A realistic approach to a sustainability-conscious lifestyle
One of my best friends loves to run marathons. As a non-runner, the idea of marathons totally overwhelms me. It just feels like too big of a goal to ever achieve. Even though I know that big accomplishments start with small efforts, I still feel a mental block because I don’t quite know where to start. This is how I feel sometimes about sustainability, especially in the fashion industry. The topic seems quite daunting. I want to make smart choices and purchase pieces that are made sustainably, but where do I start looking? What pieces of clothing should I start with? How do I accomplish this while staying within my budget? Or more importantly, how do I accomplish this AND get the style I’m looking for? In this article, we’re going to explore why a sustainability-conscious lifestyle is easier to have than we might think.
Looking past the buzzword and at the issues at hand
I’m not a big fan of overused general buzzwords, which is why “sustainability” was intentionally not used in the main title. Having a Human Resources background, it often irked me when words like “employee engagement” and “leadership” are thrown around loosely without really understanding the importance of the words. That’s why we need to take a moment and look at the real issues at hand. Here are some uncomfortable stats from the UNEP and the Ellen MacArthur Foundation:
- Every year the fashion industry uses 93 billion cubic meters of water — enough to meet the consumption needs of five million people.
- Around 20% of wastewater worldwide comes from fabric dyeing and treatment.
- The fashion industry is responsible for 10 % of annual global carbon emissions, more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. At this pace, the fashion industry’s greenhouse gas emissions will surge more than 50 % by 2030.
- If demographic and lifestyle patterns continue as they are now, global consumption of apparel will rise from 62 million metric tons in 2019 to 102 million tons in 10 years.
- Every year a half a million tons of plastic microfibers are dumped into the ocean, the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles.
If those stats are not personal enough, take a look at this:
- An average of 35kgs of textile waste is generated per person each year in the US.
- On average, we only wear an item 7 times before we throw it away
- Most people only wear 20% to 30% of their wardrobe.
We’re grateful for days like “Earth Day” because it brings to attention something that is typically important, but is highlighted all the more on that day. Just like how your friends and family appreciate you on a daily basis, but on your birthday you’re celebrated a little emphatically. When we highlight these stats on a day like Earth Day, it hopefully impacts our decisions on all the other days of the year.
Shifting from an EITHER/OR mindset to a BOTH/AND one
We’re not here to encourage you to completely boycott fast fashion. In fact, we believe that if fast fashion was executed properly, there would be ways to balance aspects of sustainability with being cost-conscious. We strongly support fashion designers, especially with all the creativity they inspire us with, and we want to show them support by buying their pieces. Yet we know if that all we purchased are fast fashion pieces, we would be contributing to those uncomfortable stats. The answer is BOTH/AND and you can start with your core pieces!
If you’re anything like me, the reason why I used to only wear 20-30% of my closet is because those pieces either make me feel the most comfortable or make me look the most slim. They were my go-to pieces. This was all, of course, before I was introduced to the world of slow fashion and custom clothing. This may not be a huge shocker to you, but clothing that is made to the proportions of your body not only fit better but they last you longer because less wear and tear is happening from the lack of unnecessary fabric tension. This means you can BOTH wear your favourite pieces all the time AND not need to worry about replacing it as often! (double BOTH/AND application!)
Introducing the world of slow fashion: Made-to-Order
At SEWT, sustainability is one of our core values. That’s why we have committed to only consuming the amount of raw resources we need for your order. When you order one of our garments, we are able to figure out exactly how much fabric all the pattern pieces require and cut only that amount so the least amount of waste is left over. Sustainability is a huge topic with lots of areas to develop and we figured that waste management was a great place to start.
This practice is called made-to-order. It’s also why we use the term slow fashion. When something is made-to-order, as the name suggests, it doesn’t get made until it’s ordered. This means that there’s usually a turnaround time, instead of being able to take an item home as soon as it’s purchased. As unsatisfying as that may seem, there are actually some great positive psychological benefits to slow fashion.
The problem with fast fashion items is that they’re pre-made based on an assumption of demand. When something doesn’t inevitably sell, it gets marked down. As much as we LOVE sales (and believe me, we do), psychologically, we’re also less likely to value something that we didn’t have to spend a lot of money on and therefore take less good care of it or wastefully dispose of it before it’s worn out. We’re also more likely to over-consume and waste money on something we likely won’t wear that often, which we mostly bought because it was a good deal. From one perspective, we sacrifice quite a few important things for the sake of the feeling of instant gratification from retail therapy. Slow fashion on the other hand helps you cherish an item more because naturally you feel better wearing it because it fits properly. You’re more likely to treat the garment well, which also contributes to a longer lifespan for the garment and you’re also building healthy spending habits including intentionality.
It’s all in how you style it!
I mentioned earlier that you can start with your core pieces. At SEWT, we offer our online made-to-order collection so that you can conveniently order blazers, trousers, skirts, overcoats and denim customized to your liking. You can then pair these core pieces with off-the-rack tops or accessories from brands that you love. Not everything needs to be made custom, it’s all in how you style it.
Need some inspiration? Visit our lookbook to learn how to get multiple outfits from the same blazer or which denim style to match with what look.
If you ever find yourself unsure with the options provided on our website OR if online shopping from other brands overwhelm you, one of the services we provide is Virtual Styling Consultation. Book an appointment below and get insights from years of styling experience.