Many years ago, I stumbled across an article on fast fashion. The hard statistics made me conscious of the number of clothes I had been throwing away. It sparked my interest in circular fashion and I started a thrift store to responsibly repurpose my unwanted clothes (in good condition) by selling them away. Since then, I have been embracing the idea of slow fashion and learning many different ways to have a stylish wardrobe while reducing my footprint on the planet.
Instead of blindly chasing trends, the concept of ‘Circular Fashion’ is the idea of prolonging clothes’ lifespan and creating a long-lasting relationship with them. By definition, it is about the careful designing, sourcing and production of apparels and accessories with the intention to use them responsibly in society for as long as possible. The circularity concept applies to the entire life cycle of a product: starting from textile production to clothing production, dyeing, processing, distributing, customer usage and even reprocessing and recycling options at the very end of the product’s life.
Choosing Sustainable Fabrics
A circular fashion supply chain begins from the processing or sourcing of the raw material used to make our clothes: textile, a material made up of natural or artificial fibres.
Undeniably, one of the most common fabrics we see in a wardrobe is cotton. While conventional cotton is a natural fibre, it has one of the most toxic and ecologically damaging growing processes, with a tremendous water footprint. Cotton growing contributes to 25% of the world’s petrochemical-based pesticide use; toxic chemicals which leach into our water bodies and harm people and ecosystems. Over 3 million pesticide poisonings occur each year, and most are from the cotton industry.
There is also heavy usage of synthetic fertiliser, which contributes to nutrient-pollution as well as a large amount of greenhouse gases in their production and use. In addition, it takes approximately 2,700 litres of water just to produce one cotton t-shirt, compounding water-scarcity issues faced in some regions.
So what can we do as individuals, to reduce the impact of such fabrics? We can all start by making more informed purchasing decisions and supporting brands that use more sustainable alternatives like organic cotton and hemp fabric. These alternatives to traditional cotton are harvested without any toxic pesticides or synthetic fertilisers and still result in a comfortable and durable product! For instance, SUI, a responsible fashion label from Singapore, uses GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) certified cotton.
The fast fashion phenomenon has led to people wearing their clothes for shorter periods and discarding their clothes quickly to purchase new items. Approximately 85% of post-consumer textile waste (PCTW) goes to landfills each year.
The brand SUI works on a made-to-order basis as they believe in the mantra of slow fashion and in finding the time to create pieces with love. Many big brands are now also choosing to release fewer collections each year, indicating that the industry is showing signs of switching away from ‘fast’ to ‘slow’ and more conscious fashion.
How do I keep my clothes out of the landfill?
There are plenty of meaningful options to get rid of your unwanted clothes, instead of simply tossing them down the chute.
1. Sell Them
Consider giving them a second home by selling them on Instagram, Carousell and even Telegram Channels.
2. Upcycle Them
Get your creative juices flowing and transform them into something valuable through upcycling. You could create pillowcases or tablecloths out of old dresses, for example. This article gives you 11 creative options to explore.
3. Swap with Others
If you would like to add new pieces to your wardrobe without breaking the bank, give clothes swapping a try! Clothes swapping is a fun yet sustainable way of exploring new styles without spending a single cent. Platforms, such as The Fashion Pulpit, are created to facilitate clothes swapping and have built a community of like-minded people who want to make fashion a force for good.
At The Fashion Pulpit, you can swap your clothes both in stores and online (Yes, e-swapping!).
Another convenient way of getting rid of your unwanted clothes is to donate them to recycling movements. For example, GreenSquare Singapore is an initiative that provides free collection services for those who want to recycle their unwanted clothing. Good quality clothes collected will be sold to second-hand textile importers for further sales to poorer families while the remaining non-wearables will be sold and reused as industrial cloth. These initiatives create avenues for us to reduce textile wastage as well as to help the less fortunate.
Reckless production and consumption will become a thing of the past, post-pandemic.
Covid-19 has brought the fashion industry, and many others, to a screeching halt. Factories have been forced to shut down and brands have cancelled orders, resulting in unused fabric at various stages of the supply chain (hopefully, not thrown away!). At the same time, longer time spent at home has led to many people decluttering their wardrobes and selling their second-hand apparels online as seen from a rise in the thrift community.
Both consumers and fashion brands are rethinking the way they treat fashion. Many businesses are considering adopting circularity to strengthen supply chains, while consumers are questioning their wasteful habits. If businesses can use this opportunity to revamp their business models to deeply integrate sustainability, they could lead the world towards a more ecologically sustainable direction. Likewise as consumers, we can adopt a mindset of longevity, engaging in repairing, swapping and creative upcycling to keep our clothes out of the landfill.
Let’s all make the best use of this trying time to start moving towards circularity in the fashion industry.