What is Sustainable Fashion?

Sustainable Fashion may seem like an unusual topic for an image consultant as we likely have the reputation for buying and purchasing more than reusing or recycling clothing.  However, I, personally think it’s important to consider both where our clothing is coming from and where it’s going when we no longer want to wear it.

When I re-organize a wardrobe, part of the service I offer is to take the unwanted garments to a local Dress for Success, Career Gear or Consignment Shop. These are the most well-known of the options to reuse clothing. Dress for Success and Career Gear donate women’s and men’s business clothing to individuals re-entering the workplace, without a budget to purchase appropriate clothing. Consignment shops sell gently used clothing so there is the potential to get some money back rather than a tax deduction. In either case the clothing gets worn again, rather than thrown out. Consignment shops can be brick and mortar, or virtual such as ThredUp.

Other options to reuse clothing are less well-known. Upcycled clothing has become popular recently; upcycling uses older clothing to make new, more updated garments. The re-designed pieces are more trendy and stylish than what’s been replaced.  An example of upcycling is using an older, long-sleeved straight black dress, removing the shoulders to add lace, creating a fitted look with a belt, and shortening it or constructing an uneven hemline. Another example is to use an old men’s sweatshirt, cut off the sleeves, open the front, and wear it as a vest.

The sourcing of fabric in new clothing is a consideration for sustainability as well. Natural fabrics such as silk, alpaca, linen, wool and organic cotton are all more environmentally friendly than man-made fabrics like rayon and polyester, which rely heavily on chemical processes. Inorganic cotton certainly feels soft and comfy, but relies heavily on chemical processes and pesticides to create.

Patagonia FashionPatagonia (pictured left) and Eileen Fisher are two of the more well-known designers that focus on environmental and social responsibility in their clothing offerings.

One last fabric, Tencel, is what’s known as a semi-synthetic. Its origins are natural (eucalyptus trees), but it goes through a production process that is considered synthetic. Tencel is, though, a highly sustainable fabric. Also known as lyocell or modal,  Tencel is versatile enough to be made into jeans, shirts, and menswear.

Fabric blends are another option. Clothing that is made from only one fabric can be recycled, however, clothing that is made from blended fabric is not recyclable.

Fashion is meant to help you look and feel your best about yourself. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that your clothes are helping to protect the environment as well?