What does Sustainable Fashion mean?

I’ve always loved the idea of sustainable fashion but what does that even mean? It’s now quite well known that a lot of our polyester / nylon / acrylic (and more) clothing is releasing plastic fibres into our water systems when we wash them. They become a part of the millions of microplastics entering the ocean every day. So we should be buying clothing made from natural materials like cotton, bamboo and leather then right? Not exactly. Some of the processes to make these materials can also have a huge impact on the environment. It can take around 20,000 litres of water to produce a pair of cotton jeans, the equivalent of about 300 average showers. That’s around a year’s worth of showering. Yikes. As well as using a huge amount of water, the leather industry also has been named one of the top 10 most toxic pollution problems in the world. On the other hand, Bamboo is one of the most sustainable crops to grow; it uses less water, less pesticides and grows very quickly. However, the processing of bamboo into clothing can involve using chemicals that are harmful to human health.

So what is the answer? Well unfortunately it’s not exactly clear cut, but there are ways that we can significantly reduce our environmental impact when buying clothes.

Organic cotton
Unlike conventional cotton, organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides, is non-GM, has a 46% reduction in global warming and uses 91% less water. The only downside to organic cotton is the higher price tag. Although, if a pair of organic cotton jeans or a t-shirt lasts a lot longer than a conventional cotton one, it might be worth spending the extra pennies and may even save you money in the long run.

Goose Studios are a small business making sustainable and ethical clothing for an affordable price. I asked them what sustainable fashion means to them, here’s what they said:

“Sustainable fashion is so important to us as it’s one of the easiest switches everyone can make to a more sustainable day-to-day lifestyle and one that will have a big impact! Next time your favourite t-shirt wears out, just switch to an organic cotton tee that’s well made and love it for a long time. That’s it, sustainable switch done!
Imagine that switch for the entire wardrobes of another 7 billion people…
We decided to make Goose Studios sustainably and ethically sourced after reading the book ‘Let My People Go Surfing’ by Patagonia’s founder. Before we were well and truly fast fashion lovers, we even bought the book in an Asos sale! After reading it, we realised that behind every single product we buy there’s already been an unseen impact on the planet through how it was manufactured. We wanted to make our fashion as kind to the planet as possible before it’s bought. So our audience can be safe in the knowledge that if they look after and love our clothing, as little harm as possible has been done to the planet whilst they can enjoy the style they love.”
Sam & Rich – Goose Studios | https://goosestudios.co.uk/

Second hand clothing
Another great way to reduce your clothing footprint is buying second hand. Unfortunately in the UK (and probably a lot of other countries) our second hand shops are overflowing. Only 10-20% of clothing are sold in these stores, the rest is exported to other countries such as Uganda, Hungary, Ghana and India. A lot of ‘cheap’ clothing we buy these days is only made to last a couple of wears. After this they are classed as ‘junk’ and either sent to landfill or incinerated. If we buy second hand clothing, we are not only increasing the demand for it, we are also reducing the demand for new cheap clothing.

Sian is a freelance personal stylist and vintage clothing fan. Here’s what sustainable fashion means to her – 

“Sustainable fashion is the way forward. It should be how the industry imagines the future of fashion. Dressing sustainably has never been easier thanks to gorgeous brands such as Thought, Komodo and Nomads. These gorgeous brands source sustainable and organic fabrics along with being fair trade. Designers like Stella McCartney and some high street stores such as H&M conscious are finally seeing sense too. I can’t wait to watch it all unfold.
I personally don’t think you have to necessarily buy ethical brands to dress sustainably. There are many ways we can achieve this. My personal favourite is through vintage clothing or even charity shopping. Wearing pre loved clothing is a great way of keeping waste fabrics down and proves that clothing lasts. Also I love knowing that when I wear vintage clothing, I’m carrying other people’s memories and stories within the cloth that I have no idea about. I think it’s really special. I also love knowing that no one else will be wearing what I’m wearing.
Another way of achieving sustainable style is clothes swapping which is so fun. You can do it with friends and make a night of it. I also adore upcycling clothes and making them into something new. Or even into cushions or rugs! It takes a bit of work and time but the benefits on the climate and your personal achievement makes it worthwhile.” Sian, Styled by Sian

One downside to second hand clothing, however, is that we still may be buying items made from plastic fibres which will still cause damage to the environment when we wash them. Try buying second hand clothing made from cotton or natural fibres. If you have a lot of clothing made from polyester, nylon, acrylic or polyamide there’s no need to throw it away! Try investing in a Guppyfriend bag or a Coraball that catch plastic fibres in the wash to stop the majority of them entering the water system. 

Left: Mostly second hand
Right: Handmade top, trousers and shoes from Komodo

So all in all, buy second hand where you can and/or buy good quality clothing that will last you a long time. Keep putting pressure on the big clothing brands to make better quality, sustainable and ethical clothing and if you’re able to, buy from small sustainable businesses!

Thanks so much for reading this! Please let me know if any of this was helpful and anything you’re doing to reduce your clothing footprint!
Comment below or find me on Instagram.

Peace! x

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