A guide that will help you find your sustainable style and make your clothes last longer.
By Rutuja Sapre
Growing up in the 90s, the word “sustainability” couldn’t have sounded more alien to me, especially when coupled with the word “fashion”. The idea of preserving one’s clothes, however, was very relatable and practically embedded within the culture. Indian culture and sustainability go a long story.
In our Indian households, each piece of clothing has a very long and extended life. New purchases are made consciously, and shopping was a luxury reserved for special occasions.
If you were the youngest kid in a family, it was almost customary to get hand-me-downs which no longer fit an older sibling or cousin. A ripped item of clothing was never easily discarded. It was rather painstakingly altered or fixed on the family sewing machine.
So, how do we go back to these values in current times when fast fashion is all around us? Let’s start with these five fundamental changes you can make to become a more conscious fashion consumer and mindful about what you buy in the year 2020 and onwards.
The most sustainable garment is the one already in your wardrobe.Orsola de Castro
Founder, Fashion Revolution.
Use what you already own
Sustainability is often misconstrued to be the act of merely purchasing ethical, well-made clothes. The practise of being a conscious fashion consumer begins with taking care of what has already been purchased.
One of the necessary skills of adulting, in my opinion, would be learning how to thread a needle and reattach a button. Repairing and mending make clothes last longer.
Another way to make the most of all our purchases is by exploring how to style them in different ways. Social media is home to various style bloggers who are curating videos from ‘5 ways to wear a t-shirt’ to ‘How to style a shirt for different occasions’. Use these resources and find what is suitable for you.
Consider how many times you wear each garment. Is it enough considering the price you paid for it? Are you ignoring it only because you have a picture in that outfit on your social media profile? The ‘wear me once’ approach is only aiding the fast-fashion giants. It burns a big hole in our wallets and the environment. So, be mindful of your use and consumption.
Buy less, choose well, and make it last.Vivienne Westwood
British fashion designer
Start reading the labels on products. What materials were used? What type of dye and finishes are done? How to take care of this garment? All these questions can be answered just by reading the labels.
Researching information about your next purchase is imperative to be a more conscious fashion consumer. It may seem intimidating at first, but once you inculcate the habit of reading labels, you automatically end up shopping consciously. Reading labels will make you an aware consumer of the production process, and in turn, you will be more informed of your choices.
The same rules apply while shopping online. Established shopping portals will have details of each product mentioned below the image of the product. You can even look at individual brand websites to see how transparent they are with their manufacturing, transportation and packaging processes.
Pro tip: Try buying clothes with 100% of one type of fibre, like 100% cotton or 100% polyester, rather than blends. Blends make it way hard to recycle garments.
Clothes aren’t going to change the world, the people who wear them will.Anna Klein
American fashion designer
Filter out your preferences
When you are trying to be more conscious in terms of fashion, consider everything which is already in your closet. Filter out what styles you like and notice the outfits you have evolved out of. You could even consult your friends on what sorts of clothing generally look good on you.
It even works with colours. For example, I found out I looked my best in warmer colours like orange and yellow, paired with gold-toned jewellery. So the next time I went shopping, I could prioritise which colours I would like to buy and save myself a lot of money and time.
Think of yourself as a curator, rather than a consumer.Christine K. Koh
Author, Minimalist Parenting
Curate a conscious closet
When you are aware of which styles, colours and fabrics you like and look good in, you can finally begin to curate a more refined wardrobe. Try to look for versatile garments whenever you are shopping. Build your wardrobe with clothes that can be styled in multiple ways and on different occasions.
Buy pieces made thoughtfully and built to last. You can tell if a garment is of good quality if the print matches at the seam (a line where two pieces of fabric are sewn). Another way is to check the stitch lines. They should look clean and finished, rather than hurried and unpolished.
Create your style; let it be unique for yourself, yet identifiable for others.Anna Wintour
Editor-in-chief, Vogue magazine
Personalise your style
Fast fashion companies today create millions of clothes each year. Most of these clothes are built to be used a couple of times. They are designed to end up in landfills. However, if an item is custom-made, it is less likely to be discarded before being worn at least a few times.
Custom made garments are made to measure and allow room for alterations later and ensure the longevity of a garment. Customisation not only helps with sizing but also helps you maintain your unique style. You will never come across another person wearing the same outfit as you in a party.
In India, getting clothes customises is an effortless task. We have tailors in every nook and corner. Our clothing culture still encourages buying the fabric and getting it hand-stitched. We should thus make the most of this skill our country posses and personalise our wardrobes.
Bonus tip: Learn to take care of your clothes. Not just repairs but also the correct way to clean and store them. These small steps make a lot of difference in the longevity of the garment.
Being a conscious fashion consumer is not a skill people are born with but can be learnt over time with each purchase. Hopefully, your next shopping venture will be the first in a sustainable direction.
Rutuja is a freelance fashion designer and influencer from Pune with a degree in fashion design. She has been a womenswear designer for over four years, working exclusively with handloom fabrics. In her free time, runs an Instagram page called @thefashionconscience dedicated to promoting slow fashion practices and sustainable fashion brands.