Can new clothes = sustainable fashion?
Just living in the modern world requires compromise (hello mobile phone/motor travel/using computers etc etc).....but that doesn't mean we can't take steps - no matter how little - to make the world a better place. Love fashion? Love new clothes? Feel guilty that you're not helping with sustainability? Here are ways you can do your bit to continue supporting local businesses and getting your fashion fix, but in a more positive and environmentally friendly way (and there are suggestions for all budgets).
<image: from Dutch Sustainable Fashion Week 2019>
1. CUSTOM OUTFITS
~ Get your clothes made (by yourself, friend, local designer or hobby sewer etc)
This is a massive benefit in terms of wastage - those clothes lined up in stores don't all get sold - and not all businesses have implemented socially conscious ways of disposing of them. An outfit made just for you means you are only buying what you plan to use. Can't afford the fees of a local dressmaker? Ask how you can save money - for example, by choosing cheaper or recycled fabrics, simplifying designs to reduce the time spent on the outfit, or being creative to achieve a similar look for less money.
<@ellahurley in an outfit made by her mother, @made.bymarilyn>
~ If you're getting clothes made, use sustainable fabric OR use fabric which will minimise wastage (eg remnants, end-of-rolls, vintage fabrics, repurposed fabric etc). If your dressmaker is making a toile first (a draft) ask them to consider recycled or reusable fabric. Some dressmakers, on the other hand, make the toile in a fabric which can be also used as a complete outfit - if not for the person commissioning it, then to be sold or used later by someone else.
<The dress and cropped jacket on the left was made for @miss_stephkwong by @sovata_fashion_millinery in late 2019. The toile was made from the black and while fabric on the right, so that it could be used as an outfit in its own right - which it was, in 2020. Photo on right by Wendell Teodoro>
~ Think ahead - if getting an outfit made,
should you also buy some extra fabric so you can get it remodelled later, or even get separates (coat/cape/trousers etc) which work with the outfit made at the same time so you can mix and match?
<@Fitoure_mode dresses. The shift dress was made in February 2020, but extra fabric was bought to be re-used later. In May the outfit was remodelled into a tiered dress using the spare fabric, but keeping the top half of the dress and zip. Both worn by @01geri. Which is me>
2. NOT GETTING OUTFITS MADE? Plenty more sustainable options for you......
~ If you're buying an outfit, try to buy from stores which have sustainable practices in place. If buying online, find out which stores use biodegradable or reusable packaging; offer sustainable fashion; or other services which can minimise environmental impact. If going to shop-front stores, find out which ones have sustainability measures in place. There are options for all budgets - eg, H & M have a sustainability manifest, and offer garment collections so you can donate your old clothing.
<All of the labels featured above are Australian-based with strong sustainability credentials. But there are plenty more - do a social media search to find companies which offer clothes or services that will satisfy your beliefs and budget>
~ Buy vintage. No longer a possible sign of having fallen on hard times - instead it's a badge of honour regardless of your budget if you can cleverly style pre-loved items. With retro looks really taking centre stage at the moment, it's the perfect time to save money and still get new (for you) outfits.
<@bryony.t and @thefashionrenovator both giving vintage items new life in fashionable ways>
3. INSTEAD OF BUYING, TRY THESE OPTIONS...
~ Rent, swap, borrow. Again, technically it might not be a 'new' item, but it's YOUR new item, for at least one wear, and it's not costing the earth. If you haven't got similarly sized friends or relatives willing to help out, there are many verifiable businesses with on-trend items you can hire for a fraction of the original cost. Prioritise ones that stock on consignment or for a percentage fee from owners - you more likely to be helping individuals/small businesses, and you're not adding to industry wastage by using companies which buy large quantities of new stock in different sizes to rent and sell.
<Borrowing my daughter's outfit......>
4. AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST.....
~ New clothes from your old clothes - reuse, restyle, be clever*.
[*Those of you who follow @Fitoure_Mode will know I use this phrase a lot!]
You've saved long and hard for the perfect item. You've had it made, or purchased it, and created a beautiful look ~ occasion-wear, street-style, event-wear. It's featured all over social media and you looked a million dollars. But now you have a new occasion - and you don't want the same outfit.
Technically not new clothes - but you can definitely have new outfits! And, add to your sustainability efforts at the same time. Be creative in how you can remix your wardrobe, adding or subtracting layers, and enhancing different colour schemes. [Note - this is slightly different from remodelling - where you actually alter outfits, often irrevocably].
<Four new and different looks - by mixing, matching and layering items in her wardrobe,
Milano [@milanoimai] demonstrates a number of sustainable practices while still managing to look unique and polished. This includes getting re-usable dresses and hats custom made (minimising wastage and employing locals), hiring accessories, layering outfits over each other for new looks, and thinking ahead to ensure her colour palettes mostly all work together so she will have more options for future combinations. Milano also is known for making her own embellishments to add over an existing outfit, another way to give it a different look.>
Fashion can be many things. Art, self-expression, signification - and it can be sustainable. We don't have to sacrifice our sartorial standards to still do whatever we can, no matter how small, to take steps towards a better world.
So yes, new clothes = sustainable fashion. If you do something about it. :)
<Gorman, a brand with clearly defined sustainability policies>
Do you have other suggestions for fashion vs sustainability issues? Would you like more galleries of people who have cleverly reused, recycled or generally been very clever?
Send a message on instagram or facebook or comment your ideas.