How to Shop For Clothes Without Harming the Planet

Do you think sustainable fashion is too expensive? Or too limiting? Here's how to keep your fashion game strong without breaking the bank (or the planet).
fast fashion, sustainable fashion, shopping for clothes

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Many of us use fashion as a form of self-expression. It was Rachel Zoe who said, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.” Fast fashion brands capitalise on this by giving us easy access to an incredible variety of clothes. With just a few clicks you can have the perfect outfit for the brunch you’re going to. These brands also bank on the fact that you would never think that the cute dress you saw at such an affordable price could wreak havoc on our planet. 

But even a single product of fast fashion can pollute our rivers, use up hundreds of litres of water, contribute to air pollution and keep garment workers tied to a vicious cycle of low-pay and poverty. In other words, fast fashion is literally costing us the earth.

Image Credit: Sara Lazarovic

Is there a way to stay true to your personal sense of style without giving in to fast fashion? Yes, we’ve put together a few ideas to get you started down the path of sustainable fashion in India:

Care for your clothes

The most sustainable outfit is the one that’s already in your wardrobe. Caring for your clothes and extending their usable lives means you can enjoy them for longer. And when it’s time for an item to leave your closet, if it’s in good condition, someone else can have their turn with it.

Borrow or rent

At some point or another, we’ve all borrowed something from a sibling’s or cousin’s closet, right? It turns out that this is a great way to be sustainable. Rather than buying clothes that you’re not likely to wear that often, borrow it for the day from a friend or sibling. You could also rent an outfit for a special occasion. 

Clothes swap

Yes, this is exactly what it sounds like. Taking it up a notch from borrowing clothes, a group of people get together to swap clothes that are in good condition. This is an excellent way to get rid of those clothes that you never wear. And you get something in return – for free.

Source: Ninamochila.com

Online thrift stores

Traditionally, thrift stores were set up as a means of collecting revenue for different charitable causes. Abroad, they are also called charity shops. Thrift stores have items that are in good condition and at considerably marked down prices. In India, thrift stores have found large following online and a quick search will yield several that you can follow on social media. You can find some incredible deals and also donate your own clothes to these thrift stores.

Get clothes tailor-made

Most of us have easy access to local tailors so, when you must have new, you can always buy sustainably produced fabric and have an outfit tailor-made for you. A local tailor will not charge you earth-shattering rates and many are happy to try new designs based on references – especially if you’re a long-term customer.

Or buy from small, sustainable businesses

If you must go shopping for clothes, choose small, local businesses that offer more transparency in how their clothes are made. No matter how ‘green’ the adverts look it is always important to look beyond the marketing and ask questions. Do they use natural fabric? What are the resources it took to make it? What is the impact that item leaves on the planet? Then go beyond the fabric and ask #whomademyclothes and were they given a fair wage?

Apparel and footwear industries reportedly contributed to over 8% of global climate impact in 2016. Changing unsustainable shopping practices can bring this number down. 

So, what you decide to put in your closet can help change the world. If style is a form of self-expression, what it really comes down to at an individual level is, what story do you want your clothes to tell?

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