Sustainable fashion – an oxymoron?

Just learned from a very interesting newsweek article that there’s a global crisis in second hand clothing. Fast fashion is leaving so much low quality second hand clothing that even the African market is getting picky, and 80% of what we give to charity is just burned or discarded.

Too much of what we buy is too impractical, or not durable enough, even for some of the world’s poorest. It really gives a refreshing view on the window displays at H&M and Zara.

Whenever my wife buys something from the Swedish brand Monki, it typically breaks after a few weeks. Which makes me think that these clothes aren’t really clothes, they’re just fashion. You have the textile industry, and the fashion industry, and their products are fashion textiles, but are they clothes? Some of these clothes are simply trash, and too bad to be of any use to anyone in the world. To me that makes them less pretty.

Maybe fashion, at it’s very core, is impractical, vain and wasteful? Maybe fashion can never be sustainable, because the idea of style implies you discard something perfectly usable, just because it’s out of style.

On the other hand I know a few old baby boomers who wear the same parka and Wrangler jeans for 20 years, and I don’t strive for that look either…

I think fashion can be sustainable, but it has to be slow fashion. Also we shouldn’t let the high street brands confuse us as to what fashion is. If you get a camouflage three-piece suit, a shirt with flamingos, or a big hat, wear it twice and then sell it, that’s fashion. It’s silly, it’s wasteful, but at least it’s fun. But you don’t need 6 boring grey shirts from a chain store, that you might never wear. That is not fashion; that’s just clothes. And it’s not a luxury, it’s a necessity, so treat it as such. Which means basically, you buy something nice and new, wear it until it’s become a little less trendy, and then wear it some more, and then you treat yourself to something nice and new again when it’s worn out.

I know it sounds like preaching, but I’m just thinking out loud here…

On a side note I think that any clothes bought second hand are far more sustainable than sustainable fashion can ever be.

I’m not sure about recycling. If I read this article in the Guardian correctly, it’s still some time before it’s actually effective… The thought that my polyester parka could be around for hundreds of years after I’m dead makes me think that maybe it’s worth a try.

I could probably get by for the rest of my life just on clothes discarded by family members. After I started not throwing clothes out, I cant even get rid of the stuff I get for Christmas or inherit.

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