A Beginners Guide to Sustainable Fashion


18 months ago  |  5 Minute(s) to read


What is Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable fashion refers to clothing that is designed, manufactured, distributed and reclaimed in ways that do not have a damaging impact on our Earth. For something to be considered sustainable, it must champion longevity; to be sustained over a long period of time. In fashion, we look at sustainability through a lens of creating transparency during the manufacturing to end of life process. This means that sustainable fashion can be created from the Earth and then given back to the Earth once its use has come to end, without directly negatively impacting the environment. This is also referred to as Circular Fashion.

What is Ethical Fashion?

Ethical fashion focuses on the human element of the supply chain. It takes into consideration the farm/factory workers, human rights, safety in the work environment and a fair living wage for employees. For a brand to be considered ethical, their activity must not negatively impact the social welfare of their workers.

What is Slow Fashion?

Slow fashion is the opposite of fast fashion; an umbrella term for fashion that encompasses both ethical, sustainable and socially equitable practises, by considering the resources, processes, manufacturing, the people and animals that are affected.

The term was first coined by Kate Fletcher of the Centre for Sustainable Fashion when she recognised the need for an impactful movement to arise amidst the climate crisis, calling for both brands and consumers to start making more intentional choices. It encourages us to take a step back from fast fashion and start asking companies how they are able to sell clothing so cheaply - and at what cost to the Earth?

Environmentalism in the Fashion Realm

Environmentalism in the fashion industry therefore includes both ethical and sustainable practises - they walk hand in hand as sister movements, though it can be difficult to find brands which are able to fully commit to being both. 

Fast fashion brands on the other hand, promote the mindless consumption of material items that exceed the four-seasons that traditional fashion houses generally cater for. This causes great harm, as brands churn out thousands of designs to hit the high streets at an alarming pace, depleting Earths natural resources, creating vast waste and exploiting workers often in emerging market countries such as India, China, Indonesia and Bangladesh. 

In 2013, the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh killed 1100+ people - it was an unfortunate tragedy that could have been avoided and with that, sparked the slow fashion revolution. As we began to demand answers from fashion brands and their supply chains, we have seen interest in ethical practises rise, with more and more companies agreeing to keep their processes transparent so that we, as consumers, can make more informed and mindful decisions on where we shop. This however, has also led to the rise of greenwashing.

What is Greenwashing and How Can We Spot it?

Greenwashing is the act of providing information that is false or misleading in an attempt to appear environmentally friendly. It is a deceiving tactic often used by fast fashion brands to manipulate consumers into thinking that what they're purchasing doesn't negatively impact the planet. It may appear in the form of marketing, where a company may emphasise small sustainable practises in order to overshadow their environmentally harmful practises. H&M have been a key culprit of greenwashing by launching their Conscious Collection in order to stay relevant, whilst behind the scenes, still continuing their ongoing production of unethical and unsustainable lines. 

Many infamous fast fashion brands have since attempted to capitalise on this by launching 'conscious' collections, rebranding or renaming products, and now make claims on their labels that specify which garments have been created using recycled polyester or the likes. Though it's causing people to start taking notice, it's also allowing consumers to think they are buying into a better industry and making smarter eco decisions - when the reality, is that we're still funding the fourth most damaging industry after energy, transport and agriculture.

The best way to avoid falling for greenwashing, is to do your homework. When wanting to purchase from a brand, conduct some research to see, if at its core, their morals are aligned with your own. How transparent is their supply chain? What ethical and sustainable practises are evident? If a brand is truly green, you won't have any difficulty in finding the answers to these questions. Brands truly championing our planet, have no problem making this information accessible on their products, web pages and social media.

What is the Best Way to Make Conscious Consumer Decisions?

Love what you already own. There is no better way to create a sustainable lifestyle than to look at what you have already and consider how these items can be made to last. After that, swapping and borrowing with friends or exchanging unwanted items with someone else who will love them, allows you to keep reinventing your wardrobe without any cost to you or the planet. 

When you're in a position of needing/wanting something that requires a purchase, shop secondhand! That's why we exist here at The Walk in Wardrobe; to offer an alternative to fast fashion. You can still shop some of your favourite designers and brands, for half the price and zero of the guilt. Our business model also encourages customers to bring in preloved items that they no longer love so that they get another chance at life in the arms of someone else. We advocate keeping precious materials in circulation.

Join the conversation and the slow fashion revolution by making a choice today, tomorrow and the day after that, to exercise your individual power and privilege to do better by the planet - and of course, keep questioning the big brands. As Whitney Bauck from the Green Dreamer Podcast said, "No one should die to make a T-shirt".

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