“Fashion is made to become unfashionable. By virtue of being in style, a look must eventually be out of style…”, Coco Chanel. A multi-billion dollar industry rests on an ephemeral concept of what is trendy and what is not. We continue to buy trendy clothes. Last season’s discards end up in opportunity shops and landfills. The volume of waste is large. Many second-hand shops spend money to get rid of old clothes dumped in front of their shops.
Some of you would argue, that fashion is circular. Trends re-emerge every now and then. But they come back with a different twist. The original clothes do not match the current avatars.
Do we continue to splurge on cotton, leather, and polyester to the point of excess?
Do we discard fashion and focus on functional clothing? Can there be a happy marriage between sustainability and fashionability? Let us explore the options.
Fashionability and sustainability – shop for sustainable fabrics:
When you are shopping for new clothes or homewares, look for organic cotton, peace silk or jute.
There is no obvious difference between organic and non-organic cotton. The difference is in the method followed to grow organic cotton.
Certified organic cotton is rain fed and chemical free. Organic cotton cultivation uses natural irrigation and crop-rotation techniques. Crop rotation techniques preserve the fertility of the soil. Look for accreditation from organisations like GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). Such accreditations ensure the authenticity of organic cotton.
Jute is the unsung hero of the organic textiles industry. Strong and durable, jute is the golden fibre. Jute has come a long way from its humble beginnings as hessian onion bags. Jute is widely used to make fashion bags and garments. Jute homeware and gardening accessories are becoming popular. Jute is rain fed with little need for fertilisers or pesticides.
If you like the look and feel of silk, peace silk is a non-violent alternative to commercial silk. Peace silk does not harm the silkworms. It sustains the tribal communities in the forests who collect the cocoons.
There are other sustainable textiles like soya silk, ramie, hemp, nettle and emerging fibres. Pina leather is a good substitute for leather.
Fashionability and sustainability – ask questions
Make an informed choice. Ask questions about the manufacturing process. Buy from ethical manufacturers. Look for the SEDEX (ethical production) label. My manufacturing facilities are SEDEX certified. SEDEX conducts an onsite audit every year to ensure compliance with labour rights. Health and safety measures, work environment and ethical standards are scrutinized.
Combine classic garments with on-trend accessories.
Buying big ticket items like coats and blazers? Invest in quality fabrics and sound craftsmanship. Classic styles go a long way. Get your fashion fix with a trendy accessory. Scarves are good for refreshing a jaded wardrobe.
Buy clothes that have the potential to be re-purposed. A garment with a generous hem or ample seam allowance can be modified after a season or two.
Mend a rip or tear. Use buttons and trims from discarded clothes for crafts and hobbies. I recall one of my students had made some fabulous winter coats from repurposed blankets. Another had cut t-shirts into strips and crocheted the strips to create new clothes.
Take back used clothes to stores that give you a store credit for used clothing.
Let’s not abandon fashion yet. Let’s collectively work towards turning fashion green, not with envy, but with pride.
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Thank you Anumita Roychowdhury for the large tote bag in the photograph.