Sustainable Fashion

By Nishaat Sadien

The term “sustainable” has been tossed around a lot lately in the fashion industry, from leaders in the movement, like Patagonia, to the kids on the scene at HypeBeast. You could argue that the Chappies is beginning to lose its flavour, but wait! That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep chewing.

Let us begin by opening the wrapper and sharing the did you know: fashion is the third highest-polluting industry in the world.

The word sustainable is defined as “capable of being maintained at a certain rate.” Therefore, a sustainable fashion industry is one that must operate in ways that can continue working for decades to come. Unfortunately, this is not the case of today’s dominant ‘fast fashion,’ which refers to clothing that’s intentionally designed to be consumed quickly, at cheap prices. This leads shoppers to view clothes as being disposable; wearing them just a few times before throwing them out or moving on to newer and trendier cheap clothes. That’s like purchasing 20c bubble gum to only chew it for a few minutes before sticking it under your desk because the flavour leaves you quicker than government COVID-19 relief funds leave the hands of those it was intended to support.   

We all enjoy stunting out at the (socially distanced) jol but keeping up with the latest trends can become detrimental to the people who make them, the planet, and your wallet.

That sweater vest from H&M might get you likes on the Gram, but will mother nature gran you for it? Take a moment to think about where these garments come from, and how ethical it is, considering you paid about R200 for it. What could the working conditions of factory workers be? How fairly could they be paid? What environmental implications could it have? It sounds like a buzzkill, but it does not have to be that way.

Choosing to be more sustainable when it comes to fashion can be quite simple really. Truthfully, the most sustainable thing you can do at this very moment is keep wearing the clothes that you currently own and not purchase any more until you really need them. Low-rise jeans and dad sneakers made a comeback so why not hold onto that Cookie Monster t-shirt from Jay Jays circa 2009 and revive the next potential trend yourself?

Another thing you could do is choose to purchase clothing second-hand. These pieces have already been put out into the world and awarding them with a second life means you are saving them from ending up in a landfill. It is also a bonus that the thrift shops are already filled with the cardigans and sweater vests of your dead oumas and oupas – affordable, unique pieces and conversation starters!

Instead of making impulsive decisions when purchasing clothing, think a little more about what you want to invest in. Supporting the homies with the local brands boosts the local economy and creates jobs that pay a decent salary. Yes, it may be a little pricier, but everyone deserves to earn a liveable wage. These pieces are often of a much higher quality and thus, last much longer than garments from a fast fashion retailer.

You see, shopping sustainably comes in a range of accessible options and can be simpler than you think. A little more research and a little less impulse buying goes a long way. So perhaps chew a little longer and try to think a little more before you stick that piece of gum under your desk.