Today’s topic is sustainable fashion guidelines and how COVID-19 impacted the fashion industry.
This is going to be a long article in which I have put a lot of work and research because I wanted to display a clear picture of what sustainability really means and what we can do as consumers.
2020 is over, and we can all agree that last year won’t be forgotten anytime soon. It is the year with a great impact that produced a huge change in people’s consciences, lives, and habits. How each of us crossed 2020 depended a lot on our individual backgrounds. Adapting capacity, accepting capacity, and humour. In the end, humour is the one thing that should go with us in the darkest times.
Among the changes that COVID-19 forced the world to face is an awareness of individual priorities and needs.
Is shopping a priority? Is fashion a need? Can we live without any shopping? Can we go from needy fashion to shopping out of need?
This pandemic represented the end of many businesses and thinking patterns. Yet we do not know when it will be over and if it will be. Based on the precedent of Spanish Flue, I’m expecting the sublime pandemic to end a bit over 500 days starting from the debut moment. Following this mathematical theory, we are half a way through.
Like any other industry, fashion and shopping habits were not an exception when it came to changing due to the coronavirus.
In the past 15 years, fast fashion has evolved faster than ever, greatly impacting the environment and people’s lives. Everything became accessible to everyone, but the cost was huge. Unfortunately, we “needed” this pandemic to realise the impact of fast fashion on Earth, on people’s sanity, on labour abuse, and on people’s uniformization. The True Cost documentary can shed light on this matter.
Now, I would like to talk about how fast fashion and impulsive shopping affect people’s sanity. How does uniformization tend to replace unicity? That will answer how the post-Coronavirus shopping will be and where COVID-19 left fashion on the map.
From where I see it, the global tendency is leading to sustainability and individuality. But what do these mean exactly and how can they team up?
For years, activists and people in charge of Ethic Fashion are fighting brands and people’s conscience over environmental harm. Their actions and behaviour produce by putting the planet at risk. Sustainability was never more vivid than it becomes due to this revolution in people’s minds caused by this pandemic. But what does sustainable really mean?
The most simple definition, according to Wikipedia, is the ability to constantly exist. It refers generally to the capacity for the biosphere and human civilization to coexist. Meeting our needs without compromising future generations to meet theirs. Even simpler, our freedom ends where their freedom starts.
Also, sustainability it’s a two-way road. One side of the road belongs to brands and producers throughout the fabric they use, the manufacturing process, and transportation. The other side of the road belongs to us, the buyers, fashion consumers through our shopping habits and behaviour.
Since we all hear a lot lately about “row”, “vegan”, “sustainable”, “bio” and so on and so forth, let’s have a brief talk about fabrics.
Both types have PROS and CONS!
Natural fibres come from plants and animals, while synthetic fibres are made from chemical compounds.
Besides fabric type, many factors influence the sustainable credentials of fabric. How much water or energy does it take to produce? Where in the world is it being manufactured and how does its production affect biodiversity? So, as you can see, this is a complex subject.
The worst fabrics for the environment are cotton, synthetics, and animal-derived materials.
To many of us, cotton is being presented as the natural angel to plastic sweaty evil. While it’s true that cotton is breathable, grows naturally and biodegrades, it is also the planet’s thirstiest crop.
It uses about 2700 litres of water to grow enough for a single T-shirt to be produced.
This translates to 900 days of water necessary for one person alone. Not to mention the huge amounts of pesticides and toxic chemicals that seep into the earth and water supplies and destroy huge areas of land, rivers, aquatic fauna and human lives with the multitude of health affections they cause, including skin burns, Parkinson’s, heart attacks, strokes, cancer and birth defects. I hugely recommend the BBC programme Stacey Dooley Investigates Fashion’s Dirty.
The majority of synthetic fabrics are made from oil, and synthetic fabrics account for 63% of all textile materials.
While plastic-based fibres do not need agricultural land and use little water in production and processing, they do impact the environment.
We already know the oil industry is the number one pollution factor, followed by the textile industry. Now these two have teamed up. According to specialists, the impact of synthetics on the environment doesn’t stop at the manufacturing stage. Every time you wash a polyester garment, it releases microfibers into our waterways, causing massive harm to marine life and the vital ecosystem.
The global plastic pandemic was a reality before any other pandemic.
Last but not least, to consider are animal-derived materials, the most controversial ones. Here we have wool, leather and fur.
