So how do we fix the fashion industry? I wish I could give you a short sweet answer and a hopeful anecdote. Fixing the fashion industry is part activism, part protest, and part awareness. When you become aware of where and how your clothes are made only then can you start advocating for legislation, workers rights, and more sustainable fibers & practices.
As consumers we can make a difference but ultimately it is up to the brands to change their ways. When their profits over people and planet become so egregious things have to change. The problem with that is so many people will have been harmed or kept in poverty and irreparable damage will have already been done to the planet.
Ways you can have a more sustainable less harmful wardrobe:
- The most sustainable wardrobe is the one already in your closet
- Repair, Mend, & Reuse
- Buy Secondhand
- Buy ethical & sustainable brands when buying new
- Make your own clothes
Why does sustainability matter in fashion?
Before synthetics, our clothing was was 100% biodegradable & all natural. This meant at the end of a garments life, it could return to the earth and decompose. Everything from linen, cotton, wool, and leather.
Most clothing is now a blend of at least 2 fibers, often cotton and polyester. These garments cannot be returned to the earth, or if they are the polyester portion of the garment will not biodegrade. It will continue to be polyester for decades and centuries. The blending of fibers also makes it more difficult to recycle these garments. How garments are dyed today also causes ecological issues, some dyes are hazardous to people and the water systems. And because some natural fiber clothing has been dyed with these dangerous colors, they cannot return to the earth.
“everything you make returns to the earth as food or poison”
— Céline Semaan
How can you know that your garments were made fairly?
The easiest way is to buy from fair trade certified brands, researching brands can be time consuming but is fairly reliable. Don’t see fair trade certification? Perhaps they work with artisan workshops in other countries, look for how they give back and if they provide (at the bare minimum) a living wage.
While many well known ethical and sustainable brands can afford the certifications, many small brands can not. Ask questions and don’t accept non-answers.
Things to remember when donating clothes
- Make sure items are clean and free of stains and holes
- You can donate work apparel to organizations like this one
You can donate wedding dresses through organizations like this one
- You can donate Prom dresses to through organizations like this one, or see if there are local free prom shops several came up in my area