‘Sustainability’ is an oft repeated word these days. Most of us are aware that ‘sustainability’ has ‘something to do with the environment’. Some practise ‘sustainability’ because they are genuinely concerned about the environment, while others do so because it is ‘fashionable’ to be ‘sustainable’.
Most of us – professionals, academics, business and community leaders – realise we have little choice, but to follow a ‘sustainable’ way of life if we wish to preserve our resources for future generations.
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Can we be ‘sustainably’ fashionable?
‘Fashionability’ is seemingly the very antithesis of ‘sustainability’. Fashion trends change every six months. Huge volumes of apparel and accessories are churned out by factories all over the world, much of which ends up in landfill. The textile industry, which uses on average 600 dyes and chemicals for the production of consumer textiles, is among the most polluting industries. How, then, do we reconcile our concern for the environment with our desire to be fashionable?
5 tips to be ‘sustainably’ fashionable
1. We can begin by selecting the right fabrics. There is a general misconception that everything natural is ‘eco-friendly’ and everything ‘man-made’ is polluting. This is a myth. Cotton, a natural fabric, is one of the worst offenders. Growing enough cotton for just 1 t-shirt requires 257 gallons of water. We can substitute cotton with organic cotton which is rain fed and free of pesticides and fertilizers. We can opt for wild silk instead of commercially produced silk. Commercially reared silkworms are killed before the pupae emerge by dipping the cocoons into boiling water. Wild silks are harvested after the moths have left the cocoons and are suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
Wild Silk Fabric. Available on www.deidaa.com. Price AUD 16.00 per metre.
Besides organic cotton and wild silk, there is a plethora of ‘sustainable’ fabrics to choose from. These include soy silk, hemp, jute, pineapple, banana and corn fibres and recycled polyester made from the humble PET bottle.
Wild silk scarves. Available on www.deidaa.com. Price AUD 25.00 each.
2. We can invest in classic styles. A classic blazer or a well tailored pair of trousers can last a lifetime. The trick is to coordinate the classics with seasonal and on–trend accessories.
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Sustainable fashion tip: Co-ordinate a classic blazer with an on – trend sustainably printed scarf.
3. We can say no to ‘fast fashion’ – cheap, quick clothing made in sweatshops worldwide. And yes to artisan crafts. ‘Sustainability’ is not only about ‘flora’ and ‘fauna’ but it is also about the communities. Many artisan communities are languishing because the younger generations have abandoned the arts and crafts of their forefathers to become assembly line workers in factories. We can create a demand for artisan crafts by buying from designers and organisations who work with artisan communities to create fashion apparel and accessories. Artisan communities use handcrafting and traditional tools, thus minimising the use of resources and other maladies associated with factories.
Artisan communities use handcrafting and traditional tools
4. We can re-visit the time honoured slogan of ‘make, do and mend’ or ‘repair, recycle, re-use’ and not throw away a shirt because a button has come undone. Many apparel stores now offer low cost repair services or accept used garments in lieu of a discount.
5. We can ensure the local or global companies we buy from pay fair remuneration and offer reasonable working conditions to their workers. We can look for stores that have fair trade accreditations, use recycled stationery, natural light or green couriers. Designers like Stella McCartney (www.stellamccartney.com) and organisations like People Tree (www.peopletree.co.uk) are committed to sustainable fashion.
We, the ‘leaders in heels’ can take one step at a time to save the future generations from the ill effects of climate change, natural disasters and unprecedented weather conditions. We can lead by example and others will follow.
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Article by Samita Bhattacharjee
Samita has a Masters degree in Fashion Design (Hons) from AUT, New Zealand. She has worked closely with fashion houses in the USA, Europe, Australasia & the Middle East. She has dressed models, beauty queens & film stars. She has participated in trade shows & fashion weeks in Asia, Australia & New Zealand. Samita writes fashion columns in Australia, New Zealand & Asia. A finalist at the Style Pasifika Fashion Awards in Auckland for two successive years, Samita is currently the Coordinator of Major Studies (Fashion) at the Academy of Design, Port Melbourne & Creative Director, Deidaa Pty Ltd.