Myself included I was always in leather’s favour, especially when it comes to shoes. It was a shock to discover that materials like leather are responsible for huge methane outputs.
Extinction Rebellion states that one billion animals are being killed for leather every year while 85 percent of the world’s leather is being tanned with chromium. A toxic substance that often leaves tannery workers with cancer and skin conditions.
Since we did find out what is being considered environmentally unfriendly, let’s see at…
Organic or Recycled Cotton: grown without all the harmful pesticides and produced without the dangerous chemicals that normal cotton uses, or recycled ones.
Organic Hemp – As long as hemp is manufactured organically, without added chemicals, it is considered a very sustainable fabric choice.
Organic-Linen – is also produced from a plant called flax. Like hemp, it requires little water and little-to-no pesticides. When left undyed, it is completely biodegradable.
SeaCell – To manufacture SeaCell fibres, dried seaweed is ground, crushed, and mixed with cellulose to manufacture SeaCell fibres.
Lyocell – is being manufactured from wood pulp in an environmentally friendly closed-loop process. The fabric is biodegradable, recyclable, and naturally wrinkle-free. It is soft, drapes well, and can be washed, dyed, and even woven to mimic the qualities of silk, suede, leather, moleskin, or wool.
Soya Fabric – also known as “vegetable cashmere”, is an eco-friendly, petrochemical-free material made from a by-product of soya bean processing.
Tencel – is made from wood pulp, and its properties are like those of rayon; it is biodegradable.
Recycled Polyester (rPET) – is made from plastic bottles that would have gone to the landfill. This is a fantastic solution to the plastic pollution issue, and it reduces the need for raw materials. The recycled version of polyester is a much more sustainable option since it skips the energy-intensive oil extraction process, reducing emissions. Yet, the downside remains the release of microfibers into our waterways, which affects the environment.
We should bear in mind that cellulose is being manufactured in the same way as the bamboo fabric is and until very recently bamboo materials were considered sustainable but it turned out the manufacturing process is highly intensive and involves many harmful chemicals, for some extensive research please consult this article from Good on You. They also developed an app for ethical brand ratings called Good On You – Ethical Fashion App, available on the App Store and Google Play. Also, check out this and this article.
After learning so many things about the Yin and Yang of the fabrics let’s dive into our side of the road and get under the magnifying glass of our shopping habits and behaviour.
We need to add new stages to the circle of buy->use-> dispose -> the end into reborn as something new and most importantly, re-wear, re-wear and repeat.
Extinction Rebellion says that encouraging more consumption will only make fashion’s environmental footprint worse, so the first thing we need to do to improve sustainability is to stop impulse shopping and embrace the clothes we already own. The act of shopping should become a mindful action, not something random because that is why we end up with loads of things that we do not like.
Let’s check our wardrobes, rediscover what we already have, and fall back in love with our clothes. Besides, let’s try to think if we can repurpose some items. That is why it is important to learn to develop your own personal style, away from the influence of the fashion industry’s media and marketing traps.
As Make Fashion Circular says: “We need a fashion industry made up of three elements: a business model that keeps clothes for longer, like:
For instance, let’s have a look at the French style. Is very trendless. They do not go and buy lots of things, instead, they make an experience out of shopping. The act of shopping should be something personal, intimate … buying things that you are going to put in your wardrobe and keep them forever as our mothers and grandmothers used to do.
A cornerstone of style is investing in the “classic” by this I mean pieces that will last forever. Of course, this does not mean that we all should wear a classic style. The idea behind it is to invest in durable, trendless items that can easily be integrated with other pieces that are defining our style based on our personality, lifestyle and body type.
Figure out what suits you or get in touch with a personal stylist. Think of what you like wearing based on your personality, what’s your lifestyle and work on creating a wardrobe around those. Clothes are not about fashion but more about how they make you feel.
Old stuff, new stuff, vintage. You don’t have to spend a decade’s worth of salary on your wardrobe or flaunt designer brands the whole time.
“All you need is one signature item: the one you wear when you need to feel strong.”
-Caroline De Maigret
Not everybody had a grandmother who opens her armoire and exclaims:
– Take whatever you want, my dear!
