Sustainability. Unless you have been living off the grid with no Wi-Fi access (in which case, congratulations on that alert free life), there is more than a 100% chance that you will have come across the term. Sustainability, as you may have also read, is a certain buzzword, one being thrown by brands, influencers and the next person you know. To put it to practice? Well, that’s a whole other ballgame. There is also a certain chance that you are on the fence about it—for starters, how to begin; what could you need and what does it really mean. Before you go on, let me tell you something that several people miss out on: it’s different for everyone but has a common underlying purpose—minimising the damage caused to the environment we live in.
Together, the fashion and textile industry is one of the leading polluters that contributes to landfills. According to a recent report by Mckinsey & Company, garment production is slated to increase annually by 2.7 percent by 2030. Given that, it isn't really a surprise to find that also by 2030, the projected fashion waste will increase to 148 million tons.
Clearly, it’s high time that accountability and ethical approach existed outside the books. At this stage, sustainability in our approach towards life, fashion included, is crucial because we are in the middle of a climate emergency. Coral reefs are being damaged, sea levels are rising rapidly as are the temperatures, the latter being something you may have witnessed firsthand. As another report highlights, we could be facing drastic repercussions of not paying heed to the planet’s needs by as soon as 2040.
When it comes to sustainability in fashion, there is no one way for you to approach it. And the bonus here is that there are many, many ways in which you can take part. What does it mean? Sustainable fashion refers to the practices that pay attention to the entire supply chain of a garment, beginning to end, rather than just one part of it. Not only that, but it also focuses on material usage and whether it's cruelty-free and ethically made.
The overarching term includes practices of reuse, rewear, mending, recycling, upcycling, responsible buying practices over hoarding, opting for labels with ethical practices, inclusivity and transparency. Together, the aim is to pave the way for sound working conditions for everyone involved in the supply chain and inflict zero damage or the minimum possible damage to the planet.
Every little act, that may at times feel insignificant, counts. Don’t think that something as simple and doable as shunning the use of single-use plastic is worthless, because “everyone is using it anyway.” We are at that stage when that mindset needs to go.
Everyone’s lived experience and the way they go about incorporating sustainability can be (and is) different and yet, effective. Here’s mine: Somewhere in mid-2019, I realised that thanks to my compulsive shopping habits which I somehow assumed made my life better, my closet was overflowing. Feeling low? Buy something. Have to go out to a party? Oh, nothing to wear, let’s find something online. In the end, those instant buys only gave me a moment’s happiness which really never lasted. So I stopped. I contemplated how long my existing closet could support me and put an end to shopping. A no-buy policy for a year, if you may. I followed through, starting towards the end of the same year. In the beginning, the pop-ups on Instagram were difficult to ignore, no matter the fact that I needed nothing, but with time and a little restraint, it got better.
From then to now, while repeating my outfits for work and then working from home during COVID-19, the learnings have been many. In no particular order here are some, as promised in the very beginning of this feature, in case you too, are planning to build a sustainable wardrobe.
—Assess what you already have and how much if it is in a good condition.
—Before you buy something, ask yourself how much you like it. Would you repeat in on numerous occasions? Could you style it in multiple ways? The answers should form your decision.
—Stop giving into trends. It's perfectly fine to enjoy them but you don’t need every single one of them in your wardrobe. Buy what you need and only what you will value even outside of the trend cycles.
—Opt for versatility in key pieces. Classics like a structured blazer or coat, a white shirt, a pair of jeans will work every time. Speaking of jeans, it takes an approximate 7000 litres of water to produce ONE pair so trust me, you don’t need 10 of them just sitting in your wardrobe.
—Rather than buying XYZ number of clothing that comes at a lower cost (but collectively puts a strain on your wallet), use your money wisely to invest in clothing that will last.
—Through friends and colleagues, you can find some stellar local talent in terms of tailors who could stitch custom-made garments for you. Not only is it a practice that allows you to get creative and stand out from the crown with your choices, but it also supports local artisans and talent near us.
—Shun single-use plastic starting now. A cloth bag works better, looks better and will last without creating waste.
—Sustainability also means being aware of where your clothes come from and with campaigns like #WhoMadeMyClothes, you can vouch for a fair and transparent system.
—On looking around, you will find a number of local artisans around you. Support their work if it appeals to you.
—For those looking to give fast fashion a pass, there are many labels in our country which ensure ethical practices and make clothes to last. Check them out here.
—There is also the option of buying pre-owned and vintage clothing, another movement steadily catching up on Instagram with players like Folkpants, A I M É E, Ipzaki and several others making a difference.
—Learning about sustainability is not something that happens overnight. Be patient in your approach. Follow people who help you learn, whether it is in your immediate circles or on social media. Aja Barber, Clare Press, Foundation CHAMAR, Devyani Kapoor of Shuffling Suitcases, Rhea Gupte and Leah Thomas are a few names you could begin with.
—In terms of documentaries, The True Cost, The Machinists, Made in Bangladesh, The Minimalists and Thread are some names that will give you deep insights into various facets of fashion.
—If you like to read, you might want to check out The Conscious Closet, Slow Fashion: Aesthetics Meets Ethics and To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World?
You will never know till you get started, so begin now.
Featured Image: Instagram & Unsplash