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What changes when sustainable fashion wins?

The evidence of global warming has become frighteningly real in recent years. Forest fires, devastating floods, snow in Brazil: this is more than weird weather. We’re all becoming more aware of the impact our actions are having on the environment and what the future might look like if we don’t change our eco-destructive behaviours.

The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions: more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50% by 2030.

But this damning prediction doesn’t have to become reality. Let’s, for a minute, imagine a world in which sustainability triumphs: A world where we stop impulse-shopping the latest fast fashion only to wear what we buy once and discard it.

According to The Guardian, the value of clothing and footwear retail worldwide has grown by half a trillion dollars since 2008. So what happens to the fashion industry when we ditch fast fashion in favour of vintage shopping and recycling?

How Our Shopping Habits Have Changed After the Pandemic

The global Covid-19 crisis of 2020 and beyond has had many negative effects. But it has also done something very good: it has made us reassess our priorities and how we live.

As the workforce shifted from spending all day in the office to attending Zoom meetings, we stopped buying smart clothes and switched to comfy loungewear. We also stopped buying as much with all shops on the high street closed.

The pandemic also gave us more time to think, which led to many making more conscious purchases. Shoppers are now choosing to spend their money with companies that aim to have a positive impact on the earth and society and are opting for quality and longer-lasting products over cheap, disposable fashion.

The winners so far are the businesses that were already tapped into this idea, already eco-conscious, already making sustainable decisions, and producing products reflecting this.

The Future of Fashion

But have our shopping habits really changed for good? Is it time to say goodbye to the high street in favour of online shopping? And will we really be ditching cheap clothes in favour of premium labels?

Not necessarily. Instead, perhaps we will live in a world in which shoppers don’t necessarily own their entire wardrobe. Clothing rental companies are growing in popularity, especially for occasion clothing. It makes a lot more sense to rent a gorgeous gown instead of spending hundreds on something you’ll only wear once.

Shopping vintage clothing and upcycling pre-loved clothing is also becoming a more popular choice as people realise the need to reduce their carbon footprints.

In a unique arrangement, some fashion retailers are even working together with recycling companies so that pre-loved items can be sent back and deconstructed so that the textiles can be reused for making new clothes or other products.

Some brands are also investing in the development of new eco-friendly and sustainable fabrics such as leather alternatives made from pineapple leaves and silk made from genetically modified yeast instead of silkworms.

This new, sustainable future isn’t just affecting high street brands, but also haute couture. Enter: The Green Carpet Challenge. Founded by Livia Firth, following an eye-opening trip to Bangladeshi factories, her challenge implores celebrities and stylists to search for sustainable alternatives to MET gala ball gowns and movie premier-worthy outfits.

All this means that the future of fashion will be more sustainable than ever before. We aren’t necessarily ditching the concept of fashion trends altogether.

Creativity will always be a driving force behind the industry, but instead of it being centred on fast fashion and cost-effective production, brands will be encouraged to stretch their creativity in other ways.

A thoughtful creative process matched with the buyer’s desire to choose something long-lasting and truly beautiful allows for a much more harmonious overall artistic process.

How You Can Take Steps Towards a More Sustainable Wardrobe?

So what can we as individuals do to help? Here are some tips on how to slowly but surely make your wardrobe more sustainable:

  • Say goodbye to disposable fashion. If you want to buy something, think about how often you will really wear it and if there’s a chance of finding it in your local thrift store or vintage shop. Don’t waste money on fast fashion.
  • Buy fewer, but better quality pieces. Do some research and find brands making sustainable choices. Seek out high-quality second-hand stores and vintage shops to find more affordable versions of the brands you love.
  • Make the most of rental services for special occasions or when you want to treat yourself to a new look.
  • Keep yourself informed of what’s happening in the world – check out Livia Firth’s work, watch the David Attenborough documentary A Life on Our Planet, and research the brands you’re buying from before you give them your money.

Sustainable fashion is not just a passing trend and it’s certainly not a good idea to replace your entire wardrobe with “green brands”. But making small changes over time can add up to a big effect. When sustainability wins, so do we!


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