How often have you really thought about where your clothing comes from?
For the most part, as long as an item of clothing looks good on us and we feel comfortable in it, we generally don’t put too much thought into where it came from.
But the truth is that most of today’s clothing makes a very long journey from start to finish, which all begins with where clothing fibers are grown or produced.
Then, once they’re created, designers use them in manufacturing facilities to produce the latest trends, which are then transported by truck to end up in warehouses, where they are shipped out to stores, and eventually, end up in our closets as part of our wardrobes.
Today, this endless cycle of clothing being produced, shipped, and sold has become known as “fast fashion”, which has countless far-reaching impacts on the environment and our society as a whole.
So with that in mind, in today’s blog, we’re going to be discussing fast-fashion and what you can be doing to help reduce its impact on the environment.
What is Fast Fashion?
Just like the term “fast food” refers to highly processed foods that represent very little nutritional value, “fast fashion” refers to clothing that’s also highly processed and represents very little quality.
Essentially, fast fashion refers to any type of low-cost clothing that’s made more-or-less to mimic high-end, luxury clothing lines.
This type of “fast fashion” is typically made using low-quality materials, like polyester or nylon, in order to be produced at significantly lower costs.
So what’s so wrong with clothing that can be created to imitate real designer brands, all at significantly lower costs?
The Problem With Fast Fashion
Today, there’s no doubt that trends in fashion are changing quicker than ever before.
Partly due to the prevalence of social media and influencer marketing, what might be trendy and fashionable one day, can easily become outdated and boring by the next day.
Unfortunately, this often causes consumers to choose cheaper, trendier clothing items that are designed to look good but aren’t designed to last.
In turn, a large amount of “fast fashion” tends to end up in landfills. In fact, roughly 11 million tons of clothing end up in landfills every single year.
And aside from that, there’s also the fact that the production of some types of natural clothing, like hemp or cotton, puts a large strain on the environment.
For example, as the demand for fast fashion increases, cotton farmers may need to increase their production in order to keep up.
In turn, this leads to an increase in the use of pesticides and herbicides on farming land, which eventually leeches its way into waterways and contributes to contaminated water sources.
At the same time, many of the vibrant colors, prints, and finishes that you see in today’s fashion are achieved by using toxic dyes and chemicals. In fact, according to Phys.org, textile dyeing is the world’s second-largest contributor to clean water pollution after agriculture.
Additionally, the increased strain on production also makes it easier for larger corporations to dominate over smaller, local businesses. This is simply because they can’t afford the same large, bulk purchases, which larger corporations can in order to keep up with consumer demand.
But in the end, the biggest concern with fast fashion is that most consumers may not know or understand the extent of the damage being caused by their fashion choices. In other words, most consumers simply may not be aware of where their fabrics come from, or what really goes into making them.
And in turn, unfortunately, it’s this lack of knowledge that has caused fast fashion to become as wildly popular as it is today.
Eco-Friendly Clothing Or “Slow Fashion”
Fortunately, there are many eco-savvy consumers that are now looking for sustainable clothing alternatives, which is sometimes referred to as “slow fashion”.
Slow fashion simply refers to clothing that’s produced ethically or sustainably, with the ultimate goal of reducing the impact that fast fashion is having on the planet.
Additionally, slow fashion also refers to recycling and reusing old clothing, instead of allowing it to end up in the landfill.
At the same time, it’s also good for consumers to learn about the many different types of fabrics that are available. It’s important to note that not all fabrics are created with the same level of quality and that not all fabrics have the same type of impact on the environment.
The Downside To Eco-Friendly Fashion
Although slow fashion is better for the environment in the long run, there are several short-term downsides to this type of eco-friendly clothing.
For starters, ethically sourced, sustainable clothing often costs considerably more to produce than other types of fast fashion. In turn, this means that sustainable fashion is simply not affordable for everyone.
Another major downside to sustainable fashion is that much of today’s manufacturing process has already been geared towards mass-producing fast fashion.
