‘Fashion’ is synonymous with ‘change,’ which pretty much means the same thing as ‘waste.’ But it doesn’t have to be that way. Slow fashion is a conscious choice and commitment to reducing excessive consumption. Fashion is one of the most polluting industries out there, even more so than the airline industry.
If sustainable fashion makes you think of hippies clad in homemade garb, think again. Sustainable does not have to mean frumpy. As consumers become more conscious about their choices, so do brands, and many are creating amazing things that are as elegant as they are eco-friendly. Cheap and disposable are no longer cool. Read on to learn five easy ways of becoming a slow fashion maven.
1. Fast Versus Slow
The fast track, the fast lane, the fast and furious…Faster is better, right? Not so fast. When it comes to fashion, it’s worthwhile to slow down and take stock. Since 2000, the amount of garments produced every year has doubled. The average consumer today buys 60% more clothes than they did twenty years ago adding up to 80 billion items a year, but we keep them only about half as long.
On average, each of us throws away about 70 pounds of clothes every year, and a solid 20% of those items are never worn even once! Hopping on the latest fashion trend only to abandon it just as fast is an example of throwaway fashion. It’s how companies make a fast buck, but the environment pays. Stop wasting money and precious resources on things you barely wear.
Next time you’re about to click the ‘buy now’ button, hit pause instead. This is the pivotal moment where you have the opportunity to make an intentional decision about whether or not you really need, or even want, this item.
Investing in classic pieces that will be in style for years to come is the way to go. Aim for 30 wears. If you don’t think you’ll put on an item at least 30 times, or if it looks like it won’t hold up to that many washes, take a pass and pick something that will.
2. Quantity Versus Quality
More, More, More
It’s also in our genetic makeup to gather in times of plenty. Not only that, we’re encouraged to ‘do our part’ and support the economy by buying lots of stuff. But all this comes at a price, and not only with a hefty credit card bill.
Our homes are filled to the rafters with so much, we hardly know what we own anymore. While humans lived in scarcity for most of our history, it’s no longer the case and we are drowning in a sea of abundance.
Less Is More
The saying ‘less is more’ is a cliché because it’s true. Fewer items in your wardrobe make it easier to decide what to wear in the morning, freeing up space in your closet and your brain.
Naturally, if you are going to create a classic wardrobe, you want to invest in quality items. Take a really hard look at every single thing you’re considering buying. Quality pieces that never go out of styles like a wool blazer, trousers, and a silk blouse are some top picks of Slow Fashionistas.
3. New Versus Used
Shiny & New
The seduction of something new appeals to just about everyone, and feeling like you’re missing out is hard. Keeping up with the Joneses isn’t new, but social media has promoted the concept to a whole other level.
Less than 15% of the materials used to make clothing are recycled, and textile waste is at an all-time high with over 10 million tons winding up in landfills each year. We all love new things, but proponents of Slow Fashion are reframing this concept as: New to me.
Second-hand clothing is a hot trend. This can be a real boon for those who love designer labels but who can’t afford designer prices. Most items you’ll find in consignment shops have barely been worn, and sometimes they still have the tags on them. For special occasion items such as a formal gown you only plan to wear a couple of times at most, second-hand is the way to go.
Quality thrift items last just like new ones, and they help keep clothes out of landfills. You can even earn a few bucks by consigning special pieces you no longer use. When you choose consignment, everyone is a winner.
4. Natural Versus Synthetic
The Synthetic Situation
Synthetics are usually made from fossil fuels, a precious resource that is rapidly running out. The production of fibers like polyester and nylon emit nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas that is even more dangerous to the ozone layer than carbon dioxide. Not only that, synthetics don’t break down for hundreds of years, resulting in serious environmental pollution.
Synthetics are also very difficult to recycle, and microfibers are strongly linked to hormonal disruption and cancer. By some estimates, there could be more plastic in the ocean than fish before we get halfway through this century. We must reduce our use of synthetic fibers.
Natural Isn’t Innocent
Natural fibers like cotton seem like the obvious alternative, and they are definitely preferable to synthetics. But that does not make them innocent players on the world stage. Cotton is a very thirsty crop, especially as it is often grown in climates where it would not naturally thrive. About 20% of industrial water pollution comes from textile dye and finishing treatments.
This statistic is especially dire when we consider that water is an extremely precious resource. It is projected that half the world’s population could potentially face drinking water shortages by 2030. Organic, sustainable fibers are the way of the future.
5. Good Versus Cheap
How to Be Good
We all understand that Earth is our only home and we need to take care of it, at least in theory. In practice, we may not always understand what actions this will require. We can’t keep taking and never give back and expect the planet to thrive. It is estimated that one-third to one-half of all wildlife species may be extinct by the year 2050 due to human activity.
To prevent such a catastrophe, we must act now, and that includes reducing our wasteful habits that contribute to environmental pollution. Throwaway fashion is not sustainable.
Cheap Can Get Expensive
We can’t have everything, and people need something to wear. Affordable clothing that lasts and does minimal harm to the environment is possible with more transparency in the way fibers are sourced, produced and distributed in the textile industry.
Other slow fashion choices include supporting ecologically-sound farming methods, and engaging with businesses that pay fair wages. It can also mean providing opportunities for consumers to recycle their products once they’ve outlived their use.
We can no longer turn a blind eye to the consequences of throwaway fashion. It may not feel like much, but every time you make the choice to invest in quality pieces that you’ll wear many times over, both you and the planet win.
By choosing brands that prove their commitment to the preservation of the earth’s ecosystems, wasteful businesses will have no choice but to follow suit. Slow fashion may be a slow burner, but as we all know, slow and steady wins the race.