Updated: May 19, 2022
Upcycling is the creative transformation of used-up products into something that can be valuable again. And if you’re looking to upcycle clothes, then this article will teach how it's one-way combat fast fashion!
But before we dive in, what is fast fashion? Fast fashion is an industry that generates tremendous profits by utilizing inexpensive labour and cheap materials while wreaking environmental havoc. It has been trending at breakneck speed, making the latest trends accessible to everyone, yet it’s anything but fashionable in many ways--especially when you consider how our clothes are made behind closed doors with human rights violations at every turn!
The environmental effects are disastrous. Not only does fast fashion promote overproduction and consumption, which are both dangerously unsustainable but it also contributes to immense amounts of waste: 85% of all textiles wind up in landfills every year. While some brands and designers are trying to reduce their waste, it is ultimately up to consumers themselves how we respond by wearing less clothing or making changes within your personal wardrobe- these small steps could really add up:
1. Quality over quantity, always:
With the fast-paced life of today, it can be difficult to find time for a personal style which often results in following whatever recent trend that’s all the buzz. However, there are ways around this problem! One way is by investing in quality pieces which will last longer and look better as they get older- perfect if you want an investment instead of a quick fashion fix every few weeks or months like buying something expensive but thrown away after only one wear because we know how quickly trends come back into style again anyway.
To ensure that your purchase is worth the money, just take a moment to picture yourself in it for the years to come. Are you buying it because it's trendy right now? Or because it's on a hot discount? Or does it say something about who you are and what your values stand for? Next, investigate its materials and be sure not only to check out what kind of fabric it's made from but also how thick and durable this material is before buying! When selecting shoes look for a long lasting build that can stand up against wear and tear without sacrificing comfort in order to give you more comfortable feet throughout each day's work.
2. Take care of what you already have:
Investing in a wardrobe full of your favourite clothes is far better for the environment and more cost-effective than purchasing new ones. However, just because you’ve invested in good quality products doesn’t mean your clothes don’t need some TLC. When you take care of your clothes, they stay looking like new and will last many more years to come.
Always read the tags on your clothes about how to best take care of them and actually follow through when doing laundry. Quickly act on any problems with garments as soon as possible before damage is done or worsened- it will save money and time in the long run. Take care of stains before they permanently embed themselves on the fabric. Repair small holes before they turn into big tears which can be harder to fix if left unattended. Take your delicate and upscale fabrics to a professional dry cleaner.
3. Second-hand stores:
Cotton is a thirsty crop. It takes 20,000 litres of water to produce just one kilogram of cotton. That’s equivalent to just one outfit put together. One simple way to bypass this footprint is to swap clothes with friends and family or go thrifting instead. This way sometimes you can find high-quality products at a fraction of their original cost (i.e. Nasty Gal) that aren't manufactured with harmful chemicals or energy sources. What a bargain!
The concept of thrifting has been around for a long time however it has only gained popularity in recent years. Second-hand products or hand me downs were generally looked down upon and stemmed from a necessity basis- however it is now being accepted as a more environmentally friendly consumerism approach to product consumption. There are even many celebrities who advocate for thrift and shop recycled fashion (i.e. Helen Mirren, Winona Ryder, Sarah Jessica Parker and of course, Macklemore!)
4. Shop sustainably:
Sometimes buying new is inevitable- especially when it comes to clothes that hug your body in the most intimate of areas. However, shopping sustainably is a way to practice environmental sensitivity and eco-friendly living. You can find great brands that care about the world we live in, without breaking your bank account! One easy way of checking whether or not something was made from sustainable materials is to look for labels like “Fairtrade” or "Global Organic Textile Standard." Brands are increasingly changing their values which means they're making more conscious decisions regarding our planet; one example is Nike who has switched production entirely towards recycling polyurethane.
5. Create a capsule wardrobe:
With a capsule wardrobe, you'll only own the clothes that are essential for your personal style and lifestyle. Select durable pieces that can be mixed and matched to create versatile outfits. I absolutely LOVE fashion influencers that show multiple ways of using one item with different outfits and during different seasons. Pick out fashionable shoes in neutral shades that can be teamed up easily because they go well with anything else on top. Invest in high-quality basics that can be worn all year round and can easily be teamed up with several clothes and accessories you already have. Having a capsule wardrobe not only helps you curate outfits easily for yourself but also keep you from feeling like you have “nothing to wear” which usually results in unnecessary purchases. To find out how to make the most of your existing closet and personal style, check out my article on the minimalist wardrobe.
6. Repurpose old clothes:
There are so many ways of recycling clothes. You could turn them into a new garment, a pillow, a blanket, a tote bag, a pet toy or a good ol’ rag. There was a time I would be embarrassed to find our old spoiled clothes being used for cleaning around the house. However, I have come to appreciate my mothers eco-friendly and budget-friendly approach to recycling and giving a new purpose to old items.
I have left donating as the last option because although well intended, it often ends up doing more harm than good. If it’s not fit enough for you to wear it, it’s most likely not fit enough for someone else to wear it either. Charities end up having to do the heavy lifting of receiving soiled, tattered or unsuitable clothes that cannot be used by anyone else. In many cases, they have to pay in order to sort through and dispose of such clothes, of which approximately 25% ends up in the landfill. This doesn’t mean you stop donating clothes to such organizations, instead, be a bit more selective about what and where you donate.
Personally, I prefer to give my clothes to people that I know, someone who wears a similar size and will actually find the item useful (there’s no point in donating a winter coat to someone living in a tropical country!). This way I know that those clothes will have a second life. When I do end up donating to charities, I often go for unisex or one-size garments that are still in good condition and are generally made to fit most shapes and sizes.