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  • Hazel Verbo

How to Make The Sustainable Fashion Industry More Accessible

Currently, our fashion choices are coming under the lens, so we welcome this new era of sustainable fashion. But while shoppers are demanding clothes that are kinder to the planet, not everyone has access to this change. Sustainable fashion has become exclusive, the very culture it should be avoiding. The urgency for sustainable and ethical clothing couldn’t be higher, so why is it not accessible to all?


There is a lack of representation on diversity, sizing, and #inclusivity. Diverse voices are often absent in the sustainable fashion discussion. And as long as sustainable fashion markets itself towards white women, the industry discriminates against many who wish to be part of it.


Eco-friendly clothing often comes with a hefty price tag, making it a luxury commodity for many. The sourcing of high-quality and eco-friendly materials, ethical factories, and paying fair wages will all add to the cost of the clothing. It means despite all of its negative impacts, the fast fashions price point is very accessible.


The plus-size market is forecasted to make up only 22% of the UK clothing market by 2022, yet the average UK dress size is 16. So while the demand for eco-clothing is ever-growing, the lack of plus-sizing is a real issue.


The absence of plus-sizing, diversity, the inclusion of the LGBTQ+ community and disabled people within sustainable fashion is damaging. An industry promoting sustainability while still using an archaic business model will struggle to create any real change.


So, here are some tips on how we as consumers can make sustainable fashion available to all.



Host a Clothing Swap



The most sustainable fashion is the clothes we already have in our wardrobes.

Find a good location to meet, whether in a garden or a cozy nook in the living room, and gather friends and family to a covid-safe clothing swap. Letting your unloved clothes go to new homes and exchanging them for something you adore is a fun and inspiring introduction to sustainable fashion. Hosting clothing swaps every few months is a great way to refresh your wardrobe without harming the environment. Remember to limit the number of clothes people bring to the event to ensure it doesn't become a jumble sale. You never know you even may fall back in love with old clothes on the next swap. Enjoy snacks, drinks, and seeing friends, all while helping to save the planet!


Buy Second-Hand



Help create a #circular #economy in fashion and buy #second #hand. The UK discards 11 million items of clothing into landfills every week, so buying second-hand and keeping clothes out of incinerators is a powerful way to support sustainable fashion.


In the last few years, resale companies have grown exponentially. Ebloggers, founded in 2017, is now the go-to online shop for pre-loved clothing. Direct from the overflowing wardrobes of your favorite bloggers or influencers, consumers can shop on-trend surplus fashion. From Vinted to Vesitaire Collective, the second-hand market is ever-expanding. Etsy just bought Depop for £1.1billion. The resale market is being driven by the climate-aware younger generations. From charity shops to online apps, buying second-hand is an easy and accessible way to choose more sustainable options.


Renting



We understand that buying second-hand is not always the best option for every occasion, sometimes the need for something new is all too tempting. Hiring clothes is a great way to refresh your wardrobe without the negative impacts on the environment.

The sharing economy is booming, rental apps or platforms such as Endless Wardrobe, By Rotation, and My Wardrobe HQ have all rapidly grown. HURR, a rental platform, has even set up shop in the London Selfridges store as part of its sustainability initiative - Project Earth. According to Forbes, the sharing economy is estimated to value £269 billion by 2025. Choose the sustainable way to wear fashion and try renting.




Restoration and Mending



Making clothes last longer is a big step for #sustainability, the make do and mend attitude is back. Whether we want to let out, hem, or cinch in our clothes, repairing garments is a great way to stop our wardrobes from heading straight to the landfill. With changing figures, lengths, and trends, fixing clothes to fit in with our timeline is an easy move towards sustainable fashion.


When your favorite pair of jeans fray or buttons start to fall off on your best shirt, extending the shelf life of your beloved items is now simple and easy. Repair shops and services are cropping up everywhere, offering much-needed restoration to our clothing. From the Denim Doctor, The Restory, to the Clothes Doctor, there are many options available to help restore your clothes to their former glory.

Made To Last



Buying clothes that are made to last is a very sustainable option. Choose garments that are timeless and will stand the test of time. Retailers are beginning to address sustainability but continue to ignore the endless waste of fashion. Rethink your fast fashion ways and choose slow. Slow fashion encourages consumers to ditch their relentless buying habits and instead choose items that will last a lifetime. Buying slow fashion from ethical and sustainable brands is a great way to reduce your overall waste while supporting local businesses.

What Businesses Can Do


Small sustainable fashion brands make up most of the current options for transparent supply chains. While these brands have little wiggle room when it comes to price, they do have the agency to change how their high-quality clothing is sold. To make sustainable fashion accessible – these businesses must find more diverse models, advertise in more inclusive spaces, and style their clothing in new ways. By bringing in new voices to their brand, they will be able to reach far more customers who feel that the brand’s clothing was made for them. To make sustainable fashion accessible, brands also need to use their marketing to represent various different types of people and lifestyles. Inclusion is slightly less of a problem for these brands with a larger platform since they’ve had more widespread pushback from customers. However, their prices are still steep. While we not advocating for these brands to cut costs at the risk of losing quality and ethical practices, we do believe that it’s the job of bigger brands to find ways to provide more affordable options. If this isn’t at all possible, buyback programs, complimentary mending services, and consumer education are close seconds. Patagonia’s infamous “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign comes to mind. Even though it was partially a marketing tactic, it was also a way to inform their customers that they don’t need a mountain of clothing. Quality should last a lifetime.


What Influencers Can Do


While brands themselves have a huge impact on the industry, the role of influencers has become massive within fashion in general. Whether they are only on social media or have a blog as well, influencers can use their platforms to promote diverse voices, bodies, styles, and brands. Through their online spaces, these sustainable fashion advocates can showcase second-hand clothing alongside their other content, in order to give a more complete picture of what it means to be a sustainable shopper. In addition, influencers can make sustainable fashion accessible by filling their feeds with bloggers, models, and advocates of color. Or they can highlight brands that are run by women, made with the LGBTQ+ community in mind, or simply have innovative styles. It, unfortunately, requires more effort to find these brands and individuals because of the way the fashion industry currently works, although, when influencers use their popularity to shine a light on others it is magical!



What Consumers Can Do


We truly believe that the burden of supporting sustainable fashion should not be put onto those who are already struggling financially. However, the rhetoric around individual impact has often made it seem like it is every single citizen’s job to make a life-altering shift in order to change the sustainable fashion industry. Though I wholeheartedly believe that individual impact is important in keeping the sustainable fashion community in motion, it absolutely does not make or break anything. You can invest in a few quality pieces which will be staples in your wardrobe for life, and then do your best with the rest. Thrift shopping is a wonderful option if you don’t have the money upfront for investment pieces. There is a huge excess of clothing in the world and secondhand shops are now gold mines! If you follow trends then you’re in luck since fashion is cyclical. This means that clothing that was popular in previous decades is back so staying up to date can be as easy as finding a vintage pair of pants online. Another option is going headfirst into personal style and taking time to find the items which speak to you in a crowded secondhand shop.


Whatever you choose, remember to find the kind of quality which will last you for several more fashion cycles.


Individual #behavior is a powerful tool in accelerating #change within the industry. Whether you are swapping clothes with friends to investing in ethical brands - whichever way you can, supporting the sustainable fashion movement will help create a better world for all.