With the climate crisis clock ticking, many of us are making some lifestyle changes to reduce our environmental footprint – and that extends to our wardrobes. The fast fashion industry is not only notorious for unsafe working conditions and unfair wages, but it also contributes around 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. That’s 1.2 billion tons of CO2 gasses a year – not to mention the toxic chemical waste from the manufacturing process that contaminates waterways. The industry’s collateral damage goes beyond our water and air, as it’s estimated that a garbage truck’s worth of clothes is dumped in a landfill or burned every second.
As much as people are becoming more aware of the social and environmental concerns related to the fashion industry, it turns out that the sustainability world isn’t the easiest to navigate. For one, “sustainability” means something different to each brand. Since consumers care about buying sustainable products, we’re seeing more and more green marketing, which can be misleading and vague. For example, sustainability could mean paying garment workers fair wages to some brands. To others, it could mean using 100% organic materials. Either way, it’ll bring up the price, which brings us to the second point: cost. Exclusively buying fair-trade, organic, and sustainably sourced goods is expensive and not realistic for many of us. Luckily, that’s not the only way we can make a difference.
‘Sustainable fashion doesn’t have to mean expensive.’
Sustainability in fashion goes beyond limiting your overall consumption and buying eco-friendly goods. It’s also about extending the life cycle of our clothes, whether it be by reselling, repairing, altering, or upcycling them. Consignment stores have become super popular, and they’re changing the game. They empower both buyers and sellers by offering one-of-a-kind items at competitive rates and by giving a new home to high-quality, valuable goods. You can save garments from ending up in a landfill by shopping second-hand or vintage – where you’re guaranteed to find unique items without breaking the bank.
Fashion is still tied up in wealth and privilege since it’s what we use to present and express ourselves to the world. By releasing new designs every week and pressuring consumers to always look their best by buying the latest trends, fast fashion brands are inherently unsustainable. And they’re also controlling the narrative of what it means to be fashionable. Through mass production, luxury and fast fashion brands have created a homogenous ideal of fashion by eliminating individualistic style. They set the trends, and we follow them.
But being trendy doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got style. Wouldn’t you rather stand out in a crowd instead of blending in? By ignoring external pressures and defining our own styles, not only would we end up having customized wardrobes, but it would give us the power to disrupt the fashion industry and turn sustainability into a standard. If we were to reclaim the narrative of what it means to be fashionable, we could move away from an industry that perpetuates constant consumption towards one that embraces creativity and promotes individualistic style.