Are you going green? If you are, you’re not alone. Hordes of Australians and an increasing number of the Western world’s population have joined the green movement: eating organic food, timing their showers and becoming urban gardeners. Once relegated to peace-loving hippies, sustainability has now hit the mainstream. Although I have been writing this blog going on 5 years and there is a wealth of information available, I still get asked: what is eco-friendly fashion?
For newbies navigating the sustainable fashion maze, it can be confusing. But then it's easy to understand why. Some ethical brands and eco fashion bloggers are just as confused and at times missing the point too! So I decided to put together a list that helps you understand what eco-friendly fashion should be about, concepts that don't just involve buying sustainable stuff.
So here is the list that I like to call “The 5 Often Forgotten R’s of Eco-Friendly Fashion”:
Eco friendly fashion (known as sustainable fashion or ethical fashion, they are often used interchangeably) should first and foremost be about reducing fashion consumption. The 2014 Living Planet Report revealed that Australia's eco footprint is 6.25 global hectares (gha – the area of land required to sustain consumption and waste) per person. Since the average global footprint is about 2.6 gha this is abominable. Reducing your footprint starts by being mindful of consumption and waste. This ultimately means buying less and purchasing only what you need.
When a garment is damaged, many women think nothing more of chucking it out and replacing it with something new. However many items can be repaired. You can sew on a new button. You can mend a seam that is coming apart. You can darn a sock or sweater (or if you don't have time, go to a tailor). As Australia is the second most wasteful society (unsurprisingly USA takes first place) with 650 kgs of waste per person sent to landfill each year, we need to start changing the mindset of throwing fashion items away and asking ourselves: Can it be repaired? Can it be fixed? Can it be reused?
Instead of throwing items that you no longer need in the trash, recycle it. There are two ways to do this. You can donate it to a charity or opportunity shop as they will recycle your goods and turn your trash into someone else’s treasure. Or you can recycle the fabrics by turning it into another garment (known as upcycling). If you're like me and are hopeless with a sewing machine and needle and thread, you can choose to donate your second hand items to increasing numbers of designers who will happily receive and recycle your unwanted garments. Check out up-cycled fashion designer Rachael Kertes of Applique Vintage.
According to the Mirriam Webster dictionary, repurpose is defined as: “to change (something) so that it can be used for a different purpose." Thus repurposed fashion is similar to upcycling in that it is a form of recycling. Unlike upcycling where fashion is altered to create an item with a similar purpose; repurposing involves altering it so that it is given an entirely new purpose or use. One example is turning an old linen dress into a tote bag. Another is turning a tote bag into mothballs like I did in the image below.
Reinventing your wardrobe goes hand in hand with buying less; or perhaps it is the outcome of buying less. It also involves being creative. Let’s face it – it’s easy to go shopping for an item that you want because it’ll ‘complete’ an outfit. So much more creativity is involved in looking at your existing closet and finding outfit goodness. So reinventing your closet involves creating new outfits that you may otherwise not have considered. When I completed the Buy Nothing New challenge in 2013 and in an effort to stave off style boredom, I put my creative thinking cap on and began to see combinations I hadn’t seen before. I was thinking like a stylist, or rather, a stylist with a non-existent budget!
In summary, eco friendly fashion means more than just purchasing 'eco.' It doesn't solely focus on how you shop - it also encourages you to look at your existing relationship with your fashion stuff.
Now over to you - what do you think of this list? Is there anything I’ve missed? How do you define eco-friendly fashion? Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.