Think sustainable fashion is only for yogis and people who are, like, so mellow? Well, wave goodbye to that common misconception because sustainable clothes are cool. COOL, I TELL YOU.
Recently sweeping the Met Gala with grace, beauty and a truly spectacular outfit was none other badass (and non-hippie) actress Emma Watson. But true to form, there was a powerful message behind her outfit. Interpreting the theme “fusion of fashion and technology”, Emma took to the carpet wearing an ensemble made from recycled plastic bottles.
Taking to Facebook, Watson wrote, “It is my intention to repurpose elements of the gown for future use.”
Her sustainable efforts got me thinking about the future of fashion, and in particular how we as a society can help pave a path to a more sustainable industry. With fast fashion at the forefront of consumerism, it is difficult to associate sustainability with an industry where high demands mean clothes are churned out on a weekly basis.
In fact, only 26 per cent of shoppers said they would pay more for clothes labelled as sustainable or environmentally-friendly, according to an interview by Cotton Incorporated.
Though people utter the word “sustainable” with reverence, not many know what sustainability actually is and how it impacts our lives. Let me give you a little insight into the industry:
Currently worth $3 trillion, the fashion industry is set to double its growth within the next 10 years. It is estimated Australians are throwing out 80-100 million kilos of textile each year. Only four per cent of that is actually recycled, even though 75 per cent fits the recycling guidelines.
Second to oil, fashion and textiles is the most polluting industry in the world. A single t-shirt and pair of jeans can take more than 20,000 litres of water to produce.
And for a society that has been drilled about the health consequences of chemicals in foods, or lathering our skin with products high in potent ingredients, it seems strange that no one brings up the fact that the clothes on our back take up to 8000 different chemicals to produce, including a range of dyeing and finishing processes.
Now I’m not saying you should only ever buy sustainable clothing, because it’s a sad truth that the industry isn’t currently broad enough to offer this option. But we as a society need to be more mindful about the products we’re buying.
When it comes to fabrics, hemp is an extremely sustainable option. Highly productive, easy to cultivate and pest-tolerant, this traditional fibre produces garments that will last the test of time. Bamboo, linen, organic cotton and recycled polyester are other great options that use fewer chemicals in the manufacturing process.
And yes, your clothes do have an afterlife. Upcycling is a great way to make the original better. Instead of throwing out those jeans, cut them into shorts for the summer. Not only does this reuse material that otherwise could end up in landfill, it also gives you a one-of-a-kind item.
While recycling clothes and asking yourself “Will I wear it 30 times?” are great ways to reduce your environmental impact, buying responsibly is another way you can support the sustainable cause. Here are some of our favourite sustainable labels: