Building a sustainable and ethical wardrobe from scratch may seem like a challenging undertaking. Most shoppers want to be in sync with the latest trends, and not many know enough about ethical and eco-friendly labels—are the pieces frumpy and expensive?
But as the industry undergoes a revolution of sorts, consumer attitudes need to change as well. More than ever, customers need to switch up their taste for quick-and-cheap fashion and instead fill their wardrobes with sustainable and ethical staples.
Gone are the days when wearing ethical or eco-friendly brands equals sporting unattractive clothing, or raiding your savings, and here are five easy ways to become a socially and environmentally responsible fashionista.
1) Go local, be savvy
Besides supporting local designers, take advantage of the practical tools available, including barcode-scanning apps or a downloadable plug-in, to help you determine if your favorite brands have any traces of slavery or animal cruelty in their supply chain.
The Good On You app, for instance, ranks fashion brands according to their environmental and social impact, enables you to identify and unlock deals with companies that rank high in terms of ethics and sustainability, and allows you to advocate for change with labels that fare weakly in their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) footprint.
2) Less is more
Be more selective in your clothing choices, prioritizing quality over quantity. Apply the #30wears test, a campaign started by Livia Firth to encourage slow fashion and more conscious consumer choices. Consider if the item will last you 30 washes, if you’ll wear it at least 30 times, if it’s a high-quality piece, and if you’ll still want to wear it in six months’ or a year’s time. If the answer is “no” to any of these questions, refrain from making a purchase.
3) Declutter and donate
Apply the “1-in-1-out” rule for every piece of clothing or accessory you buy: schedule a yearly (at least) closet audit, and while you do your clear-out, make sure to donate pre-loved items to charity instead of dumping them in the trash.
There are numerous locations in Singapore where you can drop off your unwanted clothes (and other household items) to support those in need. Beneficiaries include migrant workers, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities and low-income families.
4) Go for seconds
The iconic TV series Sex and the City transformed the way we consume fashion, and among the countless trends the show introduced, it made vintage clothing stylish. Buying second-hand clothing is not only chic, but also helps you save money and be kind to the environment.
There are numerous second-hand outlets in Singapore, such as Refash, a large fashion re-commerce platform selling pre-loved clothing both online and at physical stores, as well other affordable thrift and consignment shops.
5) R rated
Support labels that reuse, reduce and recycle. The sky’s the limit in terms of product range: you can find everything from swimwear made out of seaweed, to outdoor clothing produced from plastic soda bottles. You only have to look.
Connected Threads Asia, an organisation promoting sustainable fashion, published a comprehensive list of sustainable fashion brands in Singapore, including labels that use upcycled and recycled materials. If you have a taste for high-end fashion, there are sustainable options too.
This article was originally published as ”`How do I look?’ The fashion industry needs a makeover” in Social Space Magazine. It has been adapted for Causeartist with their kind permission. Though the five tips are universally applicable, the organizations and initiatives mentioned here are specific to the author’s location in Singapore.
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Based out of Singapore and Indonesia, Trang is in charge of editorial content and strategy for Causeartist in Asia, looking after the media platform’s coverage of the region. In addition to her role at Causeartist, she divides her time managing a global sustainability project for Refinitiv (formerly Thomson Reuters Financial & Risk), as a freelance contributor to publications focused on social and environmental issues, and as a consultant on international development projects on issues ranging from climate change mitigation to education or women’s rights.