Let’s take a deep dive into our closets. How many times have you sighed while saying “I don’t have anything to wear,” as you stare down the clothes in your wardrobe? Do you really not have anything to wear? Or do you only see the impulse buys that were “love at first sight” but now only pair well with that one specific top?
Shopping sustainably is about more than its environmental and ethical impacts; it’s also about its impact on you. It is possible to buy clothing that you can wear for years and still love as much as the first day you bought it.
As trends come and go faster and faster with each cycle, the first step to a sustainable wardrobe is freeing ourselves from conforming to every trend. While this doesn’t entail purging our closets (more on this later) to make a capsule wardrobe, we can still choose to invest in timeless pieces of quality and potentially unlimited outfit combinations.
A month ago, Ecoversity, along with the Adelaide Sustainability Association (shoutout for Sustainability Week!) collaborated with Makerspace Adelaide on a new initiative. Makerspaces are community networks that support a circular economy through extending the shelf life of materials and fostering skill development. In this workshop, I learned of the importance of repairing clothing instead of tossing it. I watched with wide eyes as the mentors explained how they brought new life into their decade-old cardigans and unintentionally ripped jeans. I initially arrived at the workshop to fix a dress with a broken button; I wasn’t even aware that there was a more sustainable way to fix a button! Using a patch to sew onto the fabric which had lost its structural integrity ensures the button will stay on stronger and longer than before.
Whether you’re someone skilled with handiwork or just happy to seek out a local tailoring business, altering your clothing to get that perfect fit for your body is an excellent way to improve its longevity. Not only will it perk up your style by flattering your personal figure but it will also get more wear and love! Want to take personalising a step further? Source some sustainable fabric and make your dream outfit yourself or with the help of a tailor.
Thrift shopping is a great slow fashion option. Growing up in an Asian household, the concept of sustainability is quite abstract and not without its stigmas. The core culture of fashion stems from public perception rather than a form of self-expression and creativity. With thrift stores being stigmatised, fast fashion stores are often chosen as an alternative affordable option. Before their surge in popularity, op shops were seen as “dirty”, a place for people who couldn’t afford clothes with the original price tag. However, after being part of a conscious and accepting generation that’s abolishing these stigmas has been extremely beneficial on a personal and global scale. Now, I can’t even explain the serotonin hit I get from finding something so perfect for me after thoroughly hunting through the racks of several op shops.
How sustainable is thrifting really?
That shirt from last summer doesn’t fit anymore? Not a problem, obviously it won’t go in the bin for landfill, it’s going to be donated for a new home!
As amazing as thrifting is, it really isn’t a deus ex machina with no caveats. Purging our closets of unsustainable brands and items in the name of donating them can be just as dangerous and not so guilt-free as we think it is. Rather than consuming less we falsely fall prey to the illusion of shopping our way out of a problem. The secondhand market is growing rapidly as trends quicker and clothing quality decreases just as fast. The concept of thrifting arises from the instability and unsustainability of fast fashion. With the volume of donated clothing being so high, only a small slice actually ends up on the racks, the majority ending up in a landfill. The number of A-grade donated clothes that end up in-store has decreased from 50% to 20%, and B-grade clothing - those with a slight flaw -has decreased from 40% to 20%.
It’s easy to feel insignificant in such a widespread issue, but remember, it takes two to tango and a lot more to make a conga line! Every effort makes a difference. Let’s work together to make this conga line as long as possible. After all, “sustainability” is more than just a buzzword. This word encompasses the present and the future; it’s integrated into our lifestyles - even at the smallest level - and entails the potential of humanity.