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We’ve talked about what sustainable fashion is and its importance in the modern clothing industry, becoming a pivotal movement against the rampant fast fashion industry and its negative impact on the environment and its unethical supply chain. 

But while sustainable fashion brands are doing their part to reduce their environmental impacts, carbon footprint, and provide safe and fair working environments for textile workers, sustainable fashion also greatly depends on consumer spending and wearing habits.

Because of the simultaneous rise of social media and fast fashion, younger generations that are growing up with both have been conditioned to bulk buy a lot of trendy clothes. 

The influence of micro trends online has created a stigma when it comes to repeating outfits, influencing many younger consumers to turn to various fast fashion brands to buy large volumes of cheaply made, on-trend clothing for ridiculously low prices which can then be tossed when the fashion fad has faded. 

Fast fashion companies are a leading influence that creates a culture that disregards environmental concerns for profit. However, despite its heavy influence online, the environmental impact and ethical misconduct of many fashion companies have not been lost on the youth. 

Many younger consumers have become the driving force behind more sustainable shopping behaviours and pushing the importance of shifting our mindset from viewing clothing as passing trends, but instead as important investments that speak more to our own tastes and personality. 

While large companies hold a lot of power, consumers are also capable of creating change. With all that in mind, here are the basics you need to know about becoming a more conscious and sustainable fashion consumer, even in the smallest of ways.

Who is Interested in Sustainable Fashion Brands?

With the environmental impact and harmful practices of the fast fashion industry becoming more and more apparent to a wider audience, such as the industry’s use of harmful chemicals in the production process, use of very cheap materials that quickly get damaged and also take thousands of years to decompose, and general disregard for human rights and the environment throughout the supply chain, many consumers have developed an interest in doing their part in different small ways such as creating shopping practices that are more mindful, eco-friendly and reduce waste, and are overall more socially responsible. 

From environmental activists to everyday shoppers and consumers around the world, many people are coming around to sustainability in fashion and pushing for it to be the norm. 

Younger generations are becoming more aware of the environmental impacts of the industry and are doing their best to teach themselves and others more sustainable practices. However, many big fashion brands and retailers are exploiting this desire for sustainability and eco-friendly clothing through green-washing. 

Green-washing, or companies falsely advertising themselves as being eco-friendly, in the fashion industry has become rampant and is something the everyday consumer should be more aware of so they can avoid it. 

The service dupes unknowing consumers through ad campaigns that create a much more eco-friendly image for the fashion brands and projects like recycling services. These services, which are supposed to allow consumers to give their old clothing a second life, are particularly deceptive, as fast fashion clothing is often made with toxic chemicals and unsustainable materials that cannot be recycled and thus large volumes of clothes end up in landfills or incinerators. 

While these brands may be pushing an eco-friendly image and that they’re doing things differently, simply looking into their production practices and working conditions will tell you all you need to know.

While it is just one out of many industries that have contributed to irreversible harm on the planet and have made many ethical and human rights violations, by cultivating and nurturing a culture that supports sustainability in fashion, individual consumers can definitely make a much bigger impact than they might realise.

How Can Fashion Industry Consumers Be More Sustainable?

While real sustainability can only really be achieved by fashion companies changing their system from the inside out, consumers can also do their part now in small ways to be even just a little more eco-friendly. 

By doing these small acts of sustainability alongside supporting sustainable fashion brands more, we can make a greater social and environmental impact collectively.

Repair Before Replacing

The current industry and the accessibility to cheap clothes have made it easier to shop for new pieces and toss out the ones that are slightly damaged. However, many of the clothes that we choose to throw away are often completely salvageable. 

Small tears and damages can easily be sewed back together, and even larger rips can still be fixed by going to alterations shops and cobblers. The average American throws away 37 kg of clothing a year, and most of that waste can easily be repaired or upcycled. 

By repairing before replacing, we’re making the most of our clothing and are saving more than half of what we would pay if we were to replace each item.

Shop Secondhand

You don’t have to pay for new clothes at big brands on the high street or even at sustainable brands to be a more conscious consumer with a positive environmental impact through fashion.

Shopping secondhand is a great and affordable way to give clothing a second life and keep them from the landfills, and we really love how shopping at vintage stores and secondhand shops has become one of the biggest widespread trends around the world in just the past few years for a wider array of people. 

If we focus on creating a demand for such a system, we encourage more people to buy secondhand and to have more clothes enter these kinds of services rather than dumpsites.

Research on Sustainable Materials and Brands

If you do want to learn more and shop from sustainable fashion brands that are eco-friendly and focus on fair trade, researching online is your best friend. Many, if not most, modern sustainable brands contain all the information you need to know on their website. 

Transparent retailers are proud of their use of sustainable materials and ethical work environments and are happy to share these with their consumers. Sites like Good On You are also available to help us learn more about different companies and how much they practice sustainability and their environmental impacts.

Pay More Attention to Your Laundry

While throwing away clothes and the amount of textile waste and toxic chemicals that fashion companies create are the most noticeable practices that harm the environment, microplastics generated through washing our clothes are also major concerns that greatly impact the planet and our oceans. 

By reducing your washing load and temperature and by using greener detergent, you can decrease the environmental impact of your laundry. Additionally, buying clothes that are made with more sustainable fabrics like organic cotton helps significantly and is a very sustainable option.

Treat Your Clothing as an Investment

Sustainable fashion isn’t just about being willing to pay for and buy from clothing companies that use sustainable fabrics like organic cotton and recycled materials like recycled polyester. Consumers that practice sustainability and have eco-friendly practices like repairing clothes and shopping secondhand are doing great services for the environment, but another sustainable option to lessen your own wasteful practices is to look at your clothing as an investment. 

The current fashion world encourages us to buy more and more, but we should put value in the pieces we own. By putting more focus on how a piece may look with the rest of our clothes or mesh with our own personal taste and using it more, we can not only reduce our consumption, waste, and overall environmental impact but also cultivate a wardrobe that we love and will use to its fullest.

Final Note

The clothing industry still has a very long way to go before reaching a truly sustainable path that doesn’t create as much environmental harm as it currently does, but we don’t have to wait for them to make the change before we do.

By practising small acts of sustainability when it comes to our clothes, we can do a lot more for the environment and ourselves than we might realise. By choosing to be more eco-friendly and conscious about what we consume and throw away, we can create a bit more positive change in our lives and for others than we previously were.

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Ellora Sharma

Ellora Sharma is a 26-year-old fashionmonger from Leeds. She discovered her love for fashion through the many intricate and flashy designs found in the Bollywood films she religiously watched when she was younger (and continues to watch to this day). She has since developed an affinity for colourful and distinctive clothing, and loves to experiment with her style on the daily. She wants to help others find the same kind of joy and fun in clothing as she has.

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