Sustainable fashion is getting a lot of “buzz” these days and I guess it is a good thing: conversations about our planet and how we can help save it (through our clothes) are becoming more frequent.
However, I feel that there is a better way to think about fashion and sustainability—we should not just see it as a fleeting trend but rather as a lifestyle. Taking our responsibility seriously to the planet that we live in should not be fad—and we can do so much with our everyday actions.
For consumers, what does it mean, really, to be sustainable in fashion?
1. It is about buying sustainable brands. The common message on sustainability that we see in the media and in ads are often accompanied by an invitation to buy—as in, buying better. That’s great and we love to support entrepreneurs and brands who care for the planet. However, our course of action should not be limited to that. Buying a dress that you do not need from a sustainable brand is not exactly going to make a big difference. Fashion Revolution, a global sustainable fashion movement, says that when it comes to shopping and wearing clothes, our actions can change everything. “We should consider whether we need to buy anything at all. Our ability to enact change is not only in what we buy, but in the way we value the clothing we already own.”
2. Sustainable fashion are for rich people. It is easy to get this impression on the movement. I, too, had stuck in my head for a while. Many of the stories that I read about on sustainable fashion are from developed European countries and privileged people (“My [insert luxury brand] leather bag has been passed on from my grandmother,” is a common narrative). But the reality is that we don’t need to be rich to be sustainable in fashion. While it is nice to go shopping with sustainability in mind—to splurge in a timeless luxury brand piece, to get a tailor-fit dress, or to invest in a fair trade scarf—it is not the only way to go green for our wardrobe. We can clothes swap, thrift shop (ukay-ukay), mend clothes, repeat outfits, or give life to old clothes. Whether you are rich or not is out of the question. It is all about mindful and responsible consumption.
3. My green fashion choices are not going to make a difference. There is an unfortunate truth to this: one person who is trying to achieve a perfect sustainable wardrobe is not going to make a dent in the world. However, millions of people who are imperfect with their choices on sustainability can make significant change. We are all in this together. “It’s the most inconspicuous decisions in our lives that matter most—like choosing the brands we patronize or the garments we purchase. When we shop mindfully and do things with intention, our relationship with our clothes changes: we start to think about their social and environmental impacts,” said Yana Santiago, social entrepreneur and sustainability advocate.
Understanding fashion and how it correlates to sustainability shouldn’t be difficult—this is simply based on the idea that our clothes use natural and human resources to produce hence we should take care of them and be mindful of how we buy, wear, wash and dispose of them.
The “buzz” on sustainability is changing the way many people think about fashion. It is now up to us to keep the conversations and actions going.
(Let’s talk about fashion and sustainability! I’m @jesiramoun on social media and Writing Detours on WordPress.)
Jesse Pizarro Boga is a writer who has keen interest in media literacy, sustainability, and sci-fi. He enjoys bacon and burpees.
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