Speaking once with Bea Johnson, author of the best-selling book Zero-Waste Home, she told me that she only possesses 15 pieces of clothes: 8 tops, 5 bottoms and 2 dresses. With only these 15 pieces, she can create 50 different outfits.
I smiled, when thinking about the almost 100 pieces I have in my wardrobe, with which I could potentially put together 350 outfits. How many of them do I really use? Probably less than a fifth.
Why do we need so many clothes? When I get rid of something, I forget about it the minute after. So we are not really attached to all of them.
As most of the things today, also fashion can be sustainable. According to Morgan McFall-Johnsen, writing for the World Economic Forum, the fashion industry produces 10 per cent of all humanity’s carbon emissions and is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply. Washing clothes releases 500,000 tons of microfibres into the ocean each year.
In other words: the equivalent of 50 billion plastic bottles. Also, many of those fibres are polyester which releases two to three times more carbon emissions than cotton. Let’s not even talk about waste. In total, up to 85 per cent of textiles go into landfills each year.
A few tips
Then what can we do about it? Brands now produce more clothing lines every year because of the growing demand. As Bea Johnson, we could choose to be minimalist and reduce the amount of clothes we own. Do we really need that white top that we wore once at the beach party and then ended up forgotten at the back of the drawer?
But if we cannot resist the impulse to go shopping with our girlfriends and if we cannot resist to the feeling of holding colourful shopping bags in our hands, then we could pay more attention to where these clothes are being made and choose from countries with strict environmental regulations for factories. Or we could notice the tags, not only for washing methods but also to choose organic and natural fibres that do not harm the environment once we get rid of them, which could be organic cotton, linen or hemp.
We must also pay attention to the amount of water we waste. Let’s not just wear a skirt once and then throw it into the washing machine. Let’s wash clothes only when we need to and at a lower temperature (30ºC).
CEE good practices
Ethical clothing is wide spreading and also famous brands are creating more conscious lines, like Levi’s, H&M and Ralph Lauren. Also Central and Eastern Europe is starting to be on the map of sustainable fashion, thanks to small and local ateliers that choose ethics over productivity.
In 2017, Floriana Sandu founded Gnana Studio in Romania, born by the desire to offer women conceptual, high-quality pieces at a fair price and with a small environmental cost. The Studio locally sources the most beautiful and sustainable fabrics possible. No to polyesters, microfibre or nylon. Yes to linen, modal and up-cycled viscose.
Ksenia and Anton Schnaider are the masterminds behind Ksenia Schnaider brand, which from Ukraine aims to create fashion pieces combining reworked materials. In one month they are reworking 500 pair of jeans. In one season they are reworking up to 200 kilos of textile waste. They say to be proud to have found the right blend of fashion and sustainability.
Basically, from women to women.
Which is also the motto of Bulgaria’s 05 Studio that only works with local seamstresses and small independent ateliers. It carefully sources its fabrics and materials, using deadstock fabrics when possible in order to reduce the enormous waste in the fashion industry.
Summer is the best moment to make conscious choices. This summer in particular. The months of lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak, have forced us to rethink our priorities. In the United States and the United Kingdom, already 52 per cent of the people are in favour of a fashion industry that is more sustainable. Let’s raise the bar in Central and Eastern Europe as well, becoming part of the sustainable production chain.