Don’t sacrifice style for sustainability
On a foundational level clothing was borne from utility. Be it cave dwellers using furs to protect from the elements to Sunday nights at the bar to adhere to societal standards. Clothing is essential to our everyday lives.
As an everyday item however, people have always made attempts to make it appealing or fun.
From ancient Pharaohs to modern construction workers, style has become just as significant to how to dress as the utility behind a particular item.
Fashion has evolved along with status, job, and social clique.
A Brief History of Expensive Experiences
Part of what makes style so essential to clothing is it can help everyone feel unique, but for a long time, the truly unique was for the wealthy.
The 20th century changed everything and brought fashion to the masses. The rise of the movie star in the 1950s, supermodels of the 80s, and today’s influencers have challenged consumers to emulate their favourite celebs.
As time went on it became cheaper and easier than ever. It sent fashion into the stratosphere. Today the industry is valued at more than 3 trillion dollars.
It’s also an industry that is largely unsustainable in it’s current form. As an industry there are few on par in terms of its environmental and social impacts. It relies on petrochemicals throughout the supply chain, and exploits workers to churn ever greater profit margins.
So how can someone maintain their style and still be sustainable?
It’s always nice to buy something new. Fast Fashion brands have built their business model around this. Trend chasers always go after the new thing, and more often than not discard the old.
Thrift stores have always been a great place to find new items that fit in with a personal style. Genres like punk have even been built around it. Some people are okay with it, and there are second-hand stores dedicated to finding the best fashion out there.
You might find haute couture at a reasonable price or discover a throwback from another era otherwise lost to time. Even though thrift stores have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years, they are affordable, and it can be fun to sort through the items available. Additionally, since a lot of the items sold in second-hand stores are old many are made from higher-quality materials than those of todays fast-fashion brands.
Buying second-hand not only helps to give clothes a second life, it also helps to divert them from the landfill, reducing waste.
Know Your Materials
Not all materials in clothing are created equally.
Decades ago, brands started chasing cheaper materials in the quest to sell more clothes to the masses. It reduced the price of clothes and made them more accessible, but the materials also changed and became less sustainable.
Plastics became more common, and the increased dependence on oil in the production of clothing followed suit. Even though there are now alternatives available, brands still tend to work with synthetic fibres out of affordability rather than necessity. When this is combined with greater disposability in fashion, the impact on the environment increases exponentially.
Consumers trying to avoid the plastics, but still wanting affordable options will often turn to natural fibres like cotton, but the sustainability of cotton in the modern fashion world is also untenable. In the chase of greater profits and the rise of fast-fashion, producers turned to short fiber cotton.
Clothes made from this type of cotton are cheaper but lack the durability of their long fiber counterparts. Clothes break down quicker and easier, and the cycle of consumerism continues.
While most people want to have a varied wardrobe, and keep it affordable, the solution is to find clothing made from higher quality materials and wear them for several seasons instead of just following the new trend. Even though it may be more costly to buy, these higher quality items also tend to be more durable and can be found in classic styles to be the foundation for any wardrobe.
Back the Brand, Back Sustainability
Gone are the days where buying sustainable clothing meant being reserved to sweaters and pants made from hemp.
Today, there are brands dedicated to producing high quality fashion items and build environmentalism and sustainability into their business model from the ground up. As more consumers are looking to become sustainable in their lifestyle, there are more producers working to fill the demand.
These brands will often focus on using organic and recycled materials and using alternatives to plastics and animal based products.
Even though sustainable products tend to have a higher price tag, many of the producers tend to place their ethics above profits. They have programs to help the communities in which they operate, and often will create programs to help offset the environmental impact they do have.
Since these producers are becoming increasingly mainstream over the last several years, it’s easier than ever to find clothes that meet modern trends, or classic styles.
It’s Fashionable to be Sustainable
Even though it was challenging to be sustainable and fashionable over the past fifty years or so, the world has changed. Brands who aren’t willing to introduce better production methods are facing a consumer base that is starting to look elsewhere.
This is bad for the brands, but good for consumers. It means more choice, greater transparency, and better clothing.
There is change in the fashion world, and it’s leading to greater rewards for those brands who step up and lead the way to a better planet.