May 21, 2021News
Whether it’s the clothes we wear or the transport we use to go to work, we’re all trying to make more conscious choices in our everyday lives. The fashion industry is one of the biggest production sectors in the world – and also one of the most damaging. Rising consumerism and ever-changing trends have brought with it the concept of fast fashion. The keep up with demand, brands are turning to cheaper production methods, which are often damaging to the people making your clothes and the planet at large.
Do you ever stop to think of where your clothes have come from? The fact you’ve clicked on this article suggest you probably have. With the lack of transparency within the industry, it’s easy to feel like making ethical and conscious fashion choices is virtually impossible. We’re here to prove otherwise.
Once you know why ethical and conscious fashion is important, you’ll never be able to shop the same way again. It doesn’t take the enjoyment out of fashion – if anything, it makes you feel better about the clothing you buy. You can enjoy your clothes without worrying about the working conditions of the people who made it and the environmental damage of the dyes and textiles used.
Our guide covers everything you need to know about ethical and conscious fashion – often called ‘slow fashion’ and the changes you can make to your clothes shopping.
Fast fashion is the term used to describe the current situation in the fashion industry. We’re making clothes faster than ever before and going through them in half the price we once did. Only a few years ago, brands released one collection a season. Now, stores like Zara are releasing up to 20+ collections a year. Social media is partly to blame. With a new trend coming from TikTok and Instagram every week, we all feel the need to be constantly buying new clothes.
Thanks to the internet, it’s never been easier to buy cheap clothing from anywhere in the world. To meet this rising demand for cheaper and faster clothing, brands are responding by focusing on increasing efficiency by cutting corners, using cheaper materials, and largely ignoring the environmental impact of the fashion industry.
The internet is full of stats and information about the dangers of fast fashion. Here’s a few headlines that you should know, so you can understand why it’s important to make conscious fashion choices:
• 10% of the world’s carbon emission comes from the fashion industry, creating around 1.2 billion tons of CO2 emissions. If the current growth level continues, this will hit 26% in the next 30 years.
• If we choose more sustainable options and double the lifespan of our clothes, we can reduce emissions by 24%.
• It takes 700 gallons of water to make one cotton t-shirt, about the amount the water an adult drinks every three and a half years.
• Three-fifths of clothing ends up in landfill within a year of us purchasing it. Greenpeace estimate that 20% of the clothing in our closet are never worn once.
We often forget to think about the people behind our clothing. Not the designers or the brand ambassadors – but rather the people making our clothing and the communities they live in.
While most of the design and marketing for brands happens in United States or Europe, their clothing production occurs in developing countries. The numbers of people working in the textile industry is growing every year to meet the demands of fast fashion. In 2000, there were 20 million workers in the garment production industry. This number had jumped to around 85 million by 2014. Manufacturing – including fashion production - is the second largest industry for modern slavery, coming behind only the agriculture industry.
Not only do these workers have to deal with poor working conditions, but they also often make significantly less than the living wage. What perhaps impacts them most is the damage that fast fashion causes their local communities.
In India, 100 million people do not have access to clean drinking water while 85% of the water needed for the population is used for cotton production. The environmental impact of these dyes and chemicals is most prominent in China, where 80% of groundwater from the major river basins are considered to be “unsuitable” for human contact.
Making conscious fashion choices also includes making ethical ones. You want to find brands that promote the fact they pay their workers a fair living wage, including their textile workers and farmers. Unfortunately, there’s no real equivalent to a ‘free trade’ symbol in the fashion industry, but a little research should usually tell you everything you need to know about a brand and its ethical credentials.
Every day, we are becoming more aware of the dangers of fast fashion. Millennials and Gen Z are leading the way with sustainable fashion. Whether it’s shopping second hand or looking for environmentally friendly materials, we’re all taking steps to become more sustainable with our fashion choices.
Making ethical and sustainable fashion choices is easier than you think. Not sure where to start? A good way is to start looking into the pre-loved market and thrift stores. Everything comes back in style again, and you can find vintage clothing that looks right on trend. Shopping second-hand means you can save a pretty penny, still be on trend, and save clothing from landfill.
Thrifting and buying clothing second-hand are becoming even more popular, especially with vintage trends dominating the industry. A quick scroll through Instagram or TikTok will show you the popularity of sites like Depop and Vestiaire Collective.
Most of us are buying more clothing than ever before, with the life span of our clothes splitting in half since 2000. Making more conscious fashion choices includes responsibly getting rid of clothing that you no longer wear.
It’s also a good idea to learn some basic sewing skills. Instead of throwing out a shirt when a button comes undone, you can sew it back on again and get right back to wearing it. Being able to repair clothing is an essential life skill and can help you give your clothes a second life. Keeping your clothes in a wearable condition can also make it easier to sell or donate them when the time comes to find them a new home.
Another way you can make conscious fashion choices is by becoming a more informed consumer and make purposeful purchases. Instead of buying something on an impulse, force yourself to stop and ask, ‘do I really need it?’. If you can’t picture at least five occasions when you’d wear the outfit, it probably isn’t for you. For anyone looking to cut down on their fashion consumption, you can look into build a capsule closet. Most people with capsule closets take a ‘one in, one out’ approach with their clothes. If you want something new, you have to free up space by selling or donating something you already have.
When you’re making conscious fashion choices, the golden rule of thumb is ‘quality over quantity’. Instead of buying five $20 shirts, you want to invest that money into one $100 shirt that you know will stand the test of time. When you’re buying less clothing, you can afford to put that money into higher quality pieces that you can wear for years.
One way you can become a more ethical and conscious fashion fan is to stop following trends. Yep, you heard us right. It’s easy to get pulled into thinking you have to be on top of all the latest trends – that you really need that polka dot dress from Zara that is all over your Instagram feed. You can make more conscious fashion choices by becoming more comfortable in your own aesthetic. Thanks to influencer culture, we’re surrounded by cleverly disguised advertisements every time we open our phone.
Instead of being influenced by other people, focus on buying clothing that matches your personal style and what makes you happy. If a garment makes you feel and look amazing, you’re more likely to keep wearing it.
Consumers and brands are coming together to forge a sustainable future. Thanks to social media, you can now speak directly to your favourite brands. Do you want to keep buying from a store, but you’re not sure about their environmental initiatives? You can drop them a DM on Instagram and ask about their policies. You never know, you might inspire them to adopt a sustainability plan and adopt slow fashion.
The best way to show support for slow fashion is to vote with your feet (and wallet!). When the fashion industry sees that there’s a growing demand for sustainable clothing, they’re more likely to respond by giving you what you want.
The next time a friend or family member suggest a shopping spree, you can take the time to explain to them why you’re making more conscious fashion choices. The best way you can promote slow fashion is by raising awareness for it within your local community.
How are you making more ethical and conscious fashion choices? What eco-friendly and ethical brands do you like to shop from? Let us know in the comments below!
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