The global clamoring for sustainable fashion has been on a steady increase for quite some time, and as this year draws to a close, 2019 has marked some of the greatest sustainable practices in the fashion industry across the world. The idea of sustainable fashion encompasses a lot more than the designs and textiles themselves and this year, impressive efforts have been made by many brands to redefine the whole system of fashion in order to produce better clothes for the consumers at minimal risk to the environment.
Now even though the need for this move towards sustainable fashion by various players in the industry was brought on by certain negative environmental factors, the result in most cases has been nothing short of amazing. The highlight, of course, was the signing of the G7 Fashion Pact by 150+ fashion brands this year, aimed at reducing the environmental impacts of the fashion industry. And that’s not all; the following advancements in sustainable fashion were also made possible by the rising ‘wokeness’ across the world.
So here are the five trends of sustainable fashion of 2019 that you should know:
1. Fashion made from ocean plastic
Out of the 300 million tonnes of plastic we produce each year, about 10% ends up in our oceans. To deal with the plastic problem, brands have increasingly focussed on creating fashion items from upcycled ocean plastic, making this one of the prominent sustainable fashion trends of 2019 .
Adidas was the biggest player this year with over 11 million shoes made from plastic waste in partnership with environmental charity Parley. In 2017, the number of shoes produced from recycled plastic waste by Adidas had been a mere one million, and even though this number increased to five million last year, the shoes very clearly went mainstream this year.
Rothy’s shoes are currently trending because they are made from recycled single-use water bottles in a bid to ensure that these plastic wastes don’t make their ways into our oceans; and in the in hair and beauty department, popular brand Kevin Murphy switched to using 100% recycled ocean plastic to package all of their hair care products.
2. Pre-loved luxury
They say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure and this principle was made abundantly clear this year by the mainstream practice of acquiring pre-loved fashion items. Before now, there was a huge stigma associated with buying secondhand and preloved fashion; regarded as shameful in many regions of the world but with rising eco-consciousness, global campaigns to reduce waste, eco-stylists and social influencers flaunting their thrift finds and the need to tighten purse strings in a slowing economy, more people are turning to preloved fashion than ever before.
The result is that this year, the global pre-loved luxury fashion sector has experienced such staggering growth with popular luxury thrift shop the Realreal raised about $300 million dollars after going public in June and apps specialising in the resale of used fashion tracking millions of millennial and Gen Z fashion users each month.
The largest consignment and online thrift store platform thredUp largely drove the preloved luxury sector this year with the use of their AI for incredible efficiency and according to this report, the secondhand sector of the fashion industry will reach US $51 billion within the next five years, and is expected to overtake new retail fashion by 2028.
3. Rent it or swap it
Given the destigmatization of wearing used fashion, the practice of renting occasional statement pieces or swapping old clothes for new ones was widely embraced this year. Extending the lives of clothes is a vital way to reduce waste and sometimes, we spend outrageously on clothes we only wear twice or thrice in years. By renting or swapping an outfit when necessary, we are better able to save our financial resources for more pressing needs while curbing waste simultaneously.
Rental platforms such as Rent the Runway and Le Tote practically paved the way for this sustainable fashion practice, but this year Banana Republic, Urban Outfitters and Bloomingdale’s announced their own rental subscription services as well.
Then there’s clothes swapping or wardrobe swapping, largely informal and often conducted at parties or locally organized events. This is an accessible approach to sustainable fashion because it usually has no price tag (except perhaps for the entry fee to the event) and it also encourages collaborative consumption as well.
4. Hemp goes hipster, not hippie
We should probably start out by telling you that this is not the hemp that you can get high on. Hemp, unlike marijuana, contains a negligible amount of THC- the compound that gets you high. It grows with little water, is biodegradable and its fibers can be used to make ropes, paper clothes and various other fashionable items. Because of its similarity with marijuana, hemp was classified as a controlled substance but as governments start to loosen up, the private sector and eco-conscious folk are giving it the attention it rightfully deserves, making this miracle material the star fabric of 2019.
From underwear to Kanye West’s Yeezys, hemp has been the go-to fabric for a growing number of fashion brands. For instance, Levi’s wellthread collection is made with completely processed hemp fiber, the Patagonia hemp clothing collection blends hemp with Tencel and organic cotton to achieve incredible durability. Los Angeles’ Recreator and Tact and Stone have both impressed us this year with their classic wears made from hemp. Hemp is moved from hippie to hipster and we’re loving this embrace of a traditional sustainable fabric.
5. Repeating outfits freely; #100wears not #30wears
Most times, we feel a certain pressure to wear different outfits for different occasions for no other reason than people’s perception of us and the fear of being seen in the same thing twice. This need to always demonstrate to onlookers that we can afford all the clothes we desire whether rooted in our insecurities or our addiction to fashion trends– has fortunately been changing over the years but the effects this year so far has been spectacular.
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The high point was the media frenzy when the Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge repeated her clothes a number of times. As if this wasn’t enough, the fact that Meghan Markle also rewore her classic wears with pride, had many people wondering why it was such a fashion sin to repeat outfits in the first place.
Livia Firth, founder of ethical fashion consultancy Eco-Age, launched the #30wearschallenge initiative to get more people rewearing their existing fashion items in the name of sustainability. That the concept of outfit repeating is being embraced speaks volumes; the throwaway consumer culture is finally being challenged, there is less demand for newer clothes and with that comes less need for brands to make cheap, disposable clothing (and to put those items on discount every month). All of which works in our collective favour to reduce waste and lighten the load on our environment. In fact, some eco fashion bloggers and zero wasters are calling on #300wears and #100wears, not just #30wears.
Ultimately, sustainable fashion trends aren’t just about what’s in style and ‘on trend’. The overall concept also challenges social issues so that positive consumer behaviours are encouraged to lead to a greener world. So if you haven’t given any of these sustainable fashion ‘trends’ a try, start now. It’s never too late to jump on the sustainable fashion bandwagon.
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Feature image via Reformation.