As kids we have heard our parents, grandparents saying “We owned just two pairs of clothing, or one pair of footwear or sometimes walked bare feet.” Today, do they still own just one or two pairs of clothing? Today we often hear “I don’t have anything to wear.” Do we really not have anything to wear? Check your closet, how many pieces of clothing, accessories, footwear do you own and how many do you actually use on a regular basis? What do you do with the clothes that you have grown out of? Do you know how the production of the clothing you wear happens?
Fashion with a cause
Sustainability in fashion can be achieved by combining manufacturing and use of clothing, accessories and shoes in the as many sustainable ways as possible, keeping both the environmental and socio-economic aspects in mind. This requires continuous work to the product lifecycle right from the design table, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing and sale to the way the product is used, reused, repaired and recycled, including the components like the buttons, hooks and zippers. The aim should be to minimise any negative environmental impact that could arise in the product’s lifecycle.
The path to sustainability at an individual consumer level starts after the product purchase in the product’s life cycle, it is more about the way you use, reuse and recycle your products in sustainable ways. Most of us, have experienced second-hand fashion at least once in our lifetime in the form of hand-me-downs, either from siblings, friends or family, selling your clothing after you have stopped using them for a long span of time or have grown out of it is a way to give your clothing a second life. You could also organise or be part of a clothing swap, where you swap clothes with others. Giving away and swapping provide clothing with a second life which would have otherwise end up in a landfill, negatively impacting the environment.
Alternatively, you can invest in timeless slow fashion, which means you buy better quality clothing less often. Most independent fashion labels and brands tend to follow seasonal trends, making more styles more often thereby increasing production and the overall burden on the environment. Buying lesser quantity means lesser production, and higher quality clothing tends to last longer.
Shopping from local brands and labels or perhaps local tailor-made clothing minimise the carbon footprint generated by large fashion houses. This directly helps local communities benefit economically and create job opportunities. Better washing practices also have a positive impact on the environment, using non-chemical, low impact detergents, helps reduce water pollution.
Fashion individuals, brands and labels should strive for sustainability right from the raw material stage, ensuring careful, frugal and efficient use of natural resources, water, energy, soil, animals ecosystem etc. Opting for renewable energy, maximising the repairability and recyclability of the product and its components.
From a socio-economic perspective, the whole ecosystem should work together to improve the present scenario of working conditions for workers in all stages of the product lifecycle, from the farmers in the field, workers at factories, employees at stores, by utilisation of best practice and good business ethics. Using organic fabrics such as organic cotton and linen, which are farmed organically without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilisers provides for better health of farmers, soil and land. No chemicals also translate into better low impact washing practices. Organic fabrics are safer for consumers, farmers, workers as it eliminates the chemicals used in production, that normally cause of any skin allergies. Additionally, companies should contribute to more frugal consumption and sustainable attitude towards fashion.
Obviously, these are just some of the ways you could adopt sustainable fashion. The immediate drawback today for the adoption of sustainable fashion is the higher cost and change in lifestyle required to move away from the desire to follow fashion seasons, colour trends and the affordability and availability of fast fashion. While I am in the pursuit to make sustainable fashion mainstream and affordable, hurdles to widespread adoption still have to be overcome.
By: Deepika Sarode
The writer is founder of PikaLove