5 Common Struggles with Sustainable Fashion

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Understanding that fast fashion is not sustainable is easy. Knowing how and where to find better alternatives is slightly harder. Even when you start looking into the subject there are a few common problems that might arise.

Style

Are oversized hemp pants and batik tunics the picture that comes to mind when you think of sustainable fashion? Sure, there are loads of that out there but today there are alternatives available that offer a wider range of styles.

Finding sustainable clothes that fit your personal style can be hard. You’ve probably spent years cultivating your style and finding stores that correspond to this. You probably know where to go if you want a good white tee and where to go for a party dress. So when you start looking for sustainable options you might find yourself back at zero, having to go through the process of finding your sustainable favorites.

So how can you make the process of finding your sustainable style a bit easier? Firstly, find sustainable influencers whose style you like. They will surely be sharing their favorite brands on their channels so be there and snap it up. Additionally, you could start following your favorite brands on resale apps. It’s still possible to shop your favorite high street favorites, as long as you purchase them second hand. By shopping second hand you save clothes from going to landfills, as well as avoiding using new resources.

Size

Finding clothes that fit is hard enough, to begin with, but if you are plus size the selection of sustainable brands that cater to you will be very slim. Many sustainable brands start very small, meaning only size S-L which leaves most women out. There are however brands that are working hard on being size-inclusive, so don’t think that you have to skip sustainable fashion because of your size!

Some great resources for finding size-inclusive brands:

Marielle Elizabeth’s full list of plus size sustainable brands

The Good Trade’s list of 15 plus-size brands

Ecocult’s list of size-inclusive ethical and sustainable brands

Price

The price point is definitely higher for sustainable fashion than for fast fashion. This is because better materials cost more, and so does paying a fairer wage for workers.

The best ways to get around the price issue is to rethink how you value and spend money. From fast fashion, we have gotten the view that clothes are cheap and disposable and that it’s okay if a shirt breaks after 4 wears because it only cost us 4€. But the resources behind that shirt was way more expensive than those 4€ and we should strive to extend the life of our garments. So instead of buying five 4€ shirts that last us a total of 20 wears, we should instead invest those 20€ in one shirt that will last us 20+ times. Investing in quality rather than quantity.

Shopping second hand is also a great solution for an affordable and sustainable closet. The prices are cheaper and allow you to stretch your money further than buying new. There are no new resources being used for second-hand items and at the same time, you might be saving an item from ending up in the landfill. Pretty neat, huh?

Accessibility

If you don’t live in a bigger city, chances are there are no physical stores near you that sell sustainable fashion. Thankfully today there are loads of brands that are available for you to shop online!

One issue with shopping online is finding the right size and fit, so to avoid sizing issues, invest in measuring tape to make sure you order the right size. Also, don’t be afraid to contact the shops or brands for sizing help, they want you to find the best fit as well. There is the problem with shipping when shopping online. And while it might feel like a big issue, shipping usually has a small impact on the lifecycle of a garment.

If you don’t feel like shopping online, it’s wise to go for smaller local businesses that produce quality products that will last. Investing in smaller businesses keeps your money from the big corporations, destroying the planet with unethical practices, and benefits the local area.

Knowledge

Knowing which materials, brands or certifications are best takes time and lots of research. Even researchers seem to be unable to say what’s the best choice (except maybe less consumption of newly produced products, I think that one is pretty clear), so how is it possible for us consumers to know?

Once again, I would champion finding stores, influencers, and brands that you can trust and follow their lead. Unless you want to do all the work yourself. Just spending a little time reading up on which fabrics are most eco-friendly can make shopping feel easier. And never feel bad for making a decision based on what you thought was the best at the time. Choose progress over perfection and be kind to yourself.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

5 common struggles with sustainable fashion

What is Slow Fashion?

Slow Fashion: what is it really?

To explain slow fashion I usually start at the other end. It’s easier to say what slow fashion is not. It’s NOT fast fashion. It’s NOT throwaway culture. It’s NOT buying things that you know will be used just once. It’s the opposite of all that. Opposite of what has become the new normal.

So let’s start with fast fashion and the current consumption behavior. As you might have already understood we are consuming way too much and way too fast, and it’s projected to grow even more. We are today buying 60% more than 15 years ago and the global industry has more than doubled since 2000. If we continue the growth the fashion industry will account for more than one fourth of emissions worldwide in 2050…

Why is this way of consuming a problem?

It requires a lot of resources to make clothes. Everything from growing the crop or extracting oil for making fibers and then fabrics, to all the energy used in factories, to the actual labor making the clothes and then transportation and all the stores and warehouses to provide with lighting and heating.

And we are not only buying at an increasing rate. We are also throwing out faster than ever. On average a garment is used just four times before being thrown away and many of our purchased garments don’t even make it a year…

“Buy less, choose well, make it last”

– Vivienne Westwood

How do we slow down fashion?

There are several ways of promoting slow fashion. Here are my best tips!

Buy less and less frequently

This is the simplest way of slowing down fashion. Buying less will obviously reduce your overall impact and when you force yourself to buy less you become more mindful of the purchases you do make.

