Combining Fashion and Sustainability: 5 Ways to Be a More Conscious Shopper
Just recently, our attention has rightly been turned towards the impact of the fashion industry on planet Earth. ‘Fast fashion speeding toward environmental disaster’ is just one example from many similar headlines coming from globally respected news outlets. If you’ve read any of these pieces, you probably will be wondering if fashion and sustainability can ever mix.
As a lover of stylish pieces, you’ll no doubt be questioning how you can continue to invest in beautiful clothing, without causing unnecessary harm to the planet. Thankfully, there are a few simple changes you can make from this moment on that can and will make a significant difference.
At Scarlett Poppies, we’re committed to creating a far more sustainable and ethical summer wear collection. Our pieces embody integrity and positivity for the future of our planet and we’d like to help you shop with the same philosophy. Here we offer some advice on how you can shop more environmentally consciously, without giving up on your love of beautiful clothing.
Why sustainable fashion matters
In 2019, Business Insider published a landmark report that helped force our eyes wide open to the damage that the fashion industry - most particularly cheap, fast fashion - is currently inflicting on the planet. Here are some key facts taken from that report.
- 10% of carbon emissions are created by the fashion industry - that’s more than international aviation and maritime combined.
- Fashion is also responsible for 20% of the world’s industrial water pollution.
- 300 000 tonnes of clothing goes to landfill each year and just 15% of textiles we no longer need are recycled.
Most frighteningly, however, is that this is a problem that is getting significantly worse year on year. At the turn of the millennium, just 20 years ago, we were collectively purchasing half as many garments per year. On top of this, we are now only keeping garments for roughly half as long on average. That adds up to a lot of barely worn garments going into landfills.
And what about microplastics?
Most recently, there has been a growing awareness of microplastics. These are tiny plastic fibers, found in synthetic textiles that wash out of clothing during the laundry process. Around 500,000 tons of microfibers end up in our oceans each year, polluting the water and destroying marine life. Microfibers do not decompose and they already make up a third of the plastic pollution in the ocean, a problem that is likely to get much worse.
How we can all help
If you are new to the idea of sustainable clothes shopping it can be daunting. You might be asking yourself:
- What kinds of fabrics should or shouldn’t I be buying?
- Where can I buy more sustainable clothing from?
- How much can or should I be buying?
- What should I do with my existing clothes?
- Can I still buy good-quality, stylish pieces without compromising on sustainability?
These questions are all answered below. Here’s how to shop more sustainably.
1. Always avoid passing trends and fast fashion
If you regularly walked into a fast fashion store, you’d be amazed at how often collections change. Driven by insatiable consumer appetite, dozens of lines are produced each year. This is driving an incredibly fast cycle of passing trends, here one minute, in a landfill the next. This kind of low-cost, high-volume fast fashion retail can never be kind on the planet.
Instead, we need to look for clothes that are created with the utmost care for the people involved and the planet. So how do we find them?
2. Do some homework before you shop
The commitment to the environment and sustainability varies enormously from brand to brand. Perhaps you already have favored brands to shop with. Do some research on how and where their clothes are manufactured. Brands who operate sustainably are rightly proud and will state their environmental ethos on their website. Social media is also a great way to interact with brands and ask questions.
Use some free time to browse online and through social media, learning which brands prioritize ethical, sustainable manufacturing to create a portfolio of shops to turn to next time you need to shop. Look for transparency at every stage of the garment’s creation, from where fabrics are sourced, to how the finishing touches are added to each piece.
Once you begin your research, you’ll find luxury and eco-friendly go hand-in-hand more often than ever before, proving that sustainable clothing can be classically designed, well-made, and beautifully finished. Sustainable fashion definitely need not mean shapeless, plain or boring.
3. Buy less by asking yourself, “how many times will I wear this?”
Creating all clothing has an impact on the environment, even when manufactured as sustainably as possible. Water consumption, the carbon emissions of manufacturing and transportation, and deforestation for the production of textiles are all issues to consider. The first rule of sustainable shopping is to only buy what you need and will wear often.
If we’re honest, most of us have a few items in our wardrobe that we’ve only worn a handful of times. Perhaps a cocktail dress, a bikini or a winter coat. From now on, we should try to commit to only buying pieces that we’ll wear dozens of times. Usually, this will mean buying more versatile and more timeless pieces…
4. Invest in high-quality pieces in natural fabrics
Vacation clothing is one example where we might only wear garments a handful of times per year. This means we should be prepared to keep and wear our beach dresses and bikinis for many years. Classic pieces, well-made with good quality fabrics will not age and you’ll be as happy to wear them in a decade from now as you are today. Applying this philosophy to all clothing purchases will see that you get the most possible wears from each garment.
Even better, try to only buy classic pieces you can wear through as many seasons as possible by layering up or down as necessary. Natural fabrics, like linen, cotton and wool are more breathable. This makes them far more comfortable across the seasons and they are perfect for layers. They are also less harmful to the environment post-production than microfiber-emitting manmade textiles.
5. Look after your clothes well
If you frequently overlook the care labels in your clothing, you are not alone. However, following the manufacturer's instructions on how best to look after each garment will add many wears to its lifetime. So, take care to wash at the right temperature, turn inside out if necessary, and follow drying instructions carefully. This will keep your garments looking at their best for longer too, minimizing problems such as shrinking and fading. If you wish to protect your garments extra, especially when they are made of delicate fabrics, embroideries and laces, we’d always recommend washing the inside out in a laundry bag. The garments will last far longer that way.
A better future?
More and more of us are taking steps to combine our love of clothing and fashion with a more sustainable future for our planet. When enough of us change our shopping behavior, more manufacturers will need to listen. The future of our planet certainly depends on it!