The A-Z of Sustainable Fashion (Part 1)

July 3, 2018
The A-Z of Sustainable Fashion (Part 1)

I expect, after clicking on this post, you’re expecting a comprehensive list of all things sustainable fashion. And you might well get that but, the thing is, I don’t really know. I mean, it sounds like a great idea; I’d defo read it. But I just flat out haven’t sat down with the alphabet scrawled out in front of me and planned it I’m afraid. What I’ve actually done is sat in my office chair, typed the title and started writing. Why? 1. Because I felt like setting myself a nice writing challenge on a sunny afternoon and 2. I’m going to be plagued by my landlords showing people round my flat all afternoon and anything to ignore them, TBH. 

I’m not saying it won’t be a holistic, life-changing, map of how to do sustainable fashion but I’m not saying it will be either. You know as much as I do at this point. Shall we get started and see where we get? OK, let’s dive in then.

A – Always shop your own wardrobe first. Sure, ASOS might have a nice pink dress or a collab with fucking… Drake or something (I don’t know, I’m deeply uncool) but I bet you’ve got something in your wardrobe that’s already perfect for the occasion. And if you don’t? Onto B…

B – Buy second hand. My ultimate rule is Second Hand First. Instead of buying new and propping up fashion’s more, more, more business model, see what’s already out there. It diverts clothes from landfill or from flooding (mostly) African markets and decimating local industries. You’ll extend the life of clothes that already exist and probably save some money too.

C – OK. First viewing done and I’m already stuck at C. Halp. How about: Create a wardrobe that works for you. Fuck trends and feeling like you need to buy something to fit in. Look where that gets us. If I see another off the shoulder frill top, I’m literally (not literally) going to die and I imagine when Trump inevitably kicks off the beginning of the end of the world, there will be enough of them in landfill to build one hammock each for the millions of us who are displaced. You don’t need the latest thing that everyone has. Build your own vibe, it’s probably better anyway.

C (part two) – Actually I’ve just thought of a much better one: Check the label. Where is it made? What is it made of? Are there any certifications on there? Do some research and start to get to know what labels really mean. The more you know, the more a label can tell you about the manufacture of a garment.

D – Delete your shopping apps. Do it right now. Honestly. They sit there, a magnet for idle thumbs, just willing you to buy stuff. If you must, replace it with a bonus D (lol) – Depop. You can still get your scrolling fix but it’s second hand instead.

E – Enlist a friend. Or five. If you surround yourself with people who care about sustainable fashion as much as you do, the whole thing will be a lot easier. If your mates are dragging you around Primark every Saturday, temptation is never far away.

F – Fuck fast fashion. Really, truly. It’s damaging and inherently unsustainable and illegal, immoral practices lurk within it. People suffer, the planet suffers. Just fuck it. If the cost is the draw for you, see A, B and D.

G – Google it. Or Ask Jeeves if you’re my boyfriend’s stepdad. Doesn’t matter what the search engine is. What does matter is that there are scores upon scores of brands out there who are shouting about how angelic they are; that their garment workers are sprinkled with fairy dust each morning and carried on velvet cushions to their machines before being spoon fed Biscoff spread at 15 minute intervals; that their dyeing processes are reversing global warming and that their cotton is sorting Brexit out. Sometimes, these brands are doing good things but often they’re not. Step outside of brands’ carefully crafted narratives and do your own research. You’ll be surprised.

H – Hold brands to account. Brands would love it – 100% Kevin Keegan-style love it – if you and me and every other consumer out there took the blame for the negative impact fashion has. They’ll sit there, probably around a huge table next to a roaring fire situated within a sprawling underground bunker, rubbing their hands together saying ‘Can you believe we’re getting away with this?!’ unless we hold them to account. The small changes we can make as individuals are dwarfed by the sweeping, systemic changes brands can make to transform the landscape of the industry. Call them out and don’t let them off the hook.

I – Innovate. Innovate your style. Rip things up and sew them back together. Style things differently. Wear things back to front, inside out and upside down. Use what you have and give your existing wardrobe longevity.

J – Join Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. I mean, obviously we’re all already on there, pouring every last bit of our essence into the ether in the hope that someone, somewhere will double tap it. But I mean do it with a purpose. I’ve specifically tailored my Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so that they’re full of like-minded people who swap tips, encourage and cheer lead. Yes it’s an echo chamber and yes, I love it. I’ve found ethical brands existing kindly within the world, organisations working hard to stop environmental damage and campaigners throwing their weight behind garment workers’ rights. Doing fashion sustainably is infinitely easier with a network of people to call upon for advice and inspiration.

K – Keep your clothes for longer. As I’ve previously posted, “if we were to extend the average life of clothes by three months (per item), we’d benefit from a 5-10% reduction in carbon, water and waste footprints. Extend it to nine months and those figures increase to 20-30%. In terms of tasks, simply wearing your own clothes couldn’t be any easier yet the benefits are tangible”.

L – Line dry. Tumble drying your clothes after washing them increases the carbon footprint fourfold. Just stick them on a clothes horse and forget about them while you cry at Queer Eye.

M – Maybe spend more if you can. Maybe. IF you can afford it – IF, IF, IF – then consider spending a bit more on your clothes. Seek out labels that pay their garment workers fairly, set themselves and their suppliers rigorous environmental standards and are responsible with their fabric choices. If you want to know why sustainable, ethical fashion costs more, read this. And if you can’t afford to spend more? Don’t. We’re not all in a privileged position and I’m not here to make you feel guilty. 

We made it half way! How was it? Enlightening? Just OK? Well, it got me through the first viewing which lasted approximately three minutes and no one else has turned up since despite my landlord telling me to block out three.shitting.hours. I’ll do the second half next week when I’ll be subjected to more people poking round my kitchen cupboards but until then, give me your A-M suggestions in the comments pls. 

Read part 2 here.

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