What is sustainable fashion?
There is not a universally accepted definition that I have come across. The attempts at a definition that I have seen tend to focus on the attributes of sustainable fashion. In my view, and for anyone looking to make the initial transition to sustainable fashion, I would say sustainable fashion involves moving away from the disposable fast fashion culture and taking into account the impact of fashion choices on the environment and people that make the clothes. Fast fashion which sadly is the most widely available focuses on making clothes fast and on trend without much consideration of the environmental and social impacts. Sustainable fashion is just the opposite of that!
The problem with fast fashion
I was never a fast fashion junky but did consume fast fashion and did not pay much attention to what impact my clothes had on environment and people. What I knew about sweat shops somehow did not drive me away from purchasing these clothes. I associated bad environmental and people practices to specific brands but not the linear fast fashion model that existed in almost all brands. I can’t give a specific aha moment that led me to a sustainable fashion path but it was more like a feeling of lack of satisfaction and guilt after each fast fashion purchase. Fast fashion purchases always felt like a quick fix for me, a temporary purchase till the next one, instead of a purchase that I was proud of and planned to wear for a long time.
What sustainable fashion means to me
As I say above, there is not a standard definition of sustainable fashion that I am aware of but, for me, the following are some of the key elements I consider, including when buying garments from a brand:
- Fair wages and working conditions for garment workers
- Transparency on eco-friendly manufacturing – i.e., what efforts are taken to reduce energy and water consumption, how are fabrics sourced and what types of dyes are used. I’m not looking for a perfect brand, but one that is transparent and working to adopt better environmental practices
- Diversity, inclusion and accessibility – Inclusivity is a non-negotiable attribute for me. Even if a brand claims to be sustainable, it will not cut it if it is not inclusive.
- Vintage and thrifted items – to me, to associate sustainable fashion only with high-end sustainable brands is too narrow. Thrifted and vintage items keep clothes out of landfills so are an indispensable component.
- Wearing your clothes – perhaps the easiest easy way to be more sustainable is to wear your clothes. Don’t treat your existing clothes as disposable item – actually wear them