Fashion is one of the most polluting industries in the world. The production process require enormous ressources and we the consumers unfortunately over-consume fashion heavily. Unfortunately, garments workers are also working under unthinkable and harsh conditions.
This post is about how to make your wardrobe more sustainable in terms of environmental concerns as well as socioeconomic considerations.
According to Fashion Revolution every piece of garment is merely used on average four times. Fashion Revolution further states Americans alone throw away approximately 14 million tonnes of garments each year which is more than 36 kg per person. To top that 84% of this goes into incineration or landfill.
I believe most people would act differently if they knew.
Maybe you didn’t know or maybe you did but still find it difficult to act which is why I want to share with you the first and relatively easy steps towards a more conscious wardrobe.
To make it easy I want you to think of only three words when you go shopping for clothing and textile the next time:
REDUCE – REUSE – RETHINK
Reduce means first of all love and use what you already have in your closet. Make sure every item is used more than the four times a garment is used on average. If you are really cool you don’t add anything new before you have worn out something else.
Secondly you could even consider reducing the amount of items in your closet. Several case studies show people with smaller and well considered wardrobes feel they have more options because they can see what the have and have planned their wardrobe carefully.
I have not yet strategically cleaned up my wardrobe – minimized it or made a capsule wardrope which it is also called in the fashion world. Instead I have heavily reduced the amount I put into my closet. If you have the energy to do the full clean-up and analysis of what you like and need the internet is full of good inspiration and tools. E.g.
In the photo on the top of the post my grey washed denim represents reduce. They have been used numerous times and are even repaired af few times as well. They are not from a sustainable brand as such but throwing them out now that they are part of my wardrobe wouldn’t make any sense.
Reuse covers everything from buying and selling secondhand to renting and borrowing clothing.
For the past year around 2/3 of my purchases have been secondhand. I have however not yet tried out some of the upcoming clothing brands and stores who have build their concept around circular economy but I love the idea and will soon try these out as well.
From the picture the grey turtleneck represents reuse. It’s from Ralph Lauren and found in a local secondhand shop specialized in more premium brands. The turtleneck is neither ethical nor sustainable as far as I understand the business model of Ralph Lauren but buying premium brands often means better quality and longer lasting designs that allow for the items to be used for several years and shift owners. If you buy one expensive turtleneck in stead of 2-3 cheaper ones you save the planet from 2-3 times the pollution.
However when buying new the best option is to buy sustainable and ethicals which will save planet earth and textile workers for further harm and chemicals. Which RETHINK is all about.
Rethink means to think differently and ask questions. Question yourself what your favorite brands represent and do they represent values you approve. Furthermore questions brands and stores what they do to secure safe and sustainable production.
I know it looks and feels like a fashion jungle. Store personal rarely know anything about production methods, materials, ethics etc, but every now and then I run into some who does know.
I know I’m making harsh and rough assumptions now but I generally conclude that brands who doesn’t promote a ethical and sustainable production process in their communication don’t have anything positive to tell.
However according the just published Transparency Index from Fashion Revolution the top 150 fashion brands talk much more about policies and strategies than they talk about the actual results.
Buying certified items (e.g. GOTS certified) is the easiest way for us consumers to know people and environment have been treated with respect. Not all sustainable and ethical brands have certifications which is why I can highly recommend to find stores and webshops who have build their business around sustainable fashion.
A bit about materials
Part of rethink is to educate yourself a little on materials. For instance organic cotton pollutes much less than conventional cotton production as pesticides are not allow when growing organic cotton. The production process also contains less chemicals. They both demand huge amounts of water to grow. To avoid huge water consumption repurposed cotton is a better option.
Polyester is neither good for the environment as it requires huge amounts of chemicals and is made from non renewable ressources like oil. However if made from plastic waste like PET bottles the environmental impact is about half.
Like cotton viscose is produced from natural and renewable sources. Unfortunately viscose production is one of the most pollution processes. Huge amounts of chemicals and energi are used to transform wood into soft fibers applicable for the textile industry.
Tencel and Lycocell are much better choices. Tencel and Lycocell are basically the same except for Tencel being a trademark from one Lycocell producer. Tencel and Lycocell is produced from natural and renewable fibers (wood) in a shorter, cleaner and closed process making it much better for the environment.
Much more could be said about the above materials and further materials could be added but that will have to be a separate post. If you want to read more now check out e.g The Good Trade (In English) and Bedre Mode (in Danish)
Use common sense
Last but not least part of rethink is to use your common sense. If a t-shirts costs 10 Euro the store takes half giving 5 Euro to share between brand owner, textile worker, transportation, taxes, textile production, farmning etc. which doesn’t leave much money for safety, human rights and sustainability. Which is why quality above quantity is so important to build a sustainable and ethical wardrobe.
Once you have begun asking questions I’m positive that the new items you buy will be cherished more, worn more which means rethinking your choices will also help you reduce your wardrobe.
Rethink is represented by the wool socks from Icelandic Farmers Market who carefully choose materials and suppliers producing long lasting products mixing tradition and modernity.
A few other conscious brand that I like are:
I hope the above thoughts and advices does not scare you. You don’t have to do it all at once. Pick one word (REDUCE, REUSE or RETHINK) and start slowly. Every little step matters.
The big fashion companies do not notice that you leave them but the small entrepreneurs running a sustainable business will notice and appreciate every purchase you make with them.
Thank you for reading until the end. I wish you a Happy Conscious Journey :o)