I will freely admit that making sustainable fashion choices is something that I find difficult, There is so much choice in the fast fashion world and so many of it bang on trend that sometimes it can be hard to walk away and not buy anything. Plus I think that it is only in very recent years that sustainable clothing has become fashionable. There may have been some beautiful solutions available but often they can be very expensive.
But buying less and using what I have more is something that I am actively working on. And then I saw that there was an event happening in Skinfull Affairs that was all about how to make more sustainable fashion choices and bang a bus from Galway to Dublin was booked.
The event itself was held in Skinfull Affairs which is a stunning salon come retail store that focuses on putting good ingredients on your skin and not just into your body. They curate their products from around the world to offer the very best and also to be a place of discussion. It was the perfect location to what turned out to be an interesting evening. The evening was hosted by Linda Conway who is the fashion editor of Stellar and also more recently the founder of Stiall – a website/blog that promotes ethical and sustainable fashion.
To start the evening Linda began with one of my favourite quotes from Livia Firth, of Eco Age;
What’s happened to us as consumers is we now buy on impulse, we don’t really care about what we buy.
Out relationship with fashion has changed so much over time – from how they were worn to how they were made. In the 1960’s was really where the change was noticeable – and the very way we consumed fashion changed. We wanted to be able to get our clothes quicker, bigger and cheaper as well. Everything began to be outsourced with a massive pressure/demand being put on the industry which did mean that the quality also went down.
I think that what was so important about the talk and the open discussion that was had in the room was about the reality of how to be sustainable. It is not easy (well not for most). It is becoming more accessible and dares I even say ‘cool’ to recycle or re-wear pieces and I for one do this frequently.
The issue with people buying fast fashion is that some people see clothing as so disposable – wear it once and then get rid of it. Going out at night – can’t wear the same thing twice! If it rips – there is no mending, it is just replace, rebuy, dump. This is what I think needs to change, and based on the talk in Skinfull Affairs a lot of others think the same.
Also, on a side note if you do want to learn more about the not so nice behind the scenes of fast fashion – watch the documentary The True Cost. It is truly an eye-opener.
Here are some not so fun facts that Linda shared:
- Today 2.8% of our household income is spent on clothing – this is vastly different to how it used to be.
- Between 2001 to 2005 the amount fo fast fashion produced increased by 21% and the cost increased by 14% which has a huge social impact.
- Our consumption rate of clothing has gone up 400% in the last two decades – Linda made the great point that in reality many of us have more clothes than we could ever need. Is your wardrobe (like mine) sometimes full and bursting at the seams?
- For an average €35 T-shirt – just 0.6% goes to the worker. This is sadly one of the few places that a factory can squeeze the margin if buyers put more pressure on them to produce more.
- 60% of clothing is exported from developing countries – with regards the transport for this… a single container ship can produce as many cancer-causing pollutants as 50 MILLION cars in one year.
- It takes 1,800 gallons of water to make one pair of jeans.
- Fashion is the second most polluting industry next to oil. How unbelievable is that!!
- 95% of discarded clothing could be recycling or upcycled but instead, is sent to landfill.
An interesting point brought up was that if everyone was to stop shopping in the high street fast fashion chains then so many thousands would have no work in India and no way to support their families. So what is the real answer to a serious socio-economic and environmental issue? How can we help?
Linda’s Top Suggestions to making more sustainable fashion choices;
- Buy less – literally buy less stuff, do you really need it? Do you have pretty much the same item at home? This is the one step that we can all do right now.
- Buy better. Buy better quality fabrics and clothing with better stitching so it will last longer and have a longer shelf life in your wardrobe.
- Take care of your clothes. Now, this is a big one for me – I have a nightgown from Pennys that I brought about 7 years ago and it is still one of cosiest items I own and I love it. Yes, I bought it in Pennys but it has lasted me years because I have looked after it so it was a sustainable purchase.
- Swop shopping rather than buying new. Go online to places like Nu Wardrobe or Sustain Sister to borrow clothes rather than buying new each time.
- Be aware of Greenwashing. This is where a brand is telling you that it has these great policies for its workers etc. but it is not the truth – go online and look at some of the investigations that Livia Firth has done.
Linda is also curating an online store on Stiall. She wanted to create somewhere that if you are replacing that t-shirt because it is worn out that you have somewhere to go where you can be confident in how the pieces were made, that the design is timeless and that the workers were treated right. The collection is launching in October and we got a sneak preview on the night as well – and it’s super cute. Keep an eye on the Stiall Instagram for updates.
Overall, it was a super interesting evening and I loved the open floor discussion that took place and the insight that Linda brought to the group. Certainly, it has made my mission to live in a more sustainable way a little stronger. What do you think? Are you clothes purchases sustainable? Do you think that we can make a difference to the bottom line by buying less?