Think back for a second to the contents of your suitcase the last time you went on holiday. How many of those pieces have you worn since? And how many are sat in your wardrobe, unloved, unworn and increasingly out of season?
We don’t need to tell you that ‘fast-fashion’ isn’t good for the planet; globally, the fashion industry is considered the second most polluting, but our summer holidays are playing a surprisingly big role in this. According to a survey conducted by group-travel agents Contiki, 27% of us purchase cheap items to suit seasonal trends before a holiday, with 132 million items of clothing going unworn every year.
Bear in mind, for example, that it takes an estimated 2000 litres of water to make one pair of jeans, and the high instances of cancers, gastric, skin and related issues afflicting both their residents and factory laborers in many textile producing communities (1), and you’ll see why this wasteage is a problem.
The good news is that more of us are waking up to the true cost of our clothing habit; fashion search engine Lyst reported that searches based around sustainable fashion topics grew by 66% in 2018, while searches for vegan leather increased by 119%. In our own megatrend report, 84% of respondents declared that they believe it important to bring eco-consciousness and mindful living into their everyday lives.
With that in mind, capsule wardrobes are growing – figuratively, of course – as is demand for responsibly sourced products. As consumers, we’re demanding less waste and less human impact. We’re increasingly willing to make changes to the way we purchase clothing and to the very items we choose. So how can we shop consciously this summer? And what brands are leading the way?
Choose brands that re-use
Once upon a time, recycled clothing meant hessian ponchos and chunky plastic satchels made from – and to be honest not visually dissimilar to – re-purposed tyres (anyone else rock one of those?) Those times are no more, with a new generation of brands finding ways to scoop up the plastic polluting our oceans and re-use it for the better. Among those leading the charge is Stay Wild Swim, who appeared at Balance Festival in 2019 and was founded by Zanna van Dijk and Natalie Glaze, and who stock stylish, small-batch swimwear produced using regenerated ocean plastic.
Embrace forward thinking fashion
It’s not only recycled materials that are being embraced - some designers are taking it one step further. This year, Native Shoes launched their Plant Shoe, a biodegradable trainer made entirely from plant material including pineapple husks and eucalyptus pulp. Incredibly, they’re not even ugly! Another top choice are OAT Shoes, which are biodegradable and also contain plant seeds – bury them in the garden once you’ve finished wearing them and the seeds sprout while the shoe breaks down.
Image: Native Shoes
Choose where to shop
Vote with your feet, as the old adage goes – or in this case, your mouse – by choosing to shop from stores that are committed to meeting stricter standards. Fortunately, this is getting easier. In 2019, Net-a-Porter launched their SUSTAIN portal, featuring items and brands that fulfil a strict criterion of being locally sourced, produced with minimal waste and adhering to fair trade principles. The launch follows the success of similar brands, such as Reformation, who sort their products into five categories, bearing in mind water input, energy input, land use, eco-toxicity, greenhouse gas emissions, human toxicity, microfibre shedding, availability and price.
Buy well, buy once
Admittedly easier said than done if your budget doesn’t stretch as far, there’s a lot to be said for the motto ‘buy well, buy once’. Take an honest look at how many 'cheap' items you buy every month – the chances are they tot up, bit by bit. If you usually buy 10 pieces of disposable fashion per month, swap it for one really nice piece – high quality pair of jeans, for example – that you can wear again and again, and are less likely to fade or fray after five washes. Not only will you reduce your fashion footprint, but in the longer run your wallet will thank you for it too.