Since learning about the Fashion Industry through my Textiles course in design school, I have been far more aware of the effect I have on the world. Working with Future Oceans has just added to my desire to make my footprint as small as possible.
The fashion industry is the second largest polluter in the world, only beat by the oil industry. One of the largest issues with the industry is fast fashion- all of the companies that make clothing as cheaply as possible and make in bulk. This clothing is meant to last for one season, then be thrown out. That process causes a lot of stress on the environment.
Almost every step of creating clothing in a factory is terrible on the environment, such as dyeing (fabric dye is highly toxic and difficult to clean out of water since it is made to last through everything) and cutting (since a great deal of fabric is wasted and thrown out from not being cut carefully).
While large companies run like this, there isn't a ton that we can do. The good news is that there are things that are easy for us to do that can help! I'm sure most people have already read so many things about this since sustainability is such a buzzword right now, but I thought that I would add my take on it. Feel free to add any more ideas that you have in the comments below!
#1 - Don't Throw Away Old Clothing
It's not helpful to keep old clothing that you don't wear anymore, but you don't have to throw it out. Donating pieces that you don't wear anymore because they don't suit you are don't fit anymore is a great way to feel really good about yourself and help others, while decluttering your space. If it has been too well loved and can't be donated, sometimes clothing can be re-purposed. Flannel shirts can be cut up and are great for cleaning mirrors. Buttons can be good to keep for crafts, and sometimes keeping strong parts of a garment makes a good patch for kids clothing.
#2 - Make Do and Mend
Sometimes well loved clothing gets holes in it. Especially since most clothing that is made in factories isn't made very well - buttons come off easily, seams split open, and hems come undone. All of these problems are really easy to fix with a needle and thread and a few minutes. I'm terrible for letting my mending pile get pretty big before doing anything about it, but each fix is fast and can be done in front of the TV. If you don't know or want to sew, most dry cleaners will do simple mends for you, or you might be able to find a local seamstress or fashion student who would be happy to do it.
If you want to learn how to sew, there are tons of videos on Youtube teaching simple knots and stitches that you can follow along to.
#3 - Research Where Your Clothing is Coming From
This one takes a little bit more time, but it always pays off in the end. Doing a quick search on the brand you like to buy is a good way to either set your mind at ease or tell you that maybe you should find a new brand. Brands that use sustainable fabric, make their products in Canada, or do anything else to help usually market it on their website so it's easy to find. If they have a sinister background, there are often multiple posts about that if you google them. You don't always have to buy from an expensive brand to be choosing well, there are a lot of cheaper brands that are joining the bandwagon and either produce all of their clothing sustainably or have an ethical line. It also doesn't have to be difficult to find - for example, Mountain Equipment Coop is well known for their initiative for reducing waste, water, and carbon emissions during their process.
#4 - Only Buy What You Need
When it comes to being kinder to the environment, buying less is always helpful. This doesn't mean that you have to live off of a capsule wardrobe (although if you do that's great!), but just think through something for a day or two before you purchase it. Taking even an hour to think through a purchase before buying it really helps with deciding whether it's actually something that you would use versus just something you really like but won't wear after the first week. To help me decide if I would actually wear something often enough to justify buying it, I think about my other clothes and decide whether or not they would go together. If the colour/cut/style doesn't work well with my other clothes I'm far less likely to wear it.
I left this tip for last because it's the most expensive. This one isn't necessary obviously (well, none of them are), but if you want to spend a little bit more for a nice piece that you would like to have for a long time, this is the way to go. All of the previous tips are easy to do cheaply, but often when buying from smaller brands or more couture labels, you do have to pay more. The positive to this is that if you do have the money and are willing to spend it, whatever you get will last forever and some brands even will mend them for you if anything happens. How is this good for the environment? There are multiple things that are great - by having a piece in your wardrobe that's well sewn that will last forever you are saving a lot of money long term as well as fabric by not having to re-buy it. Also, these smaller brands or items from local seamstresses are usually made either in small quantities or made to order. That means they save fabric, choose better quality fabric, and use less equipment (meaning less energy). Another pro for this is that you know the artisan who made what you are wearing was payed a fair wage to create it.
I am a huge advocate for supporting artists, and even if you aren't able to purchase something from them, just sharing their work or spreading the word is incredibly helpful
Do you have any other tips for keeping you wardrobe sustainable?