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What is Sustainability in Fashion

Magic City Fashion Week is creativity, inclusivity, SUSTAINABILITY, and an education-center event highlighting a vibrant Birmingham fashion culture that extends far beyond a historical footnote.

Sustain - verb - (1) to give support or relief to; (2) to supply with sustenance; nourish; (3) to keep up, prolong; (4) to support the weight up: prop; also to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)

Sustainability is not a word found in the dictionary. It is a concept. Several theories, ideas, and explanations are revealed from various agencies, universities, newsletters, blogs, and the like when googled. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization offers four pillars of Sustainable Development: society, environment, culture, and economy - which are intertwined, not separate. Sustainability is a paradigm for thinking about the future in which environmental, societal, and economic considerations are balanced in the pursuit of an improved quality of life. For example, a prosperous society relies on a healthy environment to provide food and resources, safe drinking water, and clean air for its citizens (UNESCO, n.d. Education for Sustainable Development section). 

So how does fashion fit under the chapter of sustainability in our society? Environment.co provides sustainability fashion’s goal is to source, create, and design clothes that lessen the impact on the environment. Additionally, sustainable fashion should benefit the fashion industry and society (Marsh, 2021). The author also provides these Sustainable Fashion Facts:

  1. By the year 2030, which is less than 10 years from now, fashion waste could increase to 148 million tons. 
  2. Younger generations are being more cautious about their fashion choices, meaning they could be the ones who lead the change for sustainable fashion.
  3. For just one cotton t-shirt — and let’s face it, most people probably have a drawer full of t-shirts — it can take nearly 3,000 liters of water to produce enough cotton to make it. Using recycled cotton can save that water, and it reduces waste.
  4. Patagonia, Pact, ABLE, Tradlands and United By Blue are just a few of the sustainable fashion brands you can find in the United States. They’re found throughout the U.S., and there are sustainable brands in many other countries as well. 
  5. Companies have made shoes out of recycled materials like plastic and rubber tires to mitigate the effects of the 300 million pairs of shoes thrown out every year.
  6. The fashion industry is one of the leaders of pollution, making up about 10% of the carbon emissions leaking into the environment. 
  7. Fast fashion is a worldwide issue, so it will take leaders of change in every country to combat the fast fashion industry. 
  8. In the United States alone, over 25 million pounds of clothing are ending up in landfills or incinerators each year. 
  9. The best way to be more sustainable is by choosing quality pieces that will last a long time over cheaper ones that you know will go out-of-style.
  10. Pretty much every textile is recyclable, but not much of it is actually recycled.
  11. In the world of sustainable fashion, traditional forms of creating clothes are more popular. Instead of relying on factories and machines, many sustainable clothing items are made by hand with techniques like spinning, weaving and using natural dyes. 
  12. Organic cotton, natural fibers, organic hemp and TENCEL are a few of the most sustainable clothing fabrics, so look for them when you add to your wardrobe.

There are various ways to create a sustainable wardrobe. 

  1. Purchase items that you know you will wear over and over again. Buying into fads or trends creates waste. 
  2. Shop at thrift stores or consignment shops. There are always diamonds in the rough or that perfect vintage item that was someone’s trash and can now be your treasure.
  3. If you don’t have the patience for thrift stores, shop with resellers like Chic Gems (chicgemsthrifted.com) or The Brilliant Closet (thebrilliantcloset.com). They are like personal shoppers willing to dig through bins and search through racks discovering hard-to-find, one-of-a-kind gems. 
  4. Shop with brands that practice ethical behavior such as a basic shop, designers that up-cycle fashion such as SplashedbyDKG, or brands who teach how to up-cycle like Bib and Tucker Sew-op. 
  5. Donate your unused, unwanted, slightly worn clothing and accessories to your local Salvation Army, Goodwill, or thrift store. Also, check with homeless and women’s shelters to see what items they need or accept. 
  6. Read your labels. Purchase items made with recycled cotton. 

We exist in an ecosystem whose viability is reliant on our committed participation. This level of commitment is another way to provide generational wealth. The inheritance left to our children’s children is more than money. The money saved and passed down is useless without the air we breathe, the water we need, or earth upon which to live. The world is watching how we treat it because what we put in it is what is going to be giving back out. 

Give love. Get love.

“Sustainable Development.” UNESCO, 20 Aug. 2015, https://en.unesco.org/themes/education-sustainable-development/what-is-esd/sd. Accessed 07 Feb. 2022.

Marsh, Jane. “12 Sustainable Fashion Facts You Need to Know.” Environment.co, 5 Mar. 2021, https://environment.co/12-sustainable-fashion-facts-you-need-to-know/.

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Valerie T. Jones

The Ready Writer

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