Ethical fashion comes in all shapes, sizes, and substances as seen in these reworked clothing pieces. Photo of the author, modelling for Vintage Wknd.
Sustainable fashion has been thrust into the spotlight in recent years with social media platforms like Instagram and Tiktok featuring the movement. Also known as eco-fashion as well as re-fashion, sustainable fashion refers to buying and wearing products that serve a much higher ecological integrity and social justice. It questions not only what clothes are made of, but how they are made too.
Though sustainable fashion has been one of the longest environmentally-friendly movements, many youths still turn to designer brands and factory outlets to get their sweet style. Affordable prices and editorial looks are the typical appealing features of buying fast fashion. However, that is when the upsides end.
When contrasted with the ethical sustainable fashion, fast fashion stands far away at an odd distance. The latter refers to clothes being manufactured in large quantities which would be then quickly disregarded and forgotten for the next fashion trend. Fast fashion is a never-ending, deteriorating cycle. Though sustainable fashion has been in the rise, fast fashion still takes precedence.
As much as these youths would adore having a similar outfit as their favourite models and pop stars, one cannot deny how following such fast fashion trends would eventually build up carbon footprints. Therefore, fast fashion is ecologically harmful. There are many ways to look fashionable through environmentally-friendly options like wearing clothes that are made with recycled fabrics and thrifting from second-hand shops. These youths can look chic while doing their part to save the world.
The main problem with fast fashion is that it results in an excess of unwanted fashion products. According to the World Economic Forum, production of clothes has doubled in the last two decades. This is the equivalent to a garbage truck filled with clothes being burnt or dumped in a landfill every second. As fashion trends are constantly changing and never staying in motion, all fashion styles will ultimately become undesirable and unpopular. In fact, recycling company Roadrunner states that 85% of such textiles end up in either landfill or incinerator. Last season’s style is perpetually traded for the upcoming style.
Due to these detrimental impacts to the environment, an array of known fast fashion stores has hopped on the trend of sustainable fashion. H&M introduced the “Recycle Your Clothes” movement which allows old clothes being turned in for store credit and has also launched its Conscious collection that is mainly made of materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. Australian brand Cotton On has opted to utilise more biodegradable materials and animal cruelty-free processes in their products to minimise their environmental footprint.
Established in 2019, The Ocean Cleanup constructs stylish sunglasses using caught plastic that was removed from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The non-profit organisation has made it their goal to sell every pair of these turquoise glossy sunglasses, as the total proceeds of each pair can fund their operation to clean an area equivalent to 24 football fields in the north pacific ocean. At the moment, they have accomplished 60% of their goal which is worth around 298,920 football fields being cleaned of toxic and waste. The engineering environmental organisation currently ships to countries in Europe and North America.
The Ocean Cleanup’s sunglasses are the first product to be made with plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Credit: The Ocean Cleanup
“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure” is the de facto slogan for all thrifting stores. Thrifting is one of the many ways to support sustainable fashion. Clothing products are usually vintage and second-hand. This resale platform has witnessed a sudden surge in popularity, with many new pop-up stores and captivating social media advertisements. Teenagers in Singapore have been flocking to obscured shopping malls such as Lucky Plaza and Peninsula Plaza after watching several promotional videos that went viral online. These thrift stores have a “kill two birds with one stone” approach as they offer the opportunity of buying branded goods at a cheaper price while saving the environment.
However, some non-profit thrift shops lose the essence of being cheap for the less fortunate. These stores can be pricy especially if their businesses are relatively new. Fortunately, there are some worthwhile shops that can be found even online. Lion City Thrift is a Singaporean-owned Instagram shop that takes in old clothes and sells them at an affordable rate. The second-hand store appeals to those who wants to support thrifting ethically while on a budget.
Lion City Thrift collects unwanted clothes and sells them at a cheaper price Credit: @lioncitythrift on Instagram
Another way to advocate sustainable fashion is buying reworked pieces. Such products are crafted from recycled fabrics and materials, and are eventually tailored into a brand new item. These reworked items are unique as it is rare for someone to have the exact same piece. Using such materials counters the problem of excessive production. Sustainable fashion applies not just for clothing, but for accessories too. Accessories such as earrings and bracelets can be made with ordinary household materials like clay and yarn. This ensures that such materials will not be discarded or go to waste.
A universal pandemic-related litter problem is the disposal of single-use face masks. This threatens marine life as they eventually cause entanglement and ingestion. Finding an urgency to prevent further pandemic waste, global clean-up company 4ocean launched reusable face masks and eco-friendly mask support frames earlier this year. These new products will be made from organic cotton and recycled materials. Already known for their inclusion and support of sustainable fashion through the sales of bracelets and clothing made from reworked materials, the Florida-based business will continue to use portions of their funds to remove one pound of trash from the coastlines, oceans, and rivers.
The organic cotton used for 4ocean’s face mask is sustainable and free from toxic chemicals. Credit: 4ocean
Another environmentally-friendly business who uses reworked pieces is Peculiar Cottage. The eminent Singaporean Instagram shop known for its enchanting aesthetic solves the issue of sourcing for eco-friendly and cruelty-free materials by literally featuring nature. Flowers and seeds are common components of a Peculiar Cottage accessory. This makes their accessories even more distinctive, on top of using sustainable materials like glass and stainless steel. Such materials are recyclable and renewable. This online store is easy to support and shop from as they also offer worldwide shipping.
Peculiar Cottage incorporates nature by using actual flowers such as this globe amaranth coated with bio-resin (Credit: @peculiarcottage on Instagram)
As much as youths would yearn to follow the current couture craze, there are always ethical brands to shop from and environmentally-friendly products to buy. We are all part of this earth and we should feel morally obliged to help our planet as much as we can. Little things such as ordering only what we need and donating old clothes can go a long way, and can also help to put a smile on someone’s face. Besides, there will always be exciting thrift stores and enthralling reworked pieces to check out as long as sustainable fashion continues to thrive.