Buy quality so it lasts longer

When we invest in qualitative items they are more likely to last. Most of the fashion made today is low-quality and will start to break or lose color in a few wears, which is neither sustainable nor fun.

Buy clothes that fit properly

With standard sizing, this can be a real issue, but if the fit feels off, you will most likely not wear it. We have all bought items that you love in the store, but its a bit too tight at the waist or can’t really fit your shoulders and we all know that those are not the items we reach for in the closet later on. So only buy things that actually fit your current body.

Buy timeless pieces that won’t go out of style

This might seem boring to some, but investing in a closet that stands the test of time is a great way to engage in slow fashion. Fast fashion is built on trends that change every few weeks, while slow fashion is rather built on style, which will last you way longer. So by investing in timeless cuts, colors, and garments, you will find yourself having more to wear every season.

Take good care of the clothes you own

Making clothes last is not only about how you buy them but also about how you care for them. How we care for our clothes has a big impact on their longevity and impact, so make sure you follow the instructions on the washing label, as well as mending items that break instead of buying new.

Consider swapping or rental subscriptions

If you think that timeless is the epitome of boring go for more sustainable options to trendy consumption, such as clothing swaps or rental subscriptions. That way you can have a steady stream of new clothes coming and going, while not actually consuming anything. Win-win!

What’s your best tips for slow fashion?

What is Ethical Fashion and Why Should I buy it?

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Today, Monday 22nd until Sunday 28th is Fashion Revolution Week. Fashion Revolution is an organization formed by Orsola di Castro??

What is ethical fashion?

To really define ethical fashion is quite hard. I always saw (and still do see) ethical fashion as fashion that focused on social aspects of the fashion process, ethical and fair trade labor, companies that made sure that workers were paid fairly and worked in safe and humane conditions. This is also often the use I see from a lot of brands promoting themselves as ethical.

In its essence though, ethical fashion is a wide definition of designing, producing and distributing fashion with ethics in mind. This means ethical in regard to all. To the planet, the people within the supply chain, as well as animals. Thus it encompasses both eco-friendly/sustainability, cruelty-free and fair labor.

If we look at an example, Everlane is often championed as an ethical brand. The reason for this is that they are somewhat transparent and use ethical factories. So nothing really about the environment or animal welfare. This is what makes the term quite confusing.

Why is it needed?

According to Fashion Revolution  women in the Guangdong region in China (where a lot of fashion is made) have to work up towards 150 hours of overtime every month. In addition, only about 10 percent of them have access to social insurance. In Bangladesh, the workers are only earning about one-fourth of the living wage, about 44£ a month! At the same time, the amount of fashion that is produced per year has more than doubled since the year 2000. In 2014, we bought 60 percent more garments than in 2000, while only keeping each garment for half the amount of time.

No matter if it’s the planet or the people you are more passionate about, these statistics clearly show that the speed of which the fashion industry is moving at is ever increasing and the planet and the people in the industry are paying the price. Fashion is a huge industry and it has the chance to make a great impact if it were to make sustainable changes.

Why is it more expensive?

Today most of us have access to fast fashion and have probably bought a t-shirt for less than 10€. So it makes sense that a lot of people would be shocked to see an ethically produced t-shirt cost four times as much. Ever since fashion was outsourced to cheaper countries, there has been a race for cheaper. When one country’s labor becomes too expensive (ergo, they get better paid), companies simply move their production to another, poorer, cheaper country. Until that country gets better wages and they move onto the next.

Fast fashion has given us a screwed view of what things actually cost because when you shop for fast fashion there is usually someone else paying. When you buy a cheap t-shirt, there really is no room for paying the workers fairly because after material costs and markups there is next to nothing left for the workers. It’s simple math.

This doesn’t mean that all items that are slightly more expensive pay fair wages. It might just be a higher markup to ear more money. But it’s safe to say that if you cannot believe how cheap it is, you can be pretty sure that someone along the line wasn’t paid.

Who made my clothes?

This is the question that Fashion Revolution wants us to pose to our favorite brands. Even though most brands write in which country the item has been produced, very few share who or even in which factory it was produced. A lot of times they do not even know. The supply chains are today a huge net of factories in many different countries and continents and the traceability is lacking. By demanding brands to answer the question of who made my clothes you are demanding a fairer production and a more transparent production.

So who will you be asking?

Why and How You Should Do a Shopping Ban

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A shopping ban is exactly what it sounds like, a ban from shopping. But the exact rules for a shopping ban tends to differ depending on who you ask. Most people, however, would include any shopping in the form of clothes and apparel, as well as shoes and accessories. Many would also add any items for the home or tech appliances.

So why should you try a shopping ban, and how do you do it?

Why should you do a shopping ban?

There are many reasons for doing a shopping ban, but I would ultimately say that they all include something. And that is sustainability. Ther reasons might be:

Financial sustainability

It’s quite common for people that are in debt or are facing tough financial times to cut their shopping for a shorter or longer period. It allows them to cut their unnecessary spendings from shopping to better their financial status.