But, I do believe we should all become bargain hunters, whether at the flea market, second-hand stores, vintage stores, e-Bay, Vestiaire Collective etc. Only there we’ll find the perfect item or accessory that we’ll wear for the rest of our life. Buying vintage will help to keep fashion sustainable and enable us to stand out from the crowd by wearing items no one else has. Having a true sense of style is to be yourself and not blindly follow trends and wear what everyone else is. Defining your very own style will make you feel more comfortable and stylish.
Now is the time to reflect on yourself, rediscover your true self and become minded. There is no better time to analyze -> acknowledge -> take action. I truly believe a self-introspection is not only benefiting the environment but yourself too.
When was the last time you felt revigorated, released, yourself and mostly true to yourself?
Don’t look at the item in isolation. Before buying something you need to name at least 3 things you already own that go with it.
We should all want to have the best thing for ourselves not the newest thing. Get to know yourself, discover your taste and not the choices of the influencer you are following. It’s easy to be influenced by so many amazing accounts and styles on Instagram and want to buy the same pieces. But it’s important not to lose your individuality or uniqueness in doing so! We are all different, with our own qualities, personalities and characteristics and it’s amazing when these are being reflected and celebrated through our choices of fashion!
TIPS: When you see a good outfit, instead of comparing or diapering take notes.
If you find the learning process difficult or you seem that can’t decide on what’s good for your body type, lifestyle and what represents you based on your style and personality do not hesitate to find a Personal Stylist compatible with you – the person who introduces you to yourself. Help you build a wardrobe based on your personality, best-fitting & flattering colours. Colours, fabric, and shape that suit you with pieces that mix and match throughout the season, throughout the year so you won’t have to shop that much and focus on trends. I am very cautious about what I shop for because I want to make sure that is being worn properly.
My goal as a certified personal stylist is not to change who you are is to reveal who you are. Everything you think you are not, or you cannot do I’ll make you see that you can.
The policy of one in – one out. Before buying something new make sure you donate or sell one of your old things.
Clothes are not just clothes, if they are the right ones for you, they have the power to repair, regenerate and build self-esteem. They can change how you feel from the inside out.
From wow you look differently to wow you feel differently
Acknowledge: Something may be photographed in such a way as to make it desirable, but ask yourself whether your environment would suit the style.
Ask yourself a full list of questions every time you are tempted to buy something new.
What is the solution to a healthier planet and how can we all contribute?
Wear more, re-wear, repurpose, repeat.
I care more and buy less.
First things first, a sustainable approach is defined as buying with purpose. Second, wear it longer and repair or repurpose the item. Last, dispose of it smartly, as in sell, exchange with friends, or donate.
I believe with all my heart that the only honest and real way of doing fashion is as a personal stylist! We are not tied to any one store or brand, and although we might offer some pieces from a certain brand as suggestions, they are purely for guidance and orientation purposes. As there is no better way to explain or teach about style than through images.
The conclusion is THERE ARE NO SUCH THING AS 100% SUSTAINABLE fabric! But, some are much better than others. Some major determining factors when qualifying sustainable materials are the total amount of resources used to produce the fabric and the life cycle analysis of the product. As you can see, some are using a large number of resources. Some are cruel, some use oil, some are not biodegradable, some are releasing microfibers into our waterways and so on. Hence, we, the consumers, bear the greatest responsibility. We should buy less and be more creative so we won’t feel the continual need to purchase on and on.
Final note: I wrote many articles over the years, however, when researching for this one I was literally overwhelmed and shocked by how misinformed we all are in the era of information. I initially thought that it was human selfishness and cruelty that brought us here, but it is laziness and comfort that prevents us from acting more responsibly and being thirsty for knowledge and complete information. I would also add low self-esteem, which is highly exploited by marketing and influencers. Once you learn to love and appreciate yourself, you won’t feel the need to compare yourself with anybody! Besides, you won’t have the desire to be like somebody else or want what everybody else has, hoping you will get the same validation and acceptance.
In the end, I would like to recommend you an Instagram account that has nothing to do with fashion or style but has a lot to do with common sense, community, responsibility, and ultimately education. I’m referring to David Attenborough, a man of wide experience with a huge experience worth considering equally proportional to his love for nature.
Once you’ll find your style you’ll never be out of fashion
Le Grand Strip
New York Vintage Inc
How to break up with fast fashion by Lauren Bravo
Dress [with] Sense: The Practical Guide to a Conscious Closet by
Thanks for the great tips!
You’re welcome, any time! <3