In the past, I was a usual teenager with a passion for clothes. It was just so great to have a new shirt or skirt or just anything NEW. Shopping was always a great way to hang out with my friends and we spent hours and hours in the shops. Now I am only thinking how many better things we could have done instead of that.
Sometimes I have questioned myself if I really need all of these things and I slowly figured out that I don’t. But for a very long time, I didn’t think about clothes as something which contributes to climate change, it is in general bad for environment and has many social deficits.
You can for example watch The True Cost or read Overdresses, google the Rana Plaza Tragedy (over 1100 people were killed when the factory in Bangladesh collapsed) and hear the dark side of the fashion industry.
Unfortunately, it is not good that the clothes are cheap. When shoppers aren’t paying the price for the clothes, it only means somebody down the fashion chain is. It is a common thing that people that make these clothes do not have basic human rights and can hardly sustain their livelihood.
The fashion industry has a severe sustainability problems as well. Fashion has a high cost for the environment. After mining and oil, Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world! Additionally, it is a very thirst industry. Each garment requires thousands of liters of water and it is a terrifying fact for many countries who are facing water crisis. Pesticides and chemicals used for production of cotton are polluting our soil and air. The fashion industry also requires packaging and transportation, quickly depleting natural resources.
It is not enough to just know this. As consumers, we vote with our wallets for an unethical and irresponsible industry. Wearing clothes that are both socially and ecologically good, should be our goal.
Here are some ways to make your wardrobe more sustainable:
Go Local – Support local and independent designers and dressmakers that are engaged in sustainable practices. In this way, you will reduce your carbon footprint and support small businesses.
Buy better – Buying better means spending more and buying less. Buying less means less resources, less waste, less opportunities for exploitation. Connect with the labels you like and endorse. Are they responsible? Do they value their supply chain? Choose fair-trade labels that are transparent about their labour practices. Transparency leads to accountability – fair and livable wages, workers rights and suitable working conditions.
Recognise green washing – Some labels are all about cashing and overconsumption and often guilty . They try everything so that consumers will think that they are environmentally friendly. H&M newest »recycling« initiative is one of such examples. If a brand really cares, they make fewer and better quality clothes. They would not bring new clothes into shop every week and offer huge discounts.
Love your clothes – We are buying too many instant products. After a thrill of the NEW we are often apathetic about our purchase. This video is a good example:
Stop being trendy and get mileage – Our culture is obsessed with ever-changing fashion trends . The fast fashion industry makes cheap, gimmicky clothes that will look tacky for a few months. It is a good thing to adapt to some kind of a uniform whatever that means for your personal style. It is okay to wear the same outfits over and over! Figure out what looks good on you, what you like and what suits you.
Wear natural fibres – Look out for organic, sustainably farmed cotton, invest in quality weaves. It is not only important to know how your clothes are made but also who »grew« them.
Reuse and buy second hand – It is important to reuse clothes which already exists in the world. Go to second hand shops, flea markets, vintage stores. There are several opportunities to shop second hand in India.
Repurpose – DIY and upcycle your existing wardrobe or go to Doodlage which can redesign your clothes and industrial waste into a new unique design.
Speak out – Most people don’t care about where their clothes come from because they simply don’t know. Have a conversation about sustainable fashion, ask the labels who made your clothes and make your voice heard to brands that are unethical.
Don’t shop– You probably have enough stuff already. Wear what you’ve got.
Katja Polc, Vatavaran volunteer