Is sustainability fashionable?
February 4, 2021
According to Insider, the fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions, to say nothing of its water use and exploitative labour practices; fashion brands are often found guilty of “greenwashing” by using buzzwords like “organic” and “natural” in order to reap the market benefits of an unprovable eco-consciousness.
I love fashion — it has been a big part of my life ever since I was young, and my mother would stop me from dressing myself because I would clash different colours and patterns. Since then, I have evolved into someone passionate about breaking boundaries and exploring the depths of my interests.
As I grew older, I became increasingly aware of the detrimental effects humans can have on the planet, and I found some very worrying statistics, like the ones above.
My passions had come to a clash; I started to question the true sustainability of the fashion industry. What could I do as one of 7 billion people in the world? Where should I begin? How should I begin?
I set aside some time to research what regular Joes like you and me could do in order to look and feel fashionable in the most sustainable way possible. This can be separated into two different categories, which I like to call the Marie Kondo Awakening and the Rise of the YouTube Helpdesk.
Firstly there’s Marie Kondo Awakening. As many of you are aware, last year, Japanese organization consultant Marie Kondo released the series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, which gained international attention with the famous sentence: “Does this [clothing] item spark joy?”. If it didn’t, Kondo encouraged viewers to donate those items. Ever since, the number of people selling and donating items of clothing that don’t spark joy has increased immensely.
Today magazine explains that Goodwill stores across Maryland have seen a 42% increase in donations since the 1st of January last year (around the same time the Kondo began gaining attention). Bank Vogue 2019 claims that, “compared to the year 2000, the average consumer today buys 6% more clothing, yet keeps those items for half as long, and most of these textiles are taken to the landfills, whereby it only adds to pollution levels.” By donating and selling clothes you don’t need, you are both doing your part to help create a circular economy (economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources), and help those in need. Here are some things to consider when exploring Kondo’s method according to The Lifestyle Files:
- Keeping selling options local to reduce environmental costs of shipping across the world (even better if you donate to immediate family or friends)
- Taking the time to find the best charity to donate to, and if need be, try an animal shelter. Although not the ideal option, they are always in need of old textiles or worn-out bedding and towels.
- If you wouldn’t give it to your best friend or buy it yourself, don’t donate it. The act of donating clothes is intimate, and you would want the person on the receiving side to receive something of good quality and that would bring them as much happiness as it gave you. Additionally, fast fashion items are not the best candidates for reuse or reselling. From this, I encourage you to do your best to stop buying from fast fashion shops, as they are the worst members (ethically speaking) of the fashion industry.
Keeping this in mind, I recommend going through your closet and singling out the things you no longer need, for a better future not only for yourself but for those that need it more.
The second phenomenon is the Rise of the YouTube Helpdesk. As the topic of sustainable fashion became relevant in the past few years, YouTubers such as Ashley aka bestdressed have encouraged their viewers to convert to sustainable fashion. Through a quick YouTube search, lots of videos can be found explaining the ethics of different brands, as well as how to skillfully repurpose and fix older items of clothing. JENeration DIY is another YouTuber that dedicates a good portion of their account for thrift flips and how to make clothes you’re no longer into something new and better.
What’s great about YouTube is that it is free, easily available as long as you have WiFi, and has millions of options to fit you best. If you for some reason feel heavily connected to an old item and can’t let go, I highly recommend investigating the depths of repurposing for drink coasters, tote bags, or whatever it may be, through YouTube.
This brings me to another issue, which is the criticism of those who can only buy fast fashion as it is the most affordable. Unfortunately, often in social media, I have seen that with the growth of thrift shopping, comes the criticism of those who focus solely on the money aspect. In my perfect world, all clothing is sustainable and cheap; however, today’s society prioritises economic growth at the expense of sustainability, and cheap fast fashion happens to be very sought after. As mentioned before, many brands may claim to be sustainable without any evidence, so I would recommend definitely doing your own background research.
Within the ISL community, we should be grateful to be offered such a well-rounded learning experience, and I firmly believe, especially as a member of the Eco Society, that we should do our best to reverse the long-implemented regime of buying from fast fashion, and switch to healthier alternatives because we can afford to do so. It is the minimum that we, as a community, should strive to do better. It seems like every couple of months or years, more and more brands are being created for the sole purpose of a better future, and I sincerely hope you all can do your research to find some near you and take action. Every little bit counts.
All in all, this article wasn’t made to call anyone out or to criticise, but rather to bring awareness to the issues at hand, and to inspire our community to make a difference in whichever way we can. Ideally, readers would follow every stage I presented. However, even if you were just to complete one of the stages and dedicate yourself to it, you would be making a huge difference and contribute to the greater good.