Cheeky Guide: fast fashion and buying sustainably
Sustainable fashion is a hot topic, and has been for the next few years. As we watch our planet inch closer and closer to falling off the metaphorical cliff that is a dire climate situation, we're seeing a push to be more sustainable in all of our activities, including purchasing. Shopping sustainably can take many different shapes, but at its core, it's all about purchasing thoughtfully, and less.
High-end is not synonymous with sustainable
Just because a piece of clothing is excessively priced and in an earthy tone, don't assume it's sustainably made. Don't even assume it's well made, in fact. High end and luxury items are often marked up for the label alone, it's not an indication that they have been made with more care than their more affordable counterparts.
Making the most of fast fashion
Fast fashion has a bad reputation, and for good reason. Fast fashion is the cause of huge amounts of waste produced yearly. But what commentators often fail to mention is accessibility. Sustainable shopping is not available nor accessible to everyone. Sustainable fashion brands are often significantly priced, unavailable to buy in person (meaning you have to guess your size), and lack a wide size range. This will likely change in the future, as sustainable brands gain popularity. But for now, lots of people continue to buy from chains like H&M, Kmart, and Target. That's not to say you can't continue to make sustainable choices when shopping in fast fashion stores! We have a few tips on how to make the best of your shopping trip:
Buy items you'll wear a lot - one of the issues with fast fashion is that items often end up in landfill after just a few (or no) wears
Take a look at the construction of the item - low cost doesn't have to mean it'll fall apart after one run through the wash (more on this below)
Avoid of-the-moment pieces - trends come and go, so try to avoid the pieces that you'll only wear for a few weeks
Avoid excessive shopping - yes, the pieces are cheaper, but don't let that fool you into buying twice as many items
Wash clothes less - the quickest way to age clothing items is to wash them, so try to avoid over-washing, and only put them in the machine when they're dirty!
Look after your clothes
There are plenty of ways you can make your clothes last as long as possible by looking after them correctly. The first step is to take a look at the care instructions on the tag (ideally before you purchase it) to make sure it doesn't require any special care. For some people, dry cleaning and handwashing is an option, but most people simply aren't going to do that. The best thing to do is stick with items that are easy to clean and can be thrown into the washing machine with a load. Here are another couple of tips you can use to make your clothes last longer:
Wash with cold water - using cold water means your clothes are less likely to shrink or fade, and it can reduce wrinkles, saving you from ironing. It's also better for the environment and your energy bills!
Avoid the dryer - using a dryer regularly is bad for your clothes, the environment, and your electricity bill.
Don't leave them hanging for days - leaving your clothes out in the weather will cause them to fade and wear. Take them in from the line as soon as you can!
Store well. Avoid hanging items with thin straps on hangers, be careful with pant hangers on soft fabrics (the clamps can leave marks).
Learn how to do basic repairs
If you can fix holes, mend hems, and replace buttons, your clothes will last longer, and you won't have to fork out for a tailor. There are stacks of resources online that can teach you the basics, and lots won't need a machine or special equipment. You could even take it a step further and learn to sew your own clothes!
Learn to identify a well-made item of clothing
Buying quality products allows us to limit our purchases and buy more sustainable goods, less often. As consumers, if we learn to identify a well constructed item of clothing, the industry must respond accordingly by improving their garments.
Now of course we wouldn't send you off into the wide world without some sustainable brand recommendations. While sustainable clothing is often expensive and exclusive with its sizing, here are our best picks for brands that are doing the best.
Tala's athleisurewear is predominately made from plastic bottles, and is very comparable to many non-sustainable brands. They have a decent range of sizing, but not the widest. Take a look at their Instagram for a range of models wearing the pieces! The brand is based in the UK however, so you will have to fork out a little for shipping! We reviewed some Tala pieces here.
There's a good chance you've seen Girlfriend Collective activewear on Instagram already, because they are everywhere. Their stuff is cute, and their prices ae reasonable. They have a wide range of sizes, going all the way from XXS to 6XL.
Hara the Label
Hara is Australian, holds a wide range of sizes, and the website and social media feeds are home to the most diverse group of models we have ever seen. Hara garments are on the moderately expensive side, but won't cost you as much as some of the higher end (and unsustainable) lounge and underwear brands.
Pure Pod is based in Australia, and offer dressier items than just active and loungewear, however their size range is lacking and their pieces are pretty expensive.
Other sustainable options
Even more affordable and accessible brands like Nike, Adidas, and retailer Asos now have options for shoppers to purchase sustainably made clothing. Purchasing sustainably-made items from companies that continue to produce items that are not sustainable is a bit of a tricky subject. On one hand, you could argue that it's better to give your money to brands that are more holistically ethical and sustainable, like our recommendations above. On the other hand, high demand for sustainable products from big brands will build their confidence in the fact that consumers want sustainably made items, as may encourage these brands to continue to strive for sustainability. Further, these options will often be more affordable. It's up to you to chose how to spend your cash, but in our opinion, both options are excellent for those striving to purchase more sustainably.