Spring is here, and that means women everywhere are cleaning out their wardrobes to make room for new recruits. There's just something about this time of year that makes it a great time to refresh our routines, get a zillion new hair styles, and of course, clean out the old, outdated, or damaged pieces of clothing from our closet. One of the questions I get asked the most is how to start becoming more eco-friendly with respect to fashion choices.
It can seem like daunting task once you start researching the complexities of textile production, fabric treatments and coatings, supply chain transparency, etc. so at this point, usually, most women, we'll call them "Jane," will simply stop reading, and carry on buying their bag fulls of synthetic fast-fashion. Don't be like Jane (keep reading).
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE FASHION?
Eco-fashion or sustainable fashion is just that - it's fashion made of "greener" materials, from fabric to thread to buttons, but it also implies that the processes followed by the fashion labels and garment manufacturers are sustainable as well, such as recycling, using biodegradable shipping and packaging materials, etc. Beware of companies who are guilty of green-washing, which is claiming to be "green" but not actually following through with the promises they make to their customers.
WHY GO GREEN?
With the fashion industry being the second most polluting industry in the world, second only to oil, it's fairly obvious why sustainable clothing is so important. Most synthetics take over 2 centuries to biodegrade and are coated in toxic chemicals that both hard the people making them and release poison into the atmosphere when burned (like in landfills).
People think that by recycling their clothing and donating it they are helping, but truth be told, about three quarters of donated clothing goods get thrown out anyway because of the massive amounts of donations the recycling and second-hand venues receive. This is why the word "Responsibly" is in the title of this blog post.
ALRIGHT, I'M IN. WHAT DO I DO NEXT?
Below are a few easy to follow steps to responsibly transition your wardrobe (at whichever pace you choose) over to an eco-friendly one.
1. Responsibly clean out your existing wardrobe
This is the fun part for some (hello, minimalists!) and the stressful part for others (hello, shopaholics!). Don't worry, it'll be the opposite when it's time to start shopping. Grab four bins (or boxes or bags or laundry baskets) and sort things you either don't want or aren't sure of into "maybe," "sentimental," and of the items you don't want into "Up-cycle" (think quilts, re-tailored, re-dyed, cut into rags, etc.) and "Sell." Store the maybe's for a few months and see if you miss them. Store the sentimental stuff, and sell the "sell" pile so those clothes can be worn more. DON'T THROW THINGS OUT.
2. Figure out what you need and what you want.
Now take a look at what's left. Are you lacking in workwear? activewear? loungewear? Don't forget accessories too!
Once you know what you need, define what you want in those types of pieces. Do you want really high quality? a specific design aesthetic? a certain brand?
3. Nail down your (realistic) budget
Sustainable fashion is a bit more pricey than regular clothes, but it's not necessarily un-reachable for most. Figure out your total budget and budget about $100 per new item needed. The mentality going into this needs to be fewer, better pieces. Once you learn some styling tricks, you'll be amazed at how many outfits you can get out of a few pieces of clothing.
4. Go Shopping
This is the fun part for most, but remember to really reign in what you need, rather than impulse buy. Look for organic cottons rather than regular cotton (toxic to farmers and often lacks fair trade practices), tencel of lyocell instead of polyester, viscose, or rayon. Silk instead of satin, alpaca wool instead of cashmere. And really really get picky. If you see a seam falling apart, if you see an irregularity, if you don't 1000% love the color, fit, neckline, buttons, etc. then DO NOT BUY it. I repeat, DO NOT BUY IT. Because you'll most likely be paying a premium for ethically sourced and responsibly made clothes, and once you find that perfect white button down or those perfect pair of jeans, you'll regret settling for the imperfect purchase.