We believe in buying less, choosing well, and making it last. So today, we’re looking at 5 sustainable style choices you can integrate into your lifestyle, because clothes aren’t going to change the world, but the people who wear them will.
Over the last few years, we’ve heard a lot about ‘sustainable and ethical fashion’, and we’re all becoming more familiar with the concepts of fast fashion and slow fashion, but what do terms like this actually mean? You might have asked yourself questions like, “Why should I be mindful of sustainable fashion? Where can I buy sustainable clothes? Are some fabrics more sustainable than others?” Many people confuse ‘sustainable fashion’ with ‘ethical fashion’. They both tend to go hand in hand, but the concept of sustainability refers to the effects of the fashion industry on the environment while ethical fashion refers to the way clothing is made – considering everything from how the cotton was grown to whether animals are used, and how factory workers are treated. In a nutshell, ‘sustainable and ethical fashion’ is all about choosing clothes that have been created in a way that is kind to people and kind to the planet at every step along the supply chain. In an ideal world, sustainable and ethical fashion puts the wellbeing of people and the planet before profits. Today, we’re focusing our attention on sustainability but watch out for our upcoming blog posts on ethics in fashion too! Here are some of the key thoughts we should all keep in mind when it comes to the sustainability of the clothes we wear…
Our Style Coach™ graduates help their clients reduce their waste by purchasing clothes intentionally and mindfully, while also repurposing items in their existing wardrobe. It’s crazy to think that only 20% of all clothing is recycled with the rest being incinerated or sent to landfill. There is a great need for the fashion industry to revolutionise the system by developing clothes that are fully recyclable, reducing the dependence on creating clothes using new resources. There are lots of clothing brands committed to reducing waste, but it will take time before drastic changes are likely to be felt. The good news is, we can all do our part by becoming conscious of our own individual levels of consumption. Essentially, we need to buy less, take better care of our clothes to prolong their life for as long as possible, and choose natural materials whenever we can.
Not only are high levels of water used when our clothes are first being made, but also every time we wash our clothes too. According to Levi Strauss, 3,781 litres of water and 33.4kg of CO2 are used during the lifetime of one pair of their famous 501® jeans. So what can we do about this? One of the easiest ways to reduce the water consumption of clothes is simply by washing our clothes less. We have all been guilty of washing our clothes out of habit rather than necessity, so next time you go to put the washing machine on, remember to ask yourself whether the clothes really need to be washed? If they have only been gently worn then they might be perfectly fine for another wear?
Did you know that if the fashion industry were a country, it would be the sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases worldwide? Or to put the impact in other words, it creates the same energy emissions as 372 million cars driving for 12 months. So what is all this energy being used on? The major culprits are fuel used by machinery during fibre production, power sources for factories, as well as fuels used for the transport of finished goods. Our Style Coach™ graduates learn every aspect of personal shopping, but we can all play our part by choosing raw materials like cotton from certified sustainable sources and seeking out brands that support supply chain partners with a commitment to energy efficiency. We can also give clothing retailers feedback on their packaging, and look for energy efficient ways to care for our clothes. Of course, reducing energy use also reduces cost, so it’s a win-win for the planet, people and profits!
In many of the countries where our clothes are being made, textile factories are dumping untreated toxic wastewaters straight into the rivers. In fact, 22,000 litres of toxic waste is dumped into rivers by tanneries in Bangladesh every day. This wastewater contains toxic substances such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, which are devastating to aquatic life and the health of millions of people. The contamination makes its way into our oceans and spreads throughout the globe. Of course, wastewater from factories is not the only source of chemical contamination since the use of fertilisers and pesticides for cotton production heavily pollutes excess rainwater too. So, what can we do to help? The first step is to choose clothes made in countries with strict environmental regulations for factories (places like the UK and the EU, Canada and the US). We can also do our best to choose organic fibres and natural fibres that don’t require chemicals to be produced
Here are 5 sustainable fashion ideas and our actionable tips that you can start using today!
1. Buy Quality Clothes that Will Last a Long Time
For starters, the best way to shop sustainably is to select stores that offer quality products. They naturally favour a ‘classic’ ‘timeless’ look over fast-fashion and hype trends. Some eco-friendly places to start your sustainable wardrobe include Hobbs, Reiss, MeandEm and LK Bennett. These brands focus on quality over quantity and create elegant looks that travel through time. Try selecting a few staple pieces from your chosen brands, including plain coloured or patterned trousers, shirts, dresses and jackets. Make it last and choose a size slightly larger than your usual to cater for any natural seasonal fluctuations.
2. Avoid Fast Fashion and Short-lived Trends
Considering Tip #1, the second has to be avoiding the hype and fast-fashion trends. As difficult as it might seem, ask yourself, does this trend apply to me personally? Does it fit with who I am as a person, with my personal style or my self-expression? Is this a piece that will still look good in the years to come? Will it last and serve me well? This can help you understand if a trend is really for you or not. Remember, the best style is created from your inner beauty and personal expression – not necessarily following every fashion trend. You style should always be unique and distinct from others: appreciate that and embrace it.
3. Swap with Family and Friends
Don’t underestimate the perks of swapping clothes with family and friends. An exchange of one or two items can expand your style while adding a dash of expression to your outfit. For example, a leopard-print mini purse handed down from your mum is perfect for adding some pattern, quirkiness and personality to your look. Similarly, headscarves, hats, and oversized shirts or jackets can be easily swapped between friends.
4. Buy from Socially-Conscious Stores
In the long-term, charity shopping is fantastic for reducing overall fashion waste. In fact, this can help decrease the level of microfibres that currently pollute our oceans and land. Alternatively, researching fashion brands can help ensure the fabrics you buy have a positive social effect. For example, at Toast, minimising waste, supporting local communities through collaboration, education, and using materials eco-consciously is at the epicentre of everything they do. By supporting these brands, you can rest in the comfort of knowing that your clothing is working towards sustainable fashion. Other examples of brands leading the way include Stella McCartney, ELVdenim, and Jigsaw
5. Re-use and Re-purpose your Existing Wardrobe
Get creative with your wardrobe! Unique fashion sense comes from individuality. Don’t be afraid to cut old dresses that you no longer use into shirts or creatively cut out as a headscarf or bandana. Feel free to trim your jeans so they have an ‘on-trend’ raw edge hemline or add your own rips to old jeans for a vintage aesthetic. Enjoy repurposing your fabrics and your style to suit you.
To learn more about sustainable fashion, the Style Coaching Institute® can help you understand how to dress sustainably, source quality items or buy from responsible brands. We always focus on how to make fashion work for you and your personality. Our holistic approach to creativity, business, and style leaves you in the best position to take the next step in your personal styling career. Since 2005, the Style Coach™ training team has revolutionised the world of image-consultant training and empowered over 1800 Style Coaches™ from 95 countries to forge their own paths. Our worldwide, tutor-led training courses have given people from all walks of life the confidence to start their own personal styling businesses. Wherever you are in the world, study from home with our accredited online Style Coach diploma course and monthly masterclasses. Become an accredited and authentic Style Coach™ and begin a career you can be proud of!