Therefore, in order for slower, more sustainable fashion to become widespread, it will require a major disruption to the entire fashion industry, ranging from where clothing fibers are grown and sourced, through to the way clothing is marketed and sold.
Additionally, the fashion industry is a billion-dollar industry.
Therefore, if a large portion of the world changed their fashion habits to more sustainable practices, this might cause significant disruptions to local economies all around the world simply because people will end up buying clothing less often.
Finally, because of the economic disruptions that it could cause, slow fashion inevitably puts a strain on developing countries that are already struggling to keep up with developed countries, like China or the United States.
So if there are so many downsides to sustainable fashion, what’s the solution?
The Ultimate Solution To Sustainable Fashion
One of the most important things you can do when trying to align your fashion choices with sustainability is to be aware of what you’re buying and to simply know where it’s coming from.
It’s also a good idea to try and buy good quality clothing that’s going to last you longer than buying cheap, affordable clothing.
Sure, those cheap socks are going to be more affordable, but they’re also more likely to end up in the trash within a few weeks. And then, you’ll need to buy yourself a new pair anyway.
Therefore, it’s better to save yourself time and money, and just buy good quality clothing instead of "bargain basement". In the end, buying slightly more expensive, but good quality socks, are much more likely to last you months instead of weeks.
At the same time, when it comes to getting rid of your old clothing, if at all possible, try to donate locally or to try and recycle your used clothing instead of throwing it in the trash. However, it’s important to understand that not all of the clothing you donate will actually end up being recycled or reused.
The truth is that most of the time, we throw out clothing simply because it no longer fits us, but there’s not actually anything wrong with it.
So if you’re looking to get rid of some old clothes, but they’re still in good condition, you might want to consider donating them instead of trashing them. Bringing more expensive items to a consignment shop could put a few bucks in your pocket while making that same item more affordable for the next person.
Before buying new clothes, it’s important to stop and ask ourselves if we really need to be wearing that latest trend. Sure, you might need new clothing, but is it really that important to buy new trends, especially when shopping at local thrift stores is a great way to create your own unique look?
Another alternative is to host or attend local clothing swaps.
Another eco-friendly clothing practice to adopt is buying locally from small businesses. You’d be supporting your local economy ensuring your money stays in the community. And at the same time, you’ll be able to rest assured knowing that your fashion choices aren’t contributing to the global impact of fast fashion.
What Are Some Local Eco-Friendly Alternatives?
Although it’s not always possible to find used clothing that you’ll like as much as the hottest trends on the market, there are many small businesses that can help you make more eco-friendly fashion decisions.
Keep reading to learn about a few of my favorite small businesses that are making sustainable fashion more attainable for everyone.
The Living Canvas
As the owner of The Living Canvas, Laura Mayo creates beautiful silk and bamboo scarves by hand using natural sun, ice, snow, and spray dyeing techniques. These techniques give her products a truly unique and natural touch that you won’t find in any big box store.
Any time that you wear one of Laura’s scarves, you can be guaranteed that you’ll be wearing a truly unique, high-quality piece of art, which you’ll be able to cherish for years to come.
The Forest Creek Clothing Company
Owned and operated by Heather Bradley, Forest Creek Clothing Company specializes in high-quality, handmade Canadian clothing for men, women, and children.
Many of Heather’s designs are made using bamboo and organic cotton, which makes her company synonymous with quality, sustainable fashion, unlike the clothing you’ll find in most stores today.
LinenFly By Tita DaSilva
Lastly, Tita Dasilva is another local, Canadian entrepreneur who works tirelessly to bring ethical and sustainable fashion to you. You can find Tita’s clothing and accessory lines at Linenfly.ca.
You can also check out Linen Fly on Facebook.
Not only is her customer fitted clothing line beautifully crafted, but she also uses 100% linen, which doesn’t require- ironing, is breathable and can be worn year-round.