Slow fashion: How changing the way we buy clothes could save the planet

We live in an age of instant gratification. Anything and everything we want is readily available at the touch of a few buttons. Convenience is king.

Fast food deliveries, late-night Ubers, last minute flights, even our love lives – its all at our fingertips. And the way we consume fashion is no different.

Fast fashion is cheap clothing produced rapidly in response to current trends. There is a proliferation of online brands selling everything from the latest Kardashian-esque out-out dresses to workwear, accessories and swimwear – all for a minuscule cost.

As testament to the speed these brands are working – Kim K successfully sued Missguided for selling imitations of her outfits before she had even had a chance to wear them outside of her dressing room.

And as for the low cost – Missguided (again) faced major backlash for releasing a bikini which only cost £1 back in June.

We live life at a breakneck pace, so its no wonder so many of us are drawn in by the allure of fast fashion. But the relentless speed of our consumption has serious consequences and were now at a point where we need to start making drastic changes to how we buy clothes.

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Fast fashion is a major contributor to greenhouse gases, water and air pollution and it creates problematic levels of waste. And when you look at the sheer quantities of low-quality clothing we are buying and chucking away, its no surprise that the planet is struggling to cope.

Last month Oxfam released new research revealing that more than two tonnes of clothing are bought in the UK each minute. The study of a thousand people estimated that 11 million garments end up in the landfill each week.

These staggering facts about fashions impact on the planet and the worlds poorest people should make us all think twice before buying something new to wear, said Oxfams chief executive Danny Sriskandarajah, in response to the study.

We are in a climate emergency – we can no longer turn a blind eye to the emissions produced by new clothes or turn our backs on garment workers paid a pittance who are unable to earn their way out of poverty no matter how many hours they work.

As consumers, its in our power to make a real difference.

But how do you actually become a more conscious consumer? It can be hard to tell which products are harmful to the environment, or which ones have been produced using unethical or unsustainable methods, so you often have to do some digging in order to make sustainable choices.

Slow fashion is a viable alternative – even if youre on a budget. It just takes a little research and a proactive attitude to get you started.

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Learning and development professional and life coach Nadia Rafique is certainly short on time. She juggles her career, her side hustle, two dogs and is currently planning her dream wedding. But she has just started on her journey into slow fashion and says shes finding it surprisingly manageable.

As I get older and think about starting my own family Ive become really aware of the impact we have in the environment, explains Nadia.

Nadia shows how you can wear one item in so many different ways. (Pictures: Nadia Rafique)

I dont want to leave my kids in a world thats beyond all hope and I think we have the power to make a change and make it better for future generations.

Fashion is such a huge polluter and as Ive read more about it, it actually doesnt need to be that way. But the only way things will change is if the consumers demand it.

But where to begin? Nadias starting point was reassessing the clothes she already owns.

The most sustainable way to shop is to shop your own wardrobe, she says. I recently had a huge clear out and hung and folded all my clothes in such a way that I could see them all and get to everything.

This in itself allows me to see everything I own presented nicely and it has made me fall back in love with a lot of my clothes. Its psychological but it works.

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I also love shopping second-hand as you just dont know what you are going to get. I like finding unique items and giving them new life, and you are giving your money to charity which is a great feeling.

As great as charity shops are, you cant always find everything you need. And buying new clothes that are ethically produced, sustainable and created to last for years, can be really pricey.

For Nadia though, this is a price she is more than willing to pay for the greater good. And she thinks that ultimately the cost will balance itself out.

Sustainable fashion should be more expensive as the whole point is to reduce this “wear-it-once” culture that we have these days, she says.

By costing more money it forces people to take care of their clothes better and to find different ways to wear them to really get the value out of them.

How does fast fashion impact the environment?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile clothing waste was produced in 2013 alone.

Every year the world as a whole consumes more than 80 billion items of clothing.

The fashion industry is the second greatest polluter of local freshwater in the world and it is responsible for 10% of the carbon footprint of the world.

Almost 70 million barrels of oil are used each year to make polyester fiber, the most frequently used fiber in clothing. And it takes more than 200 years to decompose.

Cheap synthetic fibers also emit gasses like N2O, which is 300 times more damaging than CO2.

Plastic microfibers shed from synthetic clothing account for 85% of the human-made material found on ocean shores.

One way to get around this elevated cost is to try innovative fashion rental schemes, like the soon-to-be-launched By Rotation – a fashion rental marketplace which is essentially the AirBnB of fashion.

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Anyone can sign up for free, rent what you need for a much lower cost than the retail price and lend what you dont use as often, meaning you could actually make a bit of money while doing something good for the planet.

Slow fashion to me is the outcome of a more conscious and considered approach to purchasing something new; it is essentially a reduction of materialistic consumption, By Rotation founder Eshita Kabra-Davies tells Metro.co.uk.

Eshita Kabra Davies
Slow fashion to me is the outcome of a more conscious and considered approach to purchasing something new. (Picture: Eshita Kabra Davies)

By Rotation presents itself as an alternative to whim-filled shopping on the high street by making higher quality and desired items accessible to people from all walks of life.

Our aim is to transform the way we consume fashion: by asking people to share, rather than own.

Eshita says now is the time to embrace slow fashion. She says the levels of waste production have reached a critical tipping point and its time to make lasting, meaningful changes.

The landfills in “developing nations” such as my motherland (where many items are produced in the first place) are full, and they dont want our waste anymore.

Oxfams research also found that new clothes bought in the UK produce more carbon emissions per minute than driving a car around the world six times. The charity estimates more than half of British adults are not even aware that fast fashion is damaging the environment.

But the good news is that more and more brands are starting to take sustainability seriously.

H&Ms Conscious range is dedicated to sustainably produced fashion, and they offer £5 vouchers for every bag of recycled clothing brought into store. Both John Lewis and Marks & Spencer have joined the Ethical Trading Initiative which works to improve the lives of poor and vulnerable people working in factories and farms worldwide.

Gucci announced this week that they are now entirely carbon neutral – the biggest fashion brand so far to make this pledge.

Paradise Row is an east London based leather bag company with sustainability at its core. Founder Nika Diamond-Krendel says part of that is ensuring that her products are valued as art pieces and cherished for multiple seasons.

Slow fashion means valuing an item for years to come and not purchasing an item for trend purposes, only to dispose of it next season, she explains.

We only release one handmade bag collection a year. Collections are added on to existing collections and never in replacement of.

Nika D-K
Slow fashion means valuing an item for years to come and not purchasing an item for trend purposes. (Picture: Nika Diamond-Krendel)

I believe shopping more sustainably is to purchase pieces which you will know will last you a long time and therefore, choosing clothing for their composition of materials, as well as the design and cut.

Quality material of a garment always stands the test of time and therefore by choosing high quality items, you can naturally achieve slow fashion.

Easy ways to get started with slow fashion

1) Look in the back of your wardrobe
There will be hidden gems that are hiding amongst the chaos of your wardrobe. Organising your space could help you rediscover things you thought were lost.

2) Start visiting second-hand shops
If you need a cheap new outfit, look no further than your local charity shop. Theres no danger thaRead More – Source

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