Sustainable fashion isn’t exactly a new thing. Nowadays almost every major fashion brand that wants to succeed in the industry has at least one “sustainable fashion item” in every collection, some even have a whole line. Even though sustainability seems to be the new black on the fashion stage, it can be difficult to figure out what exactly this fluffy term covers. Some claim sustainable materials and the use of eco-friendly textiles need to be the first priority, others highlight ethical fashion as the most important factor.

Sustainability in fashion isn’t just about one thing or one goal. There are multiple types of sustainability.

I can easily understand if you are a little confused. I was too.  It can be quite difficult to figure out who to trust and what to believe when there are so many definitions of sustainable fashion out there. In reality, they may all be right because sustainability in fashion isn’t just about one thing or one goal. There are multiple types of sustainability in fashion, and probably more than the seven I have listed in this article. However, these seven are the ones you will come across most often and are the easiest to incorporate into your everyday life.  I’m hoping some of them might be new to you and could take your sustainable fashion game to the next level. So, keep on reading, because you will definitely find some great advice on how to upgrade your sustainable wardrobe.

7 Types of Sustainability in Fashion (A Beginner’s Guide)
7 Types of Sustainability in Fashion (A Beginner’s Guide)

1. Rent, Swap and Lease

Maybe you first heard about the concept of renting designer bags in movies such as Sex and The City. But now it’s easier then ever to rent a designer bag, amazing gown or a one-of-a-kind piece. Concept stores are popping up everywhere allowing you to rent the most fabulous pieces – an easy way to keep your promise to yourself about not buying anything and still were something new to that wedding or big birthday.

If renting fashion isn’t available to you – don’t feel sad, you have an even better alternative, swapping clothes with your besties or family. Have you ever fallen completely in love with one of your friend’s outfits? I certainly have. And now it’s hanging in my closet.  Not because I took it from her closet, of course, but because we planned a “clothes swapping event”. It turned out she didn’t like the shirt anymore, but instead, she loved a dress I was getting tired of. We swapped all the clothes we didn’t want anymore and got a whole new wardrobe – without spending a dollar, win-win.

2. Vintage & Second-hand

If you are going to buy something new why not buy something new to you but old to someone else? Or pre-loved as I like to call it. Some of my favorite items are from vintage stores and second-hand shops around the world.

Vintage clothes are just so much more unique, I promise you, you won’t ever end up dressed in the same outfit as somebody else at the party.  Add the fact that you are helping protect the planet and changing the fashion industry, buying vintage clothing doesn’t have a single downside.

3. Fair & Ethical

One of the three pillars of sustainable fashion is social development, so naturally, fair and ethical fashion has an important role to play when we talk about the different types of sustainability in fashion. We should all choose to buy clothes that have been made in a fair and ethical way. This includes fair working conditions and wages in every part of the supply chain. Transparency also plays a role here – because we want to be absolutely sure the people who have made your clothes were treated fairly. We don’t want to be deluded by unimportant graphs and statistics that in the end tell us nothing about how the fashion company actually treats their workers.

Have you ever heard the saying “fast fashion isn’t cheap – someone somewhere is paying for it”? This is exactly what we are trying to change with ethical fashion and Fairtrade clothes. No one should suffer just so others can buy a pair of ridiculously cheap jeans. Fashion can exist without inhuman working conditions, we just need to make brands accountable.

When you make a purchase check the brands ethical fashion policy – how are they treating their workers? If it doesn’t say anything about it on their website, they probably don’t care a lot about it. So, try to support brands that actually care about their workers through the whole supply chain and pay their workers a fair living wage.

7 Types of Sustainability in Fashion (A Beginner’s Guide)

4. Recycle, upcycle & redesign

Recycling and upcycling are probably wording you’ve come across if you have the slightest interest in sustainability. But if not, that is totally okay too. Recycling is basically about collecting and using materials that would otherwise have been thrown away as trash and making them into new items.  Most people know that our oceans are overflowed with plastic, but fashion brands are starting to collect the plastic and recycle them, creating new items such as swimwear or sunglasses.

Upcycling on the other hand is not about breaking down the materials and turning them into something completely different. It is about materials or items being “re-purposed” by refashioning them. For example, if you have a hole in your jeans, instead of throwing them out make them into a pair of new shorts.

Recycling and upcycling are some of the most prominent types of sustainability in fashion because it allows us to use the materials already existing. This means we don’t have to use more of the earth’s resources but instead we are able to re-use what has already been produced.

5. High quality and evergreen designs

Buying high-quality clothes and evergreen designs that will last season after season is also a form of “sustainability in fashion”. By investing in these types of pieces you will build a capsule wardrobe that you will wear again and again instead of jumping on the quick trend train.

Fast fashion brands tend to be trend driven and you will have worn an item once before the next trend hits the stores. The price may seem to good to be true but think about why it is so cheap, who has suffered to create such an cheap piece of clothing?

Investing in quality pieces will make you think twice before you click on the “go-to check out button” meaning you will only purchase items you truly love. In the long run, you will save money, because heir-loom pieces will last a lifetime.

6. Custom-made

This type of sustainability in fashion might not be available to everybody but buying custom-made pieces means zero waste, plus you will likely get a piece you will love for years to come. As brands work harder to become more sustainable more designers are offering items that are created on-demand.

If you choose to buy a custom-made item, I guarantee you also will feel a bit more important, because after all how many people walk around in clothes made specifically for them? I bet you would feel quite unique!

7. Green and certificated

A great way to shop more sustainably is by looking out for sustainable certificates, such as certified organic. Although even this comes with issues, as some brands create their own certificates and claim they are supporting the slow fashion movement to sell more clothes, a term known as greenwashing. It’s therefore always worth checking the brands website and doing a little research on what exactly each of the band’s certificates means.

Words by the Amazing Anna