It’s no secret that fashion is a voracious consumer of natural resources, but did you know that the global textile industry is second only to petrochemicals in terms of its contribution to pollution and waste? In short, it takes all the good stuff and dumps the toxic trash back into the environment – and recently, it has been going at it hell-for-pleather. But you can stop it.
The profits of the fashion industry – fast fashion in particular – are predicated entirely on its popularity. At the same time, fashion is personal. More and more people are making informed choices about what they wear. Nobody wants to wear human rights violations, massive habitat loss or ecocide. It’s just not sexy. Fashion houses and retailers have done a pretty good job of greenwashing and greenshushing up to now, but the game is up. They know we know that the change we want to see starts with the change we are prepared to make. We don’t want poisoned rivers or battery-farmed labour force next to our skin. Fast fashion is bad taste.
If ever there was an industry sensitive to consumer pressure, it’s fashion. Fashion is also all about your choice. With your choices, you have the power to influence the materials and styles that become popular in the industry. You can also exercise influence over the scale of the industry by cutting out your fashion waste. The first way you can exercise this power is by choosing sustainable materials when buying clothes.
Sustainable materials are those that are produced with less impact on the environment, and which also promote ethical labour practices. The most sustainable materials include wool, cotton, bamboo, hemp, silk, and linen. By choosing clothing made from these materials, you can promote sustainable fashion and encourage more sustainable practices in the industry.
Wanted: Fashion Leaders
Another way that you as a consumer can drive the direction of fashion is by thinking differently about how much as well as how often you buy. Fast fashion manufacturers point to the demand for their goods as if they were passive in the process. Many brands in the fashion industry are recognizing the need for more sustainable practices and are adopting circular business models. These models focus on repairing, recycling, reselling, and renting items, rather than the traditional linear model of producing, consuming, and discarding.
What do you do when a fashion brand doesn’t show the kind of leadership you want? You must show them how it is done. Big Fashion tells you that their products are always centred on you and your unique desires (shortly before producing five million identical outfits for a chain of stores that are indistinguishable from one another. Feel the cognitive dissonance.) Take the fashion industry at its word and you are powerful and, at scale, your natural desire to look and feel the best you can has already curbed waste and environmental damage.
The Capsule Wardrobe
A capsule wardrobe is a collection of essential clothing items that can be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. When creating a capsule wardrobe, it’s important to consider an item’s versatility before buying it. By choosing items that can be worn in multiple ways, you reduce the need to buy new clothing and promote a more sustainable approach to fashion.
Don’t Buy from Fast Fashion Outlets
Finally, you can keep clothing in circulation longer by buying second-hand from thrift shops, charity shops, vintage shops and malls, and estate sales. This not only helps to reduce waste and the demand for new clothing production but also allows you to find unique and one-of-a-kind pieces that can add character to your wardrobe.
By making conscious and sustainable choices in your fashion purchases, you can play a significant role in driving the direction of fashion towards more sustainable and ethical practices. The good news is that awareness of the problems of the fashion – especially the fast fashion – industry, this has already begun.