In the words of Miuccia Prada, “What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” Whether you’re a bit of a fashionista or you begrudgingly shop once a year, we all have a closet that tells a story about us. But who are the supporting characters? Well, you may have heard rumblings about the impact the apparel industry has on the environment and on factory-workers. This involves frightening statistics like:
- The fashion industry produces more carbon emissions than international flights and maritime shipping combined. (Source: UNEP)
- It takes approximately 2650 litres of water to produce a cotton shirt, and approximately 7570 litres of water to produce a pair of jeans. (Sources: Business Insider, World Resources Institute)
- Washing clothes releases around 50,000 tonnes of microfibres into the ocean each year. This is the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. (Source: UNEP)
- Textile dyeing is the world’s second-largest polluter of water. (Sources: The New York Times, UNEP)
- On average, people bought 60% more garments in 2014 than they did in 2000, but only kept the clothes for half as long. (Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation)
- The equivalent of one garbage truck full of clothes is burned or dumped in a landfill every second. This is enough to fill the Sydney Harbour annually. (Source: World Resources Institute)
My closet definitely involves a few too many coats, and I’ve been known to self-impose a ban on all new sweaters. But here are a few tips and tricks that have been extremely helpful in my ongoing quest to ensure that what I wear is in line with my values.
- The 30 Wears Test: This idea originated with Livia Firth’s #30Wears campaign. Every time you buy something, try asking yourself, “Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?” You’d be surprised by how many times you say no. 30 wears can seem like a lot, but if you have the item for 10 years, this means you only have to wear it three times a year. And think about how many times you’ve worn your favourite pair of jeans!
- “Buy Nice or Buy Twice”: Oftentimes the more expensive option is the smarter one once you factor in price per use. Just think, if you invest in the right item, one day your grandkids could romp around in it! However, this does require a little research as not all pieces are timeless and not all price tags actually reflect quality. So be sure to ask yourself, “Will I still like this in three years? Is there really a difference in how long it will last, or am I paying for the packaging?”
- Look after your clothes: You may be thinking “duh!” But this is an important part of keeping those timeless pieces around for a long time. Get googling and find your nearest tailor, invest in a drying rack, or maybe pick up some DIY skills.
- Thrifting: The amount of new energy needed to produce second-hand clothing is zero. There’s no one size fits all approach to thrifting, it’s all about finding the “vintage” store that works for you- whether it’s a tiny hidden gem, an online store like thredUP, or a huge warehouse!
- Vote with your dollar:There are many wonderful brands out there who make it possible to look good and feel good while doing good. This includes the likes of: Everlane, Patagonia, Tentree, Allbirds, Icebreaker, ABLE, pact, Alternative, Conscious Step, Bombas, Alchemy Fashions, Eileen Fisher, and United By Blue.