Recently during one of my bi yearly closet detoxes, as I looked at the pile of clothes I was about to donate to a local charity shop lying in a heap beside me, I couldn’t help but wonder what the fate of these clothes would be. Would they all be repurchased by someone and go to a new loving home? Or would some of these items that had seen better days with their frayed hems and worn out collars just get discarded and taken to the city dumpster? Sadly, I knew the reality, their days were numbered.
Sustainable fashion has been a movement since World War II when, due to fabric shortage and rationing, citizens had to alter their clothes (think shorter box cut skirts) to adapt to these shortages. The term and movement peaked again in the 80’s and 90’s when companies such as ESPRIT and Patagonia centred their campaigns around sustainable fashion. It seems to have gained momentum once again as the fashion industries buzz word as more and more “fast fashion” chain stores churn out $2.00 leggings and $10.00 sweaters quicker than you can say “polyester”.
Many of us have fallen victim to this “fast fashion” epidemic. Walking out of these chain stores laden with bags of clothes, jackets, home décor and beauty products for less than what one would spend on a dinner and a movie seems to be a common sighting on any given Saturday across the globe for several reasons. Firstly, the price point. Plain and simple. With the rising cost of inflation, many of us are watching our spending habits and saving money wherever we can has become very enticing for some. After all, who doesn’t like a good bargain? Secondly, “fast fashion” chain stores offer you the opportunity to purchase fashion items and trends which have been copied straight from the runway without the runway price tag. Many consumers aren’t willing to spend a small fortune on a sweater that 6 months down the road might be deemed “unfashionable”.
However, most of us understand these purchases come with a hefty metaphorical price tag. With three young children who are growing like weeds and two adults who like to dress to impress, I’ve been thinking a lot about my family’s carbon footprint and the ethical standards we wish to embrace when it comes to fashion. Elizabeth Cline’s book “Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion” documents the harrowing environmental effect the clothing industry has on the planet, claiming that 85% of it ends up in landfills. (Portfolio, 2013). Many of us are also conscious about the ethical standards involved in producing “fast fashion”. Do you ever wonder how these chain stores can afford to churn out such cheap products at such a fast rate? Horror stories of sweat shops, deplorable working conditions and child labour have been surfacing for years.
With all that being said; what is a girl or guy who indulges in some well-deserved retail therapy and loves to follow recent trends to do? Well several things as it may. Coco Chanel, one of the most iconic fashion designers of all time, embraced a “less is more” stance on fashion. She created classic timeless pieces that were well made, tailored and stood the test of time. Nowadays one doesn’t have to go to Paris to buy these items nor do these purchases have to be haute couture. Purchasing good quality fashionable items from local vendors serves a dual purpose; not only can you reduce your carbon footprint by buying locally or nationally made clothing, you are also supporting your countries economy and their art and design sector.
Scouring charity shops, yard sales, church sales, vintage stores and markets for vintage clothing has also remained a popular way to acquire pieces for one’s wardrobe. As is attending closet detox and clothing swap parties. Pre-loved fashion shopping online has also been made easier (thanks to social media) and offers a stress-free shopping experience that supports fashion sustainability. One of my favourite preloved designer fashion companies is the Canadian company Eivey. Operating fully online with free shipping, buying designer fashion has never been easier. Maryna Delannoy, one of the co-founders of Eivey, believes that tackling our closets is next on the to do list for eco-conscious citizens. She sees buying preloved fashion as a way of facilitating this change by extending the lifecycle of fashion.
And that’s just it. Realizing that even clothing has a lifecycle and unless we want to see our planet littered with the remains of it, individuals need to start making ecologically sound decisions to reduce their carbon footprint; one Manolo Blahnik at a time.