hearing your opinions on this matter so this is my question of the day:

What is your number one tip on being more sustainable when it comes to fashion? Feel free to tell me in the comment section below.

kate

 

 

 

14 Replies to “Sustainability and Fashion – Can They Co-Exist?”

  1. Great and educative article on sustainability and Fashion, according to your post, sustainability is the ability to continue a certain action on a long term basis. I have to buy wears that are not exorbitant, fast fashion is popular among consumers exactly because is fast and affordable, with all the procedures to follow, I appreciate your effort in writing this helpful article.

    1. Hi June,
      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I  totally agree that fashion has a big role in the sustainability of the environment. It’s nice though the number of ways to help through re using or donating your clothes when you no longer want them, as well as many other ways that were mentioned such as using high quality which will last longer. Is it even possible to actually recycle the fabric or material and reusing it for something else ? I  guess if the material is as natural as possible, this would be good because, without any additional chemicals, it could decompose naturally back into the earth ?  Those are all great ways to help the environment and keep the fashion or look you want. 

    1. Hello Justine,
      Fashion plays a huge role in the pollution of the environment around us, so it’s is very important to do everything we can, to limit that. Yes, we can recycle clothes into other items or decompose them entirely. I’m glad you liked the post!

  3. That was a great read, Kate.

    We live in a throw-away society and don’t often think of the consequences of our actions. It’s easy just to throw something out and let someone else worry about it.

    We need to try and stop waste by not creating it in the first place. By buying things that we don’t necessarily need.

    You have offered some great advice and how to live as sustainably as possible.

    Thanks

    Lydia

    1. Hello Lydia,
      I 100% agree with you.
      Thank you for stopping by! 🙂

  4. Thank you very much I think that you have made a great point about sustainability. If we each do our part and reducing consumption then it adds up and has a big effect on the world.

    that’s very interesting what you said about how the clothing industry cannot be 100% sustainable and the most sustainable thing would be actually to not use clothes at all. Of course I can see how in society that wouldn’t become possible anytime soon. But at the same time you could see how the invention of Shame has turned around and infected the environment.

    swapping clothes actually sounds like a really cool idea. Of course I like the idea of taking good care of your clothes and continuing to use them instead of just buying new ones. And supporting sustainable brands who are trying to be as sustainable as possible.

    I don’t really have any more tips besides what you already said so I will just say I appreciate your article and great website.

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for your detailed feedback. It really means a lot!

  5. I love your posts and how it speaks about to keep our environment healthy. We all want to look good. I have a friend that love ordinary dresses except for the designers. He buys them a lot and hardly wears them twice. Mist people are like this. Well, I feel the interrelationship between sustainability and fashion is clearly intertwined and one can sustain the environment by following concisely the tips you have aptly laid out. This is a good post and I’ll make sure to put the things you’ve mentioned in mind especially about getting a good tailor.

    1. Hi dear Henderson,
      Glad you liked and agreed with this post!

  6. Hi,

    I found your post very interesting and good in order to take some steps forward to real sustainability.

    It’s right, if one buys high-quality classic clothes, they will last longer and be of good use in comparison to the all the stuff you mentioned.

    Theres a little story to it: a worker in the early 20th century couldn’t afford to buy really good shoes due to his salary, and that’s the reason why he had to buy low-quality shoes every year, which is not satisfying at all.

    This makes it clear to me that doing own research on how to live sustainability is and should be a duty to all grown-up men and women.

    Have a nice day,

    Fabiana

    1. Hello Fabiana,
      Exactly, it’s our duty to live a sustainable life, because we only have one planet.

  7. Wow! I do appreciate articles like this. Yes, sustainability and fashion can co-exist; while that’s my believe there are lot of people who don’t see it from my own point of view. Like the popular saying “Less is more” I’ve never been a fan of trendy items, because you will have to keep buying to keep up with the trend. I’d rather spend my money on other things.

    Prior to this time, I’d never thought of how fashion affect our natural environment. Thanks for taking time to write on this Kate.

    Regards!

    1. Hello Brigitte,
      So nice to see there are many like-minded people out there!

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