We all know the saying: the most sustainable blah blah blah is the one you already own.
A valid point, yes, but not always practical. Style evolves, we finally land jobs that offer above the tuna and rice diet pay range and boy, look at that sweater! But as the UN Alliance for Sustainable Fashion notes, the fashion industry accounts for 2-8% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, making it the second most polluting industry on the planet after oil. Yves Saint Laurent was lying when he said ‘fashion fades, but style is eternal’ because fashion does not fade: 87% of clothes are incinerated or end up in landfill. So, while not buying anything at all is best, here are some tips for shopping a little smarter when you do.
Suss the labels
Globally, less than 1% of clothing is recycled due to inadequate technology and because most items of clothing are made from a hybrid of materials that are impossible to break down. I’m talking polyester, nylon and acrylic, which are all forms of plastic. The better options are natural fibres such as cotton, hemp, linen and wool, because they can break down and are more durable than their chemically made counterparts. Even better is when it’s organic and 100% of one singular fibre, because they can actually be recycled completely into something else. Unlike food, there aren’t that many alternative names for bad materials to hide behind, so just a quick read of the label should steer you in the right direction.
Opt for well-made over on-trend
Longevity and fit are the two key factors that underpin quality clothing design. While higher quality does often translate to higher prices, investing at a higher price point rules out fast fashion, AKA, shit that falls apart, fades or stretches after a couple of wears and washes. Other than the price tag (which is a reflection of fairer wages along the supply chain and better but more costly materials being used), there are a few hot tips on how to tell if something is well made. Look for the fabric matching up at the seams, panels that divide shirts up (called yolks), hems that are properly finished and a label that tells you how to properly care for your garment.
The week rule
This was a lesson my mum taught me when I started my first job at Domino’s, after finally upgrading from washing the entire neighbourhood’s cars, and it’s stuck with me since. If you want something, like really, really want it—think about it for a week before you buy it. If, at the end of the week you still want it, then allow yourself to get it. This can be applied to most purchases in life, but often fashion is an impulse buy because it is on sale or we’ve got a party to go to over the weekend. This rule has saved me so much money and once-wear clothes. Cheers mum.
Get to know your local tailor
When you invest in high-quality clothes, they will sit better on your body. And if they don’t, have it altered to ensure that it does. Your local tailors aren’t actually tailors, they are wizards. Realistically, not all of us own sewing machines and had G Ma teaching us how to sew on Sunday afternoons (although learning to sew is the number one sustainability tip from me), but a trip to your local alterations shop is your next best bet. Plus, I’ve never met a tailor that wasn’t a little darling yet. For a relatively cheap price, you can have your clothes fitting just right, ensuring it’s a piece that you will reach for over and over again, which can be especially elevating if you scored it at the oppy for $4. And if you snag your jeans on a fence doing god knows what, you can bet these wizard darlings will be able to repair it for you at a cost much smaller than what it’s costing our planet when you throw it in the bin (the earth).