The Sustainable Fashion Guide | Part One
Ready? Let's go!
What is Slow Fashion?
Slow Fashion is a movement focusing on sustainability. At its core, Slow Fashion values fair treatment of people, animals and our planet. It involves consciously buying less and buying better, working towards equitable and sustainable fashion practices.
Identifying a slow fashion company
Slow Fashion should be considered as an investment. While the cost upfront may be more than that of a Fast Fashion garment, you are investing in high-quality, sustainable materials made ethically and responsibly.
Slow Fashion retailers carry few and specific styles released two to three times a year. The items are made thoughtfully using fair practices and with the Earth, as a whole, in mind.
What is fast fashion?
Although Fast Fashion and its flaws have only been brought to light within recent years, the phrase was coined over 20 years ago. The Fast Fashion industry has been negatively contributing to the environment and its inhabitants since the early 1900s. The Fast Fashion industry pumps out inexpensive and poorly made garments rapidly to provide consumers with the latest trends.
Identifying a fast-fashion company
There are a few ways to identify a Fast Fashion company. Think Zara, H&M and Top Shop. These retailers carry thousands of styles made with cheap, low-quality materials that ruin after just a few wash cycles.
These retailers do not base their "collections" around the seasons but go off the most recent celebrity and runway trends, making the turnaround time extremely short.
Their garments are manufactured offshore where labour is cheaper, wages are lower, and rights and safety are almost nonexistent.
Who and what is impacted?
How can I put this...? Literally everyone and everything. Fast Fashion has an enormous impact on our planet and its inhabitants. Let's break it down.
The pressure to keep up with ever-changing trends has raised environmental issues such as land clearing, the lack of biodiversity and poor soil quality.
The Fast Fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions. More than international flights and maritime shipping combined! (World Bank, 2019.)
12.8 tons of textiles are disposed of annually in the United States alone. (EPA, 2019.) Now imagine that on a global scale! Although second-hand stores such as GoodWill, Savers and Value Village stock many used garments, an enormous portion still ends in our landfills. Since the majority of these garments are made of synthetic material, they do no decay.
Oceans and Fresh Water
The fashion industry is the second-largest polluter of clean water globally. The use of cheap and toxic textile dyes and micro (plastic) fibres are destroying our lakes and oceans at an alarming speed.
Polyester, derived from fossil fuels, is one of the fashion industries' largest contributors to plastic in our oceans, with millions of plastic microfibres being released into our waters with every wash. (Sustain Your Style, n/a)
DID YOU KNOW: A single polyester garment is estimated to release 1,900 individual plastic microfibers! (Vox, 2019.)
Well, if not polyester, then cotton...right? Unfortunately, cotton requires ridiculous amounts of water and insecticide. Although cotton only makes up 2.4% of the world's cropland, cotton accounts for 24% of the world's insecticide. (Harmony Foundation, n/a.) These harmful chemicals wash into our waterways in millions of gallons yearly, destroying our ecosystem.
Since most Fast Fashion manufacturers are located in developing countries, the working conditions are less than ideal. Workers have been found to work in hazardous environments, with incredibly low wages and the absence of fundamental human rights. They can not afford a meal, a home, healthcare or an education. These workers are often children forced to work against their will, and because of this, the cycle continues.
There is a tremendous impact on the farmers as well. They often handle toxic chemicals with little to no protection. This takes a toll on both their physical and mental health. A large amount of pesticides is required to grow cotton alone. These harmful chemicals are inhaled by the farmers; it is on their skin, in their environment, in their water, air and soil. It is inescapable and has caused several birth defects and deaths.
Apart from the inhumane collection of animal furs and hides, which is an issue of its own, animals are impacted just as we are. Toxic dyes and microfibers released into our waterways are then ingested by animals and eventually by some of us.
Although Fast Fashion is far more inexpensive, it-does-not-last, therefore, costing you much more in the long run. But apart from the money, Fast Fashion leaves us feeling dissatisfied. It is a marketing ploy designed to make us feel like we always need more, even when we know we don't.
So what can we do?
Buying less doesn't mean not buying at all; as we go through this list, you will see that there are so many alternatives for both your wallet and the planet. But for now, challenge yourself to buy less. Really think about your purchase. Do you have something similar already? How many wears will you really get out of it? Sleep on it and remember, if you happen to cave, you can always return it, so keep those tags on!
Choosing well is equally as important as buying less. Research the brands in your closet already. Are they making positive or negative headlines? How are their materials sourced? Are they following best practices across the board? There is no doubt that shopping sustainability will cost more; workers are paid living wages, and garments are manufactured with the Earth in mind. Choosing well and buying less will help curate a wardrobe of quality and staple items.
Good On You is an amazing website that provides consumers with the information they need to shop consciously. They review and rate both well-known and lesser-known brands and base their rating on how the company impacts humans, animals and the world. I have that app on my home page and reference it often. I totally recommend checking it out if you haven't already.
Make it Last
Treat your clothes with care. You have paid for these items; why not take a few seconds and read the label? Again, this is something that took me forever to make a habit. As a teen, I washed my t-shirts with my towels. Now I separate my clothes into multiple piles, and if I have the time to wash a few delicates by hand, I will. (Granted, I don't have kids, and I'm not here to judge, just do what you can when you can!)
I am a self-proclaimed thrifting queen! I began thrifting in my teens out of necessity but have always enjoyed the thrill of the find. I have found some of my favourite pieces squished between questionable items and am so proud of them. Not every trip is a success, but I have a few tips that may help your next trip to the thrift store.
x Although they are second-hand items, try to avoid fast fashion brands altogether. Why? Because they have already seen their best days and probably don't have many left. Regardless if you are shopping new or used, shop for quality pieces.
x If it smells, put it back. I once thrifted a gorgeous burgundy crochet dress. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to rid of the mothball smell, and once I was done with it, it had lost quite a bit of colour.
x Go in with a plan and a Pinterest board. It's easy to pass up a gem when it isn't perfectly placed on a mannequin.
x Try it on! A lot of thrifted items are vintage items. A size x now may not have been the same in the 90s, 80s, 70s and on.
If you haven't worn an item in a while, why not see if a friend wants to give it a new life? I'm shamefully super protective of my clothes and, therefore, only swap with a select few (you know who you are). Round up your friends and go shopping in each other's piles. Add some wine, and we'll call it a party!
Wow, that was a long one! I'm going to leave you all with a few of the resources i'm currently working through my self. Part two is currently in the works, and we'll be covering what to look for and a few of Christens' favourite brands!