Pay it forward: Instead of our worn and discarded clothes ending up in landfill, a new business model is encouraging the recycling and regeneration of unwanted garments.
It’s no secret Australians love fashion – we’re the world’s second largest consumer of textiles – however it seems we’re not as passionate about our clothing’s longevity. Each garment we buy is worn an average of just seven times before being disposed of, with Australians currently throwing away 6000 kilograms of fashion and textiles every 10 minutes.
Enter the antidote to throwaway fashion. Circular fashion, stemming from the circular economy model, aims to end this traditional take-make-waste linear model, explains Camille Reed, responsible fashion advisor, textile designer and founder of The Australian Circular Fashion Conference. The concept was developed to help industries adopt environmentally friendly sustainable and responsible practice in manufacturing by encouraging the reuse and redesign of recycled materials to help code the loop.
“Closing the loop, or using a circular system, looks to maintain the value of each raw materials used in producing apparel, by ensuring the garment it collected at the end of its life, for example by charities or retail take-back schemes,” explains Camille. This means that used garments can be recycled and turned into either new yarn, or broken down into a raw state to use in other industries such as automotive and packaging. While brands such as Patagonia and Stella McCartney are leading the way in sustainability campaigns, there’s also plenty we can do from a consumer perspective to play our part in the new economy
Six Ways to Join the Loop
#1 Assess your purchases
Every time you go to purchase a new item, ask yourself: do I really need to buy more? Do I already have something similar? “Generally, most people are unaware that it takes over 200 processes to produce a virgin piece of fabric, and dyeing fabric uses over 5 trillion litres of water a year – that’s two million Olympic sized swimming pools!” says Camille. By resisting impulse purchases, you may come to the conclusion that you’d much rather hold onto your money for something else.
#2 Evaluate what you already own
“The average fashionista only wears about 30-40 percent of her wardrobe,” says Camille. Cleaning out your cupboards might make you realise you have more options that you thought. Why not organise a clothes swap or god a market stall for pieces you no longer wear? Anything left over can be dropped into the local charity bin. There are specific collection points for torn or unwearable items, too. “An enormous percentage of textiles are sent saved from landfill by The Smith Family, who disperse ragged pieces via a number of sustainable avenues,” Camille explains.
#3 Choose wisely
“Over the years we’ve learned a lot of the responsibility is on the consumer as to how we can dictate outcomes in the marketplace,” says Camille. Consumers have greater access to information than ever before, with ethical fashion websites and magazine such as Eco Warrior Princess, MOCHNI and The Fashion Advocate on hand. “Believe it or not, big companies respond to buyers’ trends,” says Camille. “If we don’t buy their product because we don’t agree with how it’s made, they’re going to be forced to try new tactics.”
#4 Care for your garments
Who doesn’t love the sound of less laundering? “I follow one simple rule – don’t repeatedly wash your clothes or tumble dry,” says Camille. Why? It diminishes the fibres by breaking them down at a much more rapid rate than general wear, while distorting the shape and fading the colour. “The best care practices are airing out your garments, or lightly rinsing and hanging them correctly,” says Camille.
#5 Repair and mend
“I’ve been working in the fashion industry for nearly 10 years and often purchase samples and seconds, many requiring mending for cuts, rips and missing buttons,” says Camille. “Performing simple repairs like replacing a button or restitching a seam is a highly valuable skill.” No sewing machine? The next best option is to find your closest alteration service, who will offer every possible solution to fixing a garment.
#6 Be a positive influence
So, you’re already reading the blogs, using the Good On You ethical shopping app and buying responsibly, but are you sharing the info with friends and family as well? “Yes, there’s lots to learn,” says Camille. “But you can be an ambassador for change and influence those around you.”
This article was originally published in the Spring Issue of HomeLife Magazine ~ Issue 9 2018