Investing in More Sustainable Fashion Options

By Rebecca Scaife

Published on: February 21, 2023

At present the fashion industry is also responsible for up to 10% of global carbon emissions, which is estimated to increase to 50% by 2030.

We’ve recently been considering the various elements of sustainability that we can implement into our daily lives, in addition to investing our money in sustainable funds.

As part of a family’s annual outgoings, a large portion of the budget is often allocated to clothing.

Fashion is an important element of human identity; we use clothes to express ourselves and what we wear can have a profound impact on how we feel and act. Many people would identify clothes shopping and styling as a main hobby or interest of theirs.

The darker side to the fashion industry has become more apparent over the last decade. A better understanding of the environmental and human rights impact has caused a re-think among consumers, with many changing their buying habits and starting to shop in a more mindful way.

According to the Ethical Consumer, the fashion industry uses over 93 billion cubic metres of water per year – enough for the consumption needs of over 5 million people.

At present the fashion industry is also responsible for up to 10% of global carbon emissions, which is estimated to increase to 50% by 2030.

Several luxury design houses such as Gucci have started to acknowledge the impact that fashion is having on the planet. Many have responded to environmental concerns by reducing the numbers of collections they release, ignoring seasonality and reducing annual shows.

However, the greatest extent of the problem lies with the fast-fashion brands that turn over millions of tonnes of textiles every year. According to Business Insider, fashion brand Zara produces over 20,000 new styles per year, resulting in 450 million individual garments. Many of these garments are discarded after a season and end up in landfill.

Aside from the environmental issues, many fast fashion brands also tend to lack ethical practices and have poor supply chain governance, which has led to garment worker exploitation.

While many millions of marketing euros have been spent communicating the work that various brands are carrying out to address these issues and to produce ‘sustainable’ collections, the problem is still immense with many of the key players in the industry accused of merely greenwashing to cover their actions.

Shop your wardrobe

The best way to reduce our contribution to the fast-fashion problems is of course to buy less, by shopping your own wardrobe and reducing the cost per wear of every item you own.

Recycle, restyle and re-wear

Popular culture once encouraged us to consume fast-fashion and wear new outfits for every occasion. A recent trend on social media now has influencers and celebrities replacing their #ootd (outfit of the day) hashtag with #oootd (old outfit of the day), challenging themselves and others to recycle, restyle and re-wear what they already own.

Once sponsored by a fast-fashion brand, one of the most popular reality TV shows, Love Island, has been sponsored by second hand marketplace website eBay for the last two seasons with contestants styled in pre-loved clothes.

Invest in your clothes

We’ve all heard the expression ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ and very often articles of this nature will encourage you to buy the best you can afford and take good care of items, so they last and don’t need to be replaced often.

Steps towards more sustainable fashion

Aside from the obvious, here are some other steps can we take to make our wardrobes more sustainable:

Check the fabric content of the clothes you buy. To reduce the use of petrochemical based plastics and pesticides, choosing organic, natural, or recycled fibres is best.

Man-made fibres such as polyester, acrylic and nylon can leak microplastics into water when washed. Half a million tonnes of microfibres are released into the oceans each year (equivalent to 50 billion plastic bottles from our clothes. If you already own clothes made of man-made fibres, you can reduce harm by washing in something like a Guppyfriend Bag.

Buy second hand. Second hand shopping is no longer limited to charity shops. Second hand, vintage shops and kilo clothes markets are booming in popularity. Online second-hand shopping means you can buy new, nearly new, retro, unusual and vintage items directly from sellers. Everything from high street brands to designer are available from sites such as eBay, Depop and Vestiaire Collective.

Rent an outfit. We often splash out on outfits for parties, weddings and communions to make the occasion extra special. However, the cost (not just the €€ cost) per wear is huge if we only wear it once or twice. There are plenty of dress rental shops and websites to choose from in Ireland with a range of sizes available. Postage and cleaning are also usually included!

Take up sewing, knitting or crochet. If you really want to embrace slow fashion, or take up a new hobby, there are many sewing and yarn craft classes available online or in person. Creating a dress, scarf or hat can really help you appreciate the work and craftsmanship that goes into making a garment and encourages better care of the item.

Fabric, wools and yarns can be purchased from several specialist shops around Ireland, both in person and online. When shopping for fabrics, look out for the deadstock section. Deadstock fabrics are left over bolts from fashion labels, sometimes really high end, that are sold at hugely reduced prices and would have otherwise gone into landfill!

Support campaigns that call for a change in regulation. While the above can help us all to do our piece, big changes can only happen when governments enact regulatory change. Look out for and support campaigns that are aiming to bring about political change and put a stop to fast fashion brands exploiting workers and abusing the environment.

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