What to consider when buying sustainable fashion

ThFashion news polluting the earth is not the last season. Fast fashion accounts for up to 10% of global carbon dioxide production – more than international flights and transport combined, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.

Fast fashion is commonly understood as the design, production and marketing method focused on the rapid production of high volumes of clothing. This type of fashion is usually very cheap to produce, has a quick turnover of clothes and styles, and does not last long.

Ahead, we talk to Susannah Jaffer, founder of ZERRIN, a creative and conscious fashion platform for the future of fashion, to see how we can curb our fast fashion choices and make sustainable purchases so we can better life for you and the planet.

Conscious closet

Let’s be honest, it’s hard to resist a rack of clothes at 50% off. But if breaking your fast fashion habit is a priority, for starters, you can let go of that instinct and ask yourself what you really want in this moment that you think this new outfit can offer you.

A mindful closet focuses on thoughtful selection rather than impulse buying. This is direct retaliation against the “see now, buy now” mentality that fast fashion advertising encourages.

The process of shopping sustainably is also not just about switching from fast fashion to the next batch of sustainably sourced fashion. Jaffer points out that it’s more important to be thoughtful about what you’re spending your money on; businesses or practices you are supporting. This will naturally translate into lower but better consumption.”

Accountability to the people who make your clothes

In 2013, the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh led to the death of more than 1,000 garment workers due to poor working conditions. This incident crystallized the conversation in the fashion industry about the people behind the clothes we wear, so the hashtag #WhoMadeMyClothes was born.

Since then, many organizations and individuals around the world have called for stronger and more transparent accountability of industry practices. This includes supply chain traceability, fair working conditions, gender and racial equality, sustainable material sourcing, water and chemical use and climate change.

Image: Getty Images

How do these standards translate to someone trying to shop more sustainably? Look out for messages on the website, in-store and on the clothing labels of the businesses you shop at. Businesses that have taken the right stance on sustainability are more likely to communicate their processes clearly. If you find the messages a little uncomfortable, your skepticism about greenwashing is likely justified.

Jaffer describes greenwashing as a minefield, particularly within the wider fashion industry. She shares her personal protection techniques from avoiding brands that have vague language — such as the words ‘eco’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘natural’, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘recyclable’ — without providing more information about how and why the product or service is sustainable. The same logic applies to brands that do not have separate label materials and washing practices. She also warns against brands making sweeping, reductive claims like ‘buy and save the planet’.

When in doubt, don’t hesitate to ask questions and go to the brand’s DM. Jaffer points out that our curiosity and interest in these issues is what will hold brands accountable to sustainable action.

Clothing materials

Most clothes around the world likely contain plastic. Actually, 64% of new clothes are made of plastic due to their malleable characteristics. Every time we wash these types of clothes, they release millions of plastic microfibers. These microfibers can’t be caught in our washing machines and end up in our bodies of water, in the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.

On your next shopping trip, look out for clothes made from natural sources like bamboo or 100% cotton. As a rule, try to find out if the clothes are made from living materials such as flax from the flax plant, bamboo, hemp, jute, ramie (Chinese grass) and Kapok. These are found naturally and are usually less harmful to the planet when handled and used well.

However, labels these days are often confusing and misleading, as they rarely show the full composition of the materials used in production. When looking at labels, if you notice materials such as polyester, acrylic, lycra, nylon, spandex, polyester webbing, elastane or polyamide, or details of glitter and threads, these most likely have plastic elements in their manufacture. Honestly, most of our active wear, winter wear and even intimate wear are made from these materials and it can be harder to switch to organic options.

Cost per outfit

One of the most difficult shifts from fast fashion is the price for the item of clothing. Sometimes, it’s common to find basics going as low as $5, which is the equivalent of a burger at Macca’s. Realistically, it is false to expect that a business can profit from charging $5 per item and pay its workers fair wages, plus the overhead of owning stores and running a business of that size.

Jaffer explains that cost per wear is a way of figuring out how often you’ll wear an item of clothing and therefore how much the purchase is ‘worth it’ to you and your wallet. While this may justify a slightly higher outlay for a more expensive and durable design, you can apply the same to a cheaper item. For example, a $10 white t-shirt that you may only wear three times has a higher cost per wear ($3.33) than a $45 white t-shirt that you will wear at least 30 times or more. lot ($1.50 per garment). It’s kind of like the term ’30 years’ coined by climate activist Livia Firth, but more precise.

Jaffa says keeping clothes at this price point has helped her think of clothes as investments and less as commodities.

Sustainable fashion, like our fashion sense, is deeply personal. Jaffer encourages lively experimentation to figure out what works for you in a conscious and mindful way.

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Any representations, views or opinions contained in this article are those of The Latch and do not reflect those of and are not endorsed by Suncorp Bank.

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