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We Hear It, We Know It, We Don’t Know What to Do With It — It's Sustainable Fashion

By Chen Yi An

Fashion Revolution as a platform sheds light on supply chain transparency, inciting the conversation on “Who made my clothes?”
 
Fashion Revolution
Fashion Revolution as a platform sheds light on supply chain transparency, inciting the conversation on “Who made my clothes?”

There has been a huge contrast in the imagery of the fashion industry over the past few years. As sustainability takes centre-stage, the pressure to disclose the origins and disposal of garments has juxtaposed hedonic frivolity with the image of workers in decrepit warehouses, consistent reminders of piling landfills, and plastic pollution.

Amidst the flurry of voices discussing the complicated effects of what the current fashion system can cause, what do these problems leave us with? We’re aware that fast fashion's detrimental effects, but a majority of us may still remain unclear about how to help deter it, and what we can do in our own capacity.

The message of sustainable fashion has never felt more potent, and it will continue to be one of the most pressing issues in the industry as we move forward in the future. Albeit the possibly sham statement that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, we cannot deny that it is one of the major contributors to our carbon footprint, and the responsibility of minimising the threats we face also lies with our individual consumption of apparel. 

If you’re unsure of where to start, here’s what we can all do.

1. Stay informed

2. Swap, mend, rent, buy vintage

3. Make considered purchases

Stay Informed: Be In The Loop

The resources for you to be educated about sustainable fashion are endless, but the content that you receive can also be streamlined. It’s likely to be daunting when first delving into the world of reducing fashion consumption, due to the overwhelming amount of ecological problems and imminent perils presented with no viable solutions. 

To effectively attempt at sustainable fashion in our everyday lives, we should also understand what sort of impact these actions will create, and why we’re doing them.

Fashion RevolutionFashion Revolution pushes for greater emphasis on the value chain from farmer to consumer, and provides information about where textiles are sourced, who made the clothes, and how we can consume them more ethically.
Fashion Revolution pushes for greater emphasis on the value chain from farmer to consumer, and provides information about where textiles are sourced, who made the clothes, and how we can consume them more ethically.

Fashion Revolution: Kickstarting the Global Movement

When it comes to online platforms, a notable one is Fashion Revolution. In an interview with the Singapore coordinator Laura Francois back in 2018, she suggested that, without clothing or textile production companies, the reason for Singapore’s disconnect with fashion sustainability could be because Singaporeans don’t feel the immediate effects of fashion manufacturing.

Without the immediate resonance to the hardships of production, the solution that Francois had suggested is for consumers to be more curious and critical, and this is where actively seeking out the right information comes into play. 

Primarily focused on transparency, Fashion Revolution pushes for greater emphasis on the value chain from farmer to consumer, and provides information about where textiles are sourced, who made the clothes, and how we can consume them more ethically. Beyond pointing out the mistakes of the fashion industry, they also provide online courses, fanzines, programmes, and regular updates about the state of the sustainable fashion system that we should be aware of.

Find Out From Slow Fashion Advocates

Besides Fashion Revolution, there are also often individuals and collectives who are using social media and websites to engage with the public about sustainable and “slow fashion” — a movement to design, create and buy garments for quality and longevity. In conversation with fashion business student Xingyun Shen of No Ordinary Protest, Shen shared that her decision to become a slow fashion advocate “comes from quite a complicated relationship with fashion,'' because she loves fashion “as an art form, and everything that it stands for.” However, from the research and coursework that she has been doing at London College of Fashion, she’s “more pulled away from the current system than drawn to it.” 

Compelled to align her actions with her mindset, she found herself “gradually moving away from buying fast fashion items and started advocating the need to slow down on our fashion purchases.” As a result, she has been using No Ordinary Protest as a platform to spread the word by voicing her opinions, interacting with others interested in the subject, and sharing articles or stories related to the fast fashion issue. 

Other accessible resources and outlets to better comprehend the issue of fast fashion — beyond induced anxieties — also include Futerra, Fair Wear Foundation, and Clare Press. Greensquare is also a good site to find out more about how to recycle your clothes and textiles. By reading up,  joining in on the conversation, and understanding what your subsequent sustainable actions entail are a good step in cultivating a more environmentally-conscious community, and to integrate sustainable mindsets into our consumption habits as well. 

Swap, Mend, Rent, Buy Vintage

With a more conscious perspective, we can also take palpable actions that contribute to the circular economy; these include swapping our old clothes, mending, renting, and buying from secondhand or vintage stores. 

