By Ama H. Vanniarachchy
Actress and activist Emma Watson once said, “The fashion industry is the second highest pollutant of fresh water on the planet. It has such a huge environmental impact. It’s not enough for me anymore that it’s a beautiful item or a beautiful piece; I want to know that it’s not leaving a negative mark.”
Stating she has made a conscious choice to wear recycled clothes. This idea, being conscious about what you wear, what you purchase, and about the production procedure, its impact on the environment, society, and the economy is known as Sustainable Fashion or Eco Fashion. This sounds great because if many adopt Sustainable Fashion or decide to recycle their clothes, a great amount of environmental pollution can be reduced.
Sustainable Fashion is also known as Eco-Fashion. Recycling clothes and wearing the same outfit several times, until it is time to discard them comes under the idea of Sustainable Fashion. Once the clothes seem to be as if they should be discarded now, recycling them is the solution. Sustainable or Eco-Fashion is trending now as conscious citizens who are sensitive towards the environment make a choice to do so. The good thing is that celebrities and global fashion icons have stepped forward to promote the idea of sustainable fashion.
However, people in countries like ours, still seem to be holding onto the idea that wearing the same clothes several times is not something to do; hence purchasing new clothes every time there is a new occasion. Ideas such as recycling old clothes into something new, purchasing a limited number of clothes, garage sales, purchasing second-hand or recycled clothes, or borrowing clothes are still novel ideas to people living in third-world countries such as ours. One reason for this is the attitude of showing off new clothes and indirectly wealth through that. Also, adopting the latest trends in the global fashion world blindly, regardless of your budget, environment and sociocultural aspects can be considered as another reason for this.
What is sustainable fashion or eco-fashion?
Sustainable Fashion is clothing that does not harm our environment and is made out of green materials. Many people do not realise the negative impact that fabric and excessive clothing purchases make on the environment. Green Strategy has developed the following definition of ‘more sustainable fashion’: (www. greenstrategy.se/en/). “More sustainable fashion can be defined as clothing, shoes, and accessories that are manufactured, marketed, and used in the most sustainable manner possible, taking into account both environmental and socio-economic aspects.
In practice, this implies continuous work to improve all stages of the product’s life cycle, from design, raw material production, manufacturing, transport, storage, marketing, and final sale, to use, reuse, repair, remake, and recycling of the product and its components. From an environmental perspective, the aim should be to minimise any undesirable environmental effect of the product’s life cycle by (a) ensuring efficient and careful use of natural resources (water, energy, land, soil, animals, plants, biodiversity, ecosystems, etc); (b) selecting renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc) at every stage, and (c) maximising repair, remake, reuse, and recycling of the product and its components.
From a socio-economic perspective, all stakeholders should work to improve present working conditions for workers on the field, in the factories, transportation chain, and stores, by aligning with good ethics, best practices, and international codes of conduct. In addition, fashion companies should contribute to encouraging more sustainable consumption patterns, caring and washing practices, and overall attitudes to fashion.” (Dr. Brismar, Green Strategy) Sustainable Fashion is also known as a movement that is sensitive towards the environment as well as the socio-economic impact of fashion during the process of production and consumption. Sustainable Fashion or Eceo Fashion also deals with considering fashion from the perspective of many stakeholders such as users and producers, all living species, and contemporary and future dwellers on earth. This is being responsible, sensitive, and mindful about fashion in every possible way.
How to practice sustainable fashion
- When purchasing new items, think if you can wear them at least 30 times.
- There is no need to adopt every fashion trend in the world. When purchasing clothes, consider classic styles, quality durable material and versatile pieces which you can wear in many ways and for a longer time.
- Borrow and exchange clothes among family and close friends if possible. This is also known as hand-me-down clothing. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
- When your clothes seem to be old, or that you have to wear them again and again, repair them, alter them or do changes in them creating a different style. When it is actually the time to throw them away, without throwing them, make serviettes, napkins, cushions or pillowcases, carpets, patchwork tablecloths, etc.
- If there are clothes you want to discard, donate them to charity.
- When purchasing, purchase from stores that support Sustainable or Eco-Fashion products.
- Purchase clothes from secondhand or thrift stores (charity stores) - this idea is still novel in Sri Lanka. It is high time we start such stores here.
Remember that there is nothing to be ashamed of for wearing the same outfit 30 times, or if it is not brand new or if it is borrowed. Purchasing second-hand or charity products is also not a reason to be ashamed of. Instead, that shows that you are more conscious about what you wear and are being a responsible citizen.
Always remember that global fashion icons such as Emma Watson, Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow support and practise Sustainable Fashion, and royals and fashion icons such as Kate Middleton and Princess Diana are often seen wearing recycled clothes. “If you buy something, do you think you will wear it 30 times? “If you can,” Emma Watson says, “That is how you know it is a sustainable purchase.”