A Sustainable Fashion Guide for Beginners
You might have heard this before; "the world needs to change to be saved". Well, it's true. Humans need to change their habits to help protect their home, and one way to do it is by choosing sustainable fashion.
Sadly, one of the most pollution industries in the world is fashion. Every step of the process has a big impact on the planet. The huge demand for new clothes in a short amount of time makes it that harmful.
We know that sustainability can be overwhelming at first but don't worry, you'll learn how to adapt it to your life in no time. That's why we're here, we'll help you build your eco-friendly and conscious wardrobe.
When learning something new I always try to go for the definition first, it helps me have a smaller but clearer picture of the topic.
Since sustainability is a concept that integrates various aspects, we'll divide it to understand it better.
First, what exactly is Sustainable Fashion?
It's fashion that cares about the people, the economy, and the environment. It's the most conscious way of producing clothes. With this we mean that it should avoid harming natural resources or animals, exploiting their workers, and leaving a profit.
In 1987, the UN defined sustainability as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs".
I think this definition is very accurate. We'll always need clothing; but not because it's something indispensable means that we should have it no matter at what cost. If we take and take without thinking about it, we end up harming everything and everyone. We need to keep meeting our needs but still leave a beautiful world for the future generations that will also have needs.
Now, what is Ethical Fashion?
This one focuses on the social aspect, it's fashion that cares about its workers. Simple as that. Of course, as it is ethical, they shouldn't leave behind the environment, but it isn't a priority.
When you buy ethical fashion, you are making sure someone receives a fair salary and that they're working in healthy conditions. Some associations dedicate to ensure this, they give certifications to brands and companies that meet their standards of fair labor.
What about Slow Fashion?
It's the opposite of fast fashion. This means fewer collections per year and a more conscious way to produce them. It is supposed to pay fairly to their workers, but as well, the materials they use aren't always sustainable or eco-friendly.
It is true, that because they produce fewer clothes their impact on the planet is way less than fast fashion and there is no way to compare it. But, let's keep in mind a polyester garment can be made in a slow fashion brand.
Now that we know these basic definitions you have a better understanding of what you're facing, right?
Let's start working on how you could have a sustainable wardrobe:
There are a few things that you always need to keep in mind before making any decision.
1.What's your garment made of?
You can search this on the brand's website, look for the composition of materials. Or if you're shopping in person, take a look inside the garments and read the care label.
Natural Fibers are always better because they are biodegradable. Meaning that if you compost them, they will disintegrate and will not harm the soil.
Synthetic fibers like polyester take years to disintegrate, and even then, there are tiny particles that may never go away.
Some examples of natural fibers are cotton, bamboo, hemp, wool, linen, silk (as the name says, it should come from nature). Unfortunately, these could also be harmful to the environment. The perfect solution would be to look for Organic products, which means that the fibers were obtained without using pesticides or any toxic substances.
Another option that is still considered sustainable are Recycled fibers. These fabrics are made with fibers that were something else before. For example, recycled polyester or cotton comes from old garments and turned into new ones; or recycled nylon that comes from abandoned nets in the ocean, they recover them and turn it into clothing.
This type of fiber is one of our favorites because it's more affordable, and they're using what already exists in the world. Turning “waste” into new items.
Also, avoid buying garments that have been made with mixed fibers, these are harder to recycle. Look for a composition of 100% cotton or 100% organic cotton.
- Use what already exists
You might have looked at our closet and thought I have nothing to wear, well, let me tell you a secret… you do. You only need a little creativity and to get out of the regular combinations, and you'll see how many outfits you can get with your wardrobe. One idea to help you with this is, doing the 10X10 challenge which makes you pick only 10 items (tops, pants, dresses, jacket) and wear them for 10 days. Try it! I promise it helps.
But why do we want to use and wear what already exists? Because humans generate tons of waste that end up in landfills and takes decades to disappear. We don't want anything to end up in there.
You can Reuse everything, give things a second purpose before you dispose of them. And even then, when your clothes are no longer useful you can Recycle them, some brands have programs that receive used garments. Upcycling is your best friend to make new things out of your old ones.
Also, you can buy Second hand! There are a lot of thrift shops around the world. You'll give garments a second life, it's cheaper, and you could find some unique things.
Finally, as your last resource, you can Donate your clothes. Try all of the above first and if you can't, you can donate.
- Quality over quantity
Invest in quality, we always say it. We believe that if you buy clothes of high quality, they will last you longer and won't become waste. Yes, it may be more expensive but it's worth it.
That's why we hate fast fashion, they make garments of such poor quality that you can only wear them a couple of times, and that's it. In the longer term, you end up spending more money on bad-quality garments.
- Will I use it next year?
Always ask yourself this question when you’re trying something new. Think about it, do you see yourself in it in 10 years? How would this garment go with your wardrobe?
We’re not saying you should only buy basics; you can buy any type of garment you want as long as you’ll wear it. We know we get bored of our clothing sometimes but there are tons of ways you can fall in love with your wardrobe again.
One way to make your wardrobe timeless is to avoid trends. They go out of fashion very soon and they only make our clothes become trash. Since in the next 6 months, you won’t want to wear it.
Find your personal style and it will be easier to pick clothing that will stay in your wardrobe for years.
- Make your research
Before any buy, you make, research the brand. Look for their sustainability actions. How do they treat their employees? What fabrics do they use? Do they have certifications? What actions are they taking to make the less impact possible?
As a consumer, you can actively look out for brands accredited by Fair Trade.
Making your research will help you avoid greenwashing, a way for companies to say that they have sustainable products when in real life they aren’t. Another way of discovering when this is happening is when their production is still being made in massive quantities. For example, when Zara or H&M brings out a product made with recycled materials, yes, it’s better than 100% new fibers but it isn’t good enough! They are still making tons of that item, that is not eco-friendly.
- Handmade / Self-made
Me made clothing is the best. These are clothes sewn by you, made at home to your specific measurements. This is one of the greatest options of sustainable fashion since it’s the one that pollutes less.
Invest in a sewing machine and it will last you a lifetime. You can have almost any garment you want!
And we’re done. Have this guide in mind any time and soon you’ll see changes in your consuming behavior and in your wardrobe. It is a slow journey; you can accomplish it step by step. Like we said it's based on making conscious choices.
Even though it’s a slow process, you need to start now. Make your research and start building your sustainable wardrobe right now.
Dani & Lucy from Our Fashion Garden