In the wake of Fashion Revolution Day, you may be left wondering “what now?” when it comes to your role in the slow fashion movement. It’s important to keep the momentum of the movement going, but how?
You already know that one way to be a more conscious consumer is to think before you purchase, in part by reading clothing labels. But what are you looking for, and how should that affect your decision to purchase? Fashion Revolution Day has us paying attention to the “Made In” information, but there is a lot you can gather about a garment’s sustainability from the label and garment itself. In addition to where it was made, here are some things to think about when considering new clothing:
1. What is the garment’s resale value or recyclability? Hint: fast fashion pieces have little to no resale value. By nature, fast fashion companies favor quantity over quality. Turn the garment inside out and take a look at the seams. Does it look like it was constructed with attention to detail and respect for craftsmanship? Chances are it won’t last you more than one or two seasons, and much like a used car, a Forever 21 top looses its value the moment you walk out of the store with it. What will you do with it when you’re finished with it? Donating your unwanted clothes is favorable over discarding them entirely, but fast fashion garments are more likely to end up in landfill rather than on the racks of Buffalo Exchange. Consider the long-term implications of the investment you’re making.
2. How was the final look of the garment achieved? Much of our clothing has gone through toxic chemical treatments that are harmful to both our bodies and the environment. Some of the most commonly used manufacturing processes, such as distressing denim and dying textiles, are highly wasteful, toxic and are destroying the water supplies for the communities who live in manufacturing countries. When possible, opt for naturally dyed clothing or minimally processed jeans (raw denim jeans are a great sustainable option!)
3. How often will the garment need to be laundered? In general, we’ve become “hyper-hygienic” when it comes to washing our clothes. Do some research on fabrics and learn which retain odor (silk, polyester, nylon) and which are more breathable (cotton, linen, hemp) and how those factors play into your lifestyle. If it’s something you’ll need to wash after every wear, consider how well it will hold up after multiple washes. By cutting back on machine washing, you can increase the garments’ lifecycle while decreasing energy and water use.
(link: Why You Should Never Wash Your Jeans Unless You Really Really Have To via The Guardian)
While considering these questions, the underlying thought should always be “do I really need this?” In most cases, the answer is no. Instead of buying new, there are plenty of ways to incorporate sustainability into your closet:
*Cut back on laundering by separating your laundry pile into two: ‘everyday’ (undergarments, basics) and ‘sporadic’ (jeans, blouses, sweaters, skirts). The ‘everyday’ garments will need to be washed more frequently, but consider whether the ‘sporadic’ items need a full wash. Would hanging them up to air out do the trick?
*Turn sustainability into a group effort and facilitate a clothing swap between your friends. Make it a party with these great Swap Party pointers!
*Take a basic sewing class so you can repair, repurpose, or alter your clothes instead of discarding them. Websites like CourseHorse are great for discovering classes in your area, such as sewing, alterations, hemming, and more.
*If you do have clothing with no resale value or that’s damaged beyond repair, there are options besides throwing them away. Textile recycling programs, such as GrowNYC and Green Tree Textiles, are wonderful resources that will come right to your door to pick up your items.
Practicing sustainability doesn’t have to mean sacrificing style. It may not be an instant transition towards a fully green wardrobe, but incorporating these tips and considerations into your habits will decrease your carbon footprint and make you rethink what fashion means to you.
Guest Blogger: Abby Calhoun, Project Coordinator at Parsons School of Design
Abby Calhoun is a sustainable fashion enthusiast living and working in New York City. She is the Grant Administrator and Project Coordinator at the Healthy Materials Lab (HML) at Parsons School of Design. HML is a fully grant-funded initiative aimed at optimizing the health and transparency of building materials, particularly those used in the affordable housing industry. The team is working to transform the way that building products are manufactured, to eliminate avoidable toxins and to support the creation of new materials. In addition to her work at Parsons, Abby is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Nonprofit Management from The New School’s Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. She is passionate about sustainability initiatives as they relate to ethical fashion and conscious consumerism. Her interest in slow fashion is in repairing the broken links between designer and producer, producer and garment, and garment and consumer. In an effort to repair that disconnect on a personal level, she has recently learned the art of hand weaving and now spends her spare time in the weaving studio making bags and tapestries for her friends and family