No matter what your wardrobe looked like in 2020 – whether sweatpants were your preferred sartorial choice, or you dressed up for every Zoom call – the new year brings an opportunity for new, fresh choices and an updated mindset. And our planet desperately needs it.
By Sascha Camilli: writer, speaker, activist and vegan fashion expert.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has found that the fashion industry produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions every year. It is also estimated that the clothing sector uses around 1.5 trillion litres of water annually. In short, our clothes are a source of pollution and water waste.
While many of these issues require change on a structural level, we as consumers are certainly not powerless. And what better time to make a change than a new year – and not any new year, but one that will see us emerge from a global crisis? If you've spent 2020 feeling relieved that you can wear pyjamas all day because your wardrobe is desperately out of shape, this is your chance. Here are five ways to start anew and create the sustainable, cruelty-free wardrobe that you deserve and the environment needs.
1. Make 2021 the year you stop wearing animal skins
This is one of the best ways to have an immediate impact. Leather has been found to be among the most polluting materials in fashion by industry reports, and the production of wool in Australia and New Zealand (the world's top wool producers) is a great contributor to methane emissions. What to wear instead? You're in luck – it's easier than ever to dress vegan. Today, leather can be made from apples and pineapples, wool is crafted from organic cotton rather than sheep, and silk can be replaced with Tencel (wood-pulp cellulose). The future of fashion is vegan.
2. Say no to waste
But while you're in the process of quitting animal skins, please don't throw out the ones you already have. Textile waste is a growing problem in the fashion industry: the equivalent of one garbage truck of textiles is wasted every second. So if you decide to stop wearing animal skins (which I hope you will) then you've got to be responsible with the animal-derived clothes you already own. You can donate them to a second-hand shop, sell them – if you don't feel comfortable keeping the money, you can donate it to a charity or an animal sanctuary – or, the final option below.
3. Learn to love what you have
We over-consume and over-produce clothing at an alarming rate, eager to get our hands on whatever's new and never be seen wearing the same outfit twice. So if you want to make 2021 the year of your new conscious style, one of the most powerful things you can do is to make friends with what's already in your wardrobe. Get creative and work on styling new outfits with what you already own, to avoid unnecessary shopping. And yes, you're still vegan if you opt to keep your wool sweater, your leather shoes or down jacket until they break down (they will, animal-derived materials are not everlasting, despite what the industry would have you believe) and then replace them with a vegan option.
4. Try second hand
The second most sustainable option after wearing what you already own is shopping pre-loved. This way, you're using resources that are already out there, and aren't contributing to the constant cycle of production. Discover your local charity shops (and don't give up after just one day of browsing – to find hidden gems, you need to develop a habit of checking in every once in a while) or explore online marketplaces such as Depop, Vinted, and Vestiaire Collective. Have patience and keep coming back, and soon you won't be able to believe the treasures you find
5. Meet your new favourite brands
Finally, if you can afford to support the smaller, independent brands working to make the fashion industry a kinder place, then this definitely should be part of your resolution. Innovative vegan materials such as fruit leathers are often championed by niche designers, who are usually the first to put cruelty-free fashion on the map. From vegan accessories made from apple leather, to activewear made from recycled fibres, or vegan clothing made from cutting-edge sustainable fabrics like Tencel Lyocell and Tencel Lenzing Modal, ethical fashion is a more varied and creative space than ever before, so if you're in the mood to get inspired, 2021 is a perfect time to start.
By Sascha Camilli
Sascha Camilli is a vegan fashion writer, speaker and activist. Her book Vegan Style is out now on Murdoch Books. For more about Sascha, you can read our interview with her. You can also follow her on Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.
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