Many textile companies are changing the 'fast fashion' status quo and adopting the 'slow fashion' concept. Slow fashion is a movement that's aimed at being kinder to the earth, people, and animals. Companies are practicing sustainability by reducing their ecological footprint and committing to ethical standards for workers. This is resulting in a beautiful bloom of quality labels that care for the planet and the welfare of others. As production lines and distribution centers are focusing on doing their part to be eco-friendly, it's also important as a customer and advocate, to approach our wardrobe in a whole new light. Slow fashion focuses on quality over quantity, identifying our own unique style, and curating an intentional wardrobe. This pulls us away from what the 'market' tells us to look like, and instead focuses on us as an individual, and our needs.
Whether you're new to sustainable shopping or a seasoned slow fashion guru, I believe anyone would tell you that it's a fluid process. If you're deciding to commit to shopping sustainably, you'll need to start somewhere. Here are a few tips and approaches to get you going:
1. Start with your own wardrobe
Pile Up Those Clothes
Realistically throwing everything out is not practical. Create a huge pile of every garment you own and use the 'Marie Kondo' method: hold each item and ask yourself whether it "sparks joy" within you. If not, then put it in the donate or sell pile. This will take time, so brace yourself.
Do a Rigorous Inventory
Next, take a rigorous inventory of the items you wish to keep. There are many great printable guides online that help you through this process. I recommend finding one that suits you best. The inventory will assess what type of items you own, from style, cut, fit, color, material, etc. This will give you a better understanding of what you have, so you know what you need and don't need. *This is also super helpful in knowing which fits and cuts look best on you. I was surprised that I own so many square neck tops, when I don't actually love that cut on me. What was I thinking?
2. Chose The Right Materials
Natural vs. Synthetic
Personally, my journey began when I noticed I was having skin irritation to polyester. Not only that, but wearing polyester gave me the worst B.O. ever. I quickly cut that out from my closet and stop buying it all together. That little shift got me learning more about natural materials. I took baby steps and switched to buying 100% cotton instead. I quickly found that my options became super limited. I began exploring other materials and researching what they were all about. There are a plethora of materials out there from natural, synthetic, recycled, to a combination of both. This is a personal choice and it's worth researching.
I was shocked to learn about sericulture or the standard production of silk. Silkworms are boiled alive in order to extract a continuous silk ball from the cocoon. Naturally, when silkworms shed their cocoon during metamorphosis, it breaks the silk ball. However, there is an alternative option and it's called Ahimsa Silk. Ahimsa in Hindu means 'nonharmful'. This process lets the silkworm live through its life cycle and allows it to become a moth as it was intended to. Then the broken silk balls are collected and processed, which makes it more difficult and more expensive to do, but this honors the life of the creature.
3. Shopping Habits
Make a Shift and Thrift
Thrifting is one of the best ways to shop sustainably without breaking your budget. There are heaps of clothing on this planet, that have already been produced. Buying second hand is so much fun and you never really know what you're going to find. But be sure you have an idea of what you're looking for prior, otherwise you might end up going home with way more than you need. I tend to fall into that trap and end up donating the clothes I didn't really want, but at the time it seemed like a good deal.
Another really fun option is to host a 'clothing swap'. Make it a girls night (or guy night) and invite your friends over. Youʻre bound to find at least one thing you love. It keeps your wardrobe fresh at a very low cost and helps you exchange your unwanted clothing. Plus dressing up is fun!
Research & Assess Company Values and Practices
Researching has been the most time consuming step for me. There's a lot of learning, intention, and conscious choosing that goes into it. It's fascinating to learn about the production process and where materials come from.
Everyone has a different criteria for purchasing, which makes this very personal. You'll probably end up creating a criteria based on what you deem important and non-negotiable. With that, sustainable clothing brands do come at a higher price point, because it's typically more expensive to source and produce. Read the companies values and practices to ensure they aren't 'greenwashing'. I feel more comfortable paying the higher cost when my values align with the companies values. That way I know I'm supporting consciously with intention.
From there, it's a rinse and repeat process, but it's always evolving based on your needs and wants. It's also important to mention that there is no perfect way of doing this, and there are no wrong choices. I think in the end it's about being more aware and acting accordingly to your value system, and doing the best we can.
Hopefully the pieces you chose to add to your collection make you feel great and offer you an inner feeling of appreciation and gratitude. I started this process some time ago and I have come across many road bumps (impulse buying, attachment to clothes, and the list goes on). However, the pay off is so much greater! Happy sustainable shopping to you!