1. It’s not easy being green, let’s not add exclusivity as a barrier to sustainability.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry profits from un-sustainability and our culture of consumerism. We see this in the millions spent by fashion brands on marketing and designing thousands of new styles per week. We’re constantly being fed this message that we ‘need’ the latest styles to be fashionable. So as consumers, we can’t shoulder (all) the blame of the massive impact of fast fashion. However, it is unrealistic to assume that everyone can go from fast fashion to sustainable overnight due to factors such as affordability, accessibility and inclusivity.
With sustainable fashion’s higher price points, it becomes an elitist symbol for the privileged who can afford to spend hundreds on a single piece of sustainable clothing. In a way, it becomes more about the fashion statement of being ‘sustainable’ than the environmental impact. On top of being elitist and classist, size inclusivity is another such barrier to overcome when not enough brands offer a variety of shapes and sizes. Modern ‘sustainability’ has become a whitewashed inaccessible version of what many BIPOC communities have been doing for decades, i.e. buying second hand. Sustainability looks different to different people because, in the end, it is a fight against materialism and a change in mindset to create an intersectional, sustainable, green, future.
Read more about how sustainable fashion needs intersectionality.
2. New coloured cotton technology may eliminate the need for toxic dyes and potentially reduce fashion’s mess on the planet
A group of scientists at CSIRO in Canberra can genetically modify cotton’s molecular colour code to erase the need to dye at all. Natural cotton has an off-white or earthy green or brown hues, so this helps to diversify the crop to come in all colours of the rainbow. This innovation comes at a time where we have been facing the repercussions of the detrimental processes of dyeing. Mainstream dyeing techniques still use carcinogenic chemicals that threaten the health of factory workers and nearly 20% of all water pollution originates from textile dyeing treatments.
However, reducing the impact of dyeing cotton is just the tip of the iceberg because cotton is not necessarily any kinder than fashion’s other favourite fabric, polyester. Should the industry’s focus be on improving such a problematic plant such as cotton, or look for other alternatives that have an overall reduced impact on the planet? There are various lower impact fibres such as linen, hemp, bamboo, viscose and Tencel. However, the amount of all these fabrics combined is still less than the amount of cotton we produce today. With the growing conscious consumers’ demand for fashion with a lower environmental footprint, we might have to take non-dyed cotton as a small win – for now.
3. Upcycled denim as home decor by Eileen Fisher and West Elm
We love jeans – they are durable, versatile and honestly gets better with time. But when we do need to rid our closets from old ratty denim, we need not have to completely part ways with them. This is what sustainable fashion brand, Eileen Fisher is doing with their collaboration with West Elm, a home goods company. The companies launched an eight-piece collection of home decor and furniture designed with upcycled Eileen Fisher fabrics.
Both retailers shared a vision to develop responsible designs for the home using a zero-waste manufacturing system. The fabrics used in the collection were sourced through Eileen Fisher’s Renew program, which deconstructs previously owned denim garments donated by customers into new products with more value. “With these beautiful designs, we are extending each garment’s life cycle and drastically reducing the waste that we put out into the world,” said Eileen Fisher, founder and CEO.
4. Why language plays a huge role in how we approach sustainability
We all wear ‘clothes’, yet so many people struggle to see their place in ‘fashion’, and language has a lot to do with this disconnect. Clothing provides dignity, warmth, protection – and, for those able to see it, a way to express identity and communicate. But fashion is treated with frivolity and foreignness due to its association to glamour, that only a certain breed can comprehend and practice. However, the ‘where’, ‘how’ and even ‘why’ clothing is made indefinitely affects our planet, our communities, and our bodies.
We just need a better strategy to make sustainable fashion not only accessible but comprehensible by self-proclaimed ‘non-fashion’ folk. Is it that simple, to swap out the word ‘fashion’ for ‘clothes’ to get more people onboard sustainability?
5. WTF: What The Fabric? This time, let’s talk linen.
Like a fine wine, linen just gets better with age! Whether you associate linen to your grandmother’s dresses or to the Scandi #cottagecore aesthetic, sustainable fashion loves linen – and rightfully so. Linen is one fabric that ticks all the boxes. It’s extremely strong, lightweight, gets soft and supple after wear and wash, even up to 30 years later, and is excellent to wear in hot, humid weather. Linen was once considered so precious, it was reserved for nobility. Ancient Egyptians also used linen to wrap the bodies of mummies.
It does great things for the environment too, as it can grow in soil not suitable for food crops. Linen uses less water than cotton and can be grown without any insecticides. The entire flax plant can be used, making linen production a potentially a zero-waste process. But even the best fabrics have a social and environmental impact. So read on to learn about our final verdict on this popular natural fibre.
Find out more about lovely linen in our latest WTF: What The Fabric! guide!
6. Summer fashion, but make it sustainable.
While we might not be jetting off anywhere this year, Singapore’s year-round humidity means summer dresses and resort wear are always in our wardrobe rotation. So opt for these high-quality sustainable styles that have been made ethically by brands we love and trust. What’s more, these brands prioritise environmental protection and fair trade standards. They also produce using natural, biodegradable fibres to empowering artisan craft in developing countries.
Whether you’re looking for dreamy voluminous dresses or short printed ones, find them all here!
7. What is the future of fashion weeks? The Front Row festival shows us how.
Fashion weeks have been a hallmark of the fashion industry for decades. However, this year their validity has been seriously called into question. Even a short 10-minute spectacle bears a heavy environmental footprint. We now need to consider what fashion runway events could look like if they were more sustainable and accessible. So far, it could be a myriad of possibilities, from intimate, local presentations to digital catwalks. Even using AI technology to animate garments (sans models) is becoming a reality! Whatever the case, the stage is set for new players to innovate, and The Front Row, a Singapore-based virtual festival, is doing just that.
8. Meet Mahima Gujral of Sui, an up-and-coming ethical fashion label that’s all about bringing us closer to nature through our clothes.
From using natural dyes, eco-friendly packaging and ensuring fair pay, Sui operates on a ‘people and planet first’ basis. The founder, Mahima, comes from a bustling family textile business. She has also worked in luxury where she then realised she wanted to counter the devastating impact of fashion. Sui’s mantra – to lead with a ‘green heart’, rings true as the brand messaging and supply chain promote slow and handmade craft.
Read all about Mahima’s entrepreneurial journey as a slow fashion brand.
9. The power of swapping as a tool to make fashion more sustainable and accessible.
In a world dominated by capitalism, swapping offers a unique opportunity to change how we engage with fashion. It is accessible, affordable and memorable as an experience. Swapping presents a straightforward solution to getting better wear out of clothes that already exist. Especially knowing they get a second life instead of being sent to landfills or incinerators. Through swapping, the value of fashion is generated from collective action and allows a unique kind of engagement with clothing. Clothes swaps also bring communities together in a new way through sharing and reuse.
While swapping promotes circularity, it is not the solution to the fashion industry’s problem of overproduction. After all, we can’t build a healthy, regenerative fashion ecosystem when we make clothes meant to be thrown away. With various ideas to reduce fashion’s footprint, we can all do with less shopping new and more swapping.