Environmental sustainability

More and more people are getting aware of the fact that overconsumption is killing the planet and the people. Buying less stuff will have a positive impact on one’s personal impact on the world. It will mean fewer resources used to produce products for you, as well as fewer things to have to recycle, reuse, repurpose.

Mental sustainability

There is a reason why Marie Kondo and minimalism have become a big trend. Living with less can give you more time for the things that really matter. If you are a shopaholic and only find joy in buying new things all the time a shopping ban can be a great way to kick the bad habit.

No matter why you want to buy less a shopping ban is a great way to detox your shopping habits.

How to do it?

Set clear rules

The first thing to do is to set rules that work for your situation. If you have kids it might be hard to ban all type of shopping you do, but you could decide that purchases for the children are okay, but not for you. Some people think that gifts are okay to buy, as they are not for yourself. Some people include almost all purchases in a ban, even experiences such as travels, concerts and restaurant visits.

If you have any purchases you know will be needed during the time of the shopping ban, it’s a good idea to write out a list of needed items that are exempt from the ban. You might need to buy a bridesmaid’s dress for your best friends wedding, your running shoes are starting to break, or your computer is really old and you do not know if it will survive the time. The rules are for you to have a better experience and to hold yourself accountable.

Be realistic

This one is probably the most important one. You need to be realistic with both the rules of the shopping ban and during the actual process. What works for others might not be for you. I know people who have done modified shopping bans where they are not allowed to buy anything new, but they can buy second hand.

Also, don’t be a Scrooge for things like your health and wellbeing and don’t feel bad if unexpected expenses come up. You might get a bad toothache that will result in expensive appointments. There is nothing you can do about this (except maybe keeping a buffer for unexpected events), so just deal with it and move on. You simply need to give room to life happening, e.g. it’s okay to replace something you really need that breaks, it will not make you a bad person. The ban is a detox, it is meant to change your habits, not get rid of them all together!

Remove & avoid the temptation

Just like when you’re on a diet (not that I really do diets, because they kinda suck) it’s a good idea to remove and avoid all temptation. Out of sight, out of mind, right?

A great first step in removing temptation is to unsubscribe from all sources that usually triggers your shopping behavior. This can mean unsubscribing from e-mails or send-outs from companies, as well as muting or unsubscribing from brands or influencers on social media. Avoiding temptation can mean that you avoid going into stores all together or at least the ones where you usually shop. It can mean that you avoid going to the mall since it might trigger you. Sometimes it might even involve avoiding certain people that seem to trigger your behavior…

Change your habits

Changing your habits and exchanging them for new (healthier) ones is key to remaining the behavior after the ban is over. Otherwise, you risk returning to bad habits once the ban is off. It doesn’t really matter what you fill your time with, you could swap scrolling through online shopping sites for reading a book, or knitting, or whatever that makes you feel good. But try to swap it for something positive. Sometimes we do not understand how much time we actually spend consuming or looking to consume, but if you use that time wisely, you can come a long way!

Remember it’s not forever

Maybe this seems a little bit contradictive to the last point. Obviously, the intention of the ban is to challenge one’s perceptions and habits. Still, remembering that it’s not forever can help deal with it. Hopefully, when later comes and the ban is over, you won’t have the same urge to buy anymore, and you will have a more conscious relationship to shopping.

Find your creativity

When you are not allowed to follow in your old habits of buying new every time you feel uninspired or bored it is vital to get more creative with what you have. If interior decor is your thing, you could get creative by using items from nature, upcycling things (maybe making a nice candle holder from a glass jar?), or simply rearrange the furniture a bit. If clothing is your biggest vice you could try borrowing from friends, refashion things you already own or try find a way to use something in the not intended way (like a dress as a skirt/top…). I have also found help in using the Cladwell app. It can give you suggestions on how to combine the items you have in ways you didn’t think of before.

Are you up for a shopping ban?

April challenge – shopping ban

Shopping mallIf you didn’t know, during April it’s Fashion Revolution Week. It was created as a reminder of Rana Plaza, the clothing factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on April 24th in 2013 killing 1134 people, and tries to raise the question of fair and ethical conditions within the fashion industry. As a way of honoring this week and the horrible conditions many (most) garment workers face today, I decided to make my April challenge a shopping ban.

So why did I decide to do a shopping ban? Well, mostly because over-consumption is one of the biggest problems in fashion today! In the last decades, the consumption of clothing has drastically increased, while the prices and thus salaries for those making the clothes have gone down. One of the best ways of decreasing one’s own impact through fashion is to buy less, so that’s what I’m doing! One month is a pretty short time, but sometimes it’s harder than you think because our entire society is built around shopping and consumption. We are constantly told to renew ourselves, our closets and our homes and this pressure can make even the most conscious person go crazy. For me, one month is a start and probably, I will challenge myself to a longer period soon.

So what does this small shopping ban entail? Well, it means no buying clothes, shoes, accessories, home decor, books or anything. The only thing I am allowed to consume is necessary stuff such as hygiene products, medicine, and food.

Have you ever tried a shopping ban or have you thought about doing one?