Fast fashion is bad for the environment. From growing and processing cotton, which uses a lot of water, overuse of synthetic fabrics which don’t biodegrade, to manufacturing and transport, fashion is shockingly high-polluting.
Then there’s the huge amount of waste as clothes are dumped in landfill at the end of their useful lives (or even burned by the brands once they’re no longer wanted). And synthetic clothing, when washed, releases billions of microplastics into the oceans.
It’s been so easy to get into the habit of unthinkingly buying new clothes on a regular basis, particularly when prices are low and the negative impacts are mostly invisible.
Fortunately, ethical and environmentally-sustainable fashion has never been more on-trend. So how can we all get behind it?
Here are five ways to reimagine your relationship with fashion in a post-Covid world.
1. Choose well
According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, if the number of times a garment is worn doubles, the greenhouse gas emissions over its lifetime would be 44% lower.
Using the “cost per wear” principle – the cost of the item divided by how many times you’ll realistically wear it – can help you choose whether that better quality, higher-priced garment is worth it to you.
Choose new clothing wisely, buy only what you need, and know exactly what’s in your clothes – particularly if they’re likely to shed microplastics.
2. Repair what you wear
With quick-fix fast fashion in retreat due to shuttered high street shops, now’s the perfect time to make do and mend.
If fashion-lovers in the UK can make mending a habit, it would save some of the estimated 350,000 tonnes of used clothing that goes to landfill in this country every year.
Your favourite jeans are a great place to start, not least because cotton-based denim production is extremely water-intensive to produce.
Find more of these handy videos on Repairwhatyouwear.com.
3. Make something!
Making clothing is an excellent way to learn about fabric composition and what goes into creating durable pieces that suit your tastes exactly.
Experimenting with upcycling existing clothes is a great starting point. And with charity shops likely to change dramatically even when they open again, now’s the time to learn how to transform any clothes that would be destined for those binbags.
If you start now, you’ll be ready for Greenpeace’s worldwide MAKE SMTHNG Week in November, which coincides with Black Friday and the start of the Christmas shopping season.
4. Become a fashion activist
Support organisations and initiatives that campaign for increased transparency and better environmental and human rights standards in fashion supply chains. Check out Fashion Revolution, set up in the wake of the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh, the Clean Clothes Campaign, and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Make Fashion Circular campaign.
5. Buy from better brands
Like any ethical or environmental endeavour, perfect is the enemy of good. And we all need to wear clothes.
When you do need a new fashion fix, search for brands that use sustainable materials and produce ethically using an app like Good On You.
An initiative called Lost Stock has made it easy to support garment workers facing destitution due to mass-cancelled orders following coronavirus lockdowns, by buying a random box of cancelled-order clothing for £35.