The Fashion PulpitA space available in Singapore that encourages activities of sustainable fashion is The Fashion Pulpit, snugged on the second level of Liang Court.
A space available in Singapore that encourages activities of sustainable fashion is The Fashion Pulpit, snugged on the second level of Liang Court.

The Fashion Pulpit: A One-Stop Shop

A space available in Singapore that encourages activities of sustainable fashion is The Fashion Pulpit, snugged on the second level of Liang Court. Sitting with the founder Raye Padit amongst racks of colour-coded pre-loved apparel and accessories, he shared that the shop had come about because he wanted to make it more convenient for anyone to swap, mend and upcycle their clothes. 

Previously an aspiring fashion designer himself, Padit decided to stop working on his own fashion line after discovering the devastating effects of the industry, and started a non-profit organisation. Spending 3 years hosting clothes-swaps, workshops, panel discussions, and documentary screenings, he realised that there remains the issue of not having a common location to make these events more convenient for the public.

“We have our different lives and concerns, but how can we make it easier for everyone? The main problem is overconsumption, and so much waste. So what we can do with existing clothes that are still in good condition is to encourage everyone to prolong the lifespan of each piece, at the same time, for them not to buy new items [...] It was the idea of providing a kind of alternative before buying.” 

Fittingly describing the space as “an extension of your closet”, Padit factors in that sometimes with the pervasively fast-paced culture of fashion today, we only wear certain clothes for the quick satisfaction, but the environmental detriment of this impulse could be resolved with swapping our clothes — “you can swap this today, then swap this tomorrow because you’ve used it, and then get another piece that is new to your social media feeds.”

Padit and his team had come up with a membership system at The Fashion Pulpit. Once you’re a member, you can bring in your clothes that are in good condition, and in exchange, get points based on the quality and brand. Accumulated points are subsequently used to obtain the pieces that you want from the shop. However, if you’re a tourist or not open to swapping yet, you can buy the clothes as well.

Apart from swapping clothes, there are also the options of mending, renting or buying vintage clothing, so as to sustain the longevity of the pieces. The Fashion Pulpit offers mending and upcycling services, and purchase of their secondhand clothes are available as well, but for rental and subscription services, prominent platforms are Style Theory, Rentadella, and Covetella.

The secondhand fashion market is also extending beyond The Salvation Army and New2U, with the accessibility of online shops on Carousell and Depop, also with various pop-up events for pre-loved clothes.

The Fashion PulpitOnce you’re a member of The Fashion Pulpit, you can bring in your clothes that are in good condition, and get points based on the quality and brand in exchange — points are subsequently used to obtain the pieces that you want from the shop.
Once you’re a member of The Fashion Pulpit, you can bring in your clothes that are in good condition, and get points based on the quality and brand in exchange — points are subsequently used to obtain the pieces that you want from the shop.

Make Considered Purchases

In the long run, to ensure that sustainable fashion lasts, our mindsets will have to change when it comes to consuming apparel. A practical step in reducing fashion waste is to pay more attention to the pieces you purchase — brands that you patron, materials used in the construction, and reasons for getting them. 

A good way to go about this approach is to be more mindful of the clothes in your wardrobe. When asked about other effective ways to be sustainable besides the aforementioned practices, Shen thinks that “most of all, it would be to love your clothes; genuinely look at your clothes again and see what sort of memories it evokes in you. If it still makes you happy, don’t throw it away, you don’t need to buy something new. Every time you look at your wardrobe again, look at these clothes you can wear again for an occasion — you don’t actually have to buy new ones.”

To be part of the circular economy isn’t necessarily to stop purchasing fashion items, but to buy clothes with more intention and less on impulse. The clothes that we own will also gradually become more focused on function and in the sentimental value they hold. 

What’s next? 

By taking these measures, how great of an impact will our efforts create? 

As put forward by Shen, “the way to go forward is not to deny these problems, and it’s not to shut [fashion brands] down and say, ‘No, you have to change!’ That’s not the way forward. The way forward is to understand these problems, learn how to resolve these problems, learn how to compromise, learn how to do better.”

We all have our own individual lifestyles, and not every one of us will be capable of fully integrating sustainable fashion into our lives. However, the threat of accumulating fashion waste and an ever-increasing carbon footprint looms and exists before us, and we should not turn our backs on it. Be it 10 or 20 years down the line, as more fashion retailers and brands pledge their commitment to sustainability in the future, and smaller ethical fashion brands are increasingly popping up, we as consumers should also do our part in consuming and wearing fashion more considerably. 

Resisting the purchase of a $15 T-shirt for a vintage alternative will make a great difference, save you on some cash, and it'll make for a cool backstory too.