Why it’s possible to love fashion and want to save the planet
Invest, repurpose, recycle, how a sustainable fashion expert keeps it circular
By Green + Simple sustainable fashion expert Valentina Zarew
Did you know Australia is the second highest consumer of textiles per person in the world (after the United States)? We buy on average 27kg of clothing a year (that’s each, and even more staggering is we dispose of 23kg of unwanted garments each year.
On local shores, The Australian Fashion Council (AFC) is currently leading an important project, to create Australia’s first National Product Stewardship Scheme for clothing and textiles, providing a roadmap to 2030 for clothing circularity. This is an exciting development, as a formal framework and investing in systems, will help us all achieve National Targets to reduce our impact.
So, as an everyday person, how do we make choices that lean into supporting this? What brands are doing this well? What kind of new systems are in place to support this? And who can you look up to as a #RecyclingHero in this space. We take a look.
Quality over quantity, always
Good brands, start with good design. Each piece of clothing should be treated as an investment. An investment into the brands you want to support, and an investment into your forever wardrobe. Choosing an item of clothing that is designed with consideration, made well with quality trims, fabrics and fit, are paramount as keeping each piece of clothing in your wardrobe is the best way of honouring the water, soil, energy, and craftsmanship that has been put into bringing it to life. These kinds of items are the ones that you can pass on generationally.
I love New Zealand based brand, Maggie Marilyn and their Somewhere edit: circular, traceable, evergreen essentials. The quality is high, and the designs transcend seasons. Another label is ABC.H. Based in Melbourne, this is one of the most circular brands I have ever come across. Quality, size and fit impeccable and the details that Founder and Designer Courtney Holme goes into, is extraordinary. Each piece is designed and tested for longevity, repair and remanufacture.
Of course, fibre choice is highly important when it comes to quality and longevity, but we are going to focus in on recycled fibres in this instance. The cotton in your t-shirt starts with a seed. That seed needs to be watered, cultivated, harvested, ginned, spun, dyed – etc. This process is highly resource intensive and contributes to greenhouse gas emissions. Working with non-virgin, or recycled fibres decreases the resources needed to make the product, ultimately, decreasing the amount of associated green-house gas emissions. Choosing products made from recycled fibres, is a great way of supporting a circular fashion economy. Pangaia offers some great options. I personally love their 50 per cent recycled cotton, 50 per cent organic cotton sweaters, as well as the 50 per cent recycled cashmere and wool ranges. On home shores, Country Road Group has a selection of recycled cotton basics now too.
It’s never been more important to transform the way we think about clothing we no longer wear – how can we give it a second life? Donating, upcycling, swapping, handing down have all been around for generations, however, technology has surged new ‘second-life’ systems that enable us to do this in a much more efficient way, and even provide you with incentives. Australian based tech company Airrobe is one of them. Partnering with brands and retailers, it offers shoppers with an opportunity to virtually list any item purchased, for re-sale, and rental, when the time is right. If your garments are really at the end of their life, nothing can save them, you can have them recycled by Upparel – a digital textile recycling platform. By visiting their website, you can order a pick-up, and get credit for doing so. They will send boxes to your specific weight, and work with you to pick-up your collection. The textiles then go to their sorting facility, and they work on ways to up-cycle them, or even donate pieces that can be used again.
Circularity ambassadors and champions
If you need some inspiration for what to do, and how to do it when it comes to keeping your clothing in the loop, there are some inspiring influencers championing this space. Anita Vandyke – A zero waste life, is dedicated to living a life that is in balance with nature. Her social media channels are fuelled with posts from her (new) luxury filled life, which comprises of clothing that is up cycled and second-hand. Another one is Author and Salvation Army Stylist, Faye De Lanty. Her passion for thrift-shopping coupled with style, makes for the perfect way to re-define our relationship with second-hand.
Valentina is a sustainability expert, with among other accreditations a certificate of sustainability from the University of Bath. She is focussed on working with the brands of the future to help shape their strategy, sustainability framework, stories and partnerships. You can connect with her at valenti[email protected], or follow her on Instagram. @valya___z.
Love her work? You can support her here.