Stylishly sustainable
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Stylishly sustainable

September is a month for fashion weeks -- New York, London, Milan, Paris -- with the shows presenting next season's apparel and accessories.

Rather than keeping up on seasonal trends, slow fashion asks us: "Do we really need to update the already cluttered closet with pieces from new collections?"

Despite a crammed wardrobe, we may not be able to find something stylish to wear, causing us to crave new garments. Driven by affordable brands and online shopping, fast fashion prompts us to addictively buy more and more.

Ever-changing trends and cheap clothing makes us hoard more garments that quickly become sale items for even easier purchasing and tossing.

The other day, I bought two polo shirts in shocking pink and mint green because they were on sale at 299 baht. The day after, I went back to the department store to buy more, because rationally they were on sale and lustfully I wanted them in sassy orange and juicy lime colours, for a kaleidoscopic collection.

No more polo shirts, I said to myself, while eyeing another one in pretty purple.

Overconsumption and overproduction leads to clothing becoming tonnes of garbage, whose environmental impact is overlooked.

According to an article published a few years ago in Forbes, the clothing industry is the second largest industrial polluter in the world, second only to oil. The industry -- worth US$3 trillion -- accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions. Also based on a report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), nearly 20% of global waste water is produced by the fashion industry.

Books have raised awareness of the burgeoning problem. The recently released Fashionopolis: The Price Of Fast Fashion And The Future Of Clothes by Dana Thomas provides an investigation of damage caused by the global clothing industry, including its exploitation of labour, intellectual property and the environment. The author then looks at how it can be reformed, and how brands are making a difference.

The issue was addressed beforehand by Elizabeth L. Cline in Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost Of Cheap Fashion released in 2013. In her new title, The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide To Looking Good While Doing Good, the author calls for action to transform one of the most polluting industries, and provides how-tos for consumers to keep in style with a sustainable wardrobe.

According to the Global Wellness Summit (GWS), the fashion industry is shifting to a new era of sustainable clothing. The GWS actually listed Well Fashion, as one of this year's biggest trends, in its report.

For a healthier people and planet, Well Fashion encompasses the entire process, from fabrics and production to purchasing and disposal, and even how clothes are worn and washed as well as reused.

The textile industry can support the movement through zero-waste sustainable fibres and innovative experimentation such as upcycling trash into fabrics. For example, plastic water bottles and ocean garbage can be upcycled as materials for new clothing and accessories.

Used apparel can also be upcycled through new methods for making new clothes or for other uses such as construction materials.

The matter has been taken seriously as stakeholders have been working on new approaches and efforts as well as goal setting, outlined in the Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action, launched in December last year.

Under UN Climate Change, the charter's signatories and supporting organisations aim for 30% GHG emission reductions by 2030 and net-zero emissions by 2050.

Participants include Burberry, Guess, H&M Group, Kering Group, Levi Strauss & Co and Stella McCartney, to name a few.

Stella McCartney's sustainable materials include organic cotton, recycled nylon and polyester and vegetarian leather, while the brand monitors environmental impact through a decision-making tool called the Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L).

H&M Group is working to achieve the goal of using 100% sustainable materials by 2030. Garment collection in stores for recycling has also been carried out since 2013.

More brands will be on board in the sustainable fashion movement. Efforts need to be in parallel with changes in consumers' fashion mindset and consumption behaviour.

Resisting temptations to buy new clothes, shoes and accessories as well as purchasing unnecessary items because of discounts may not be easy for fashionistas.

Instead, regularly check the stock in your cluttered closet, which will remind you that there's more than enough. Then bring the abandoned garments back to life by rewearing them or make them of use to others.

Besides contributing to sustainability, we can also save more money from not buying inessential apparel.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

Kanokporn Chanasongkram

Feature writer

Kanokporn Chanasongkram is a feature writer for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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