The fashion industry's carbon emissions are increasingly becoming a major concern globally, with the UN indicating that it produces up to 8% of global emissions. Textile workers often endure poor working conditions and long working hours, synthetic fabrics can stay in our environment for hundreds of years, and every year millions of items of clothing end up in the landfill. It’s time for individuals and businesses alike to consider implementing sustainable practices in all aspects of their lives, including fashion choices – from purchasing clothes made from eco-friendly materials to donating used pieces instead of throwing them away. Thankfully, current fashion trends are prioritizing sustainability and making it easier for all consumers to make more ethical fashion choices. 5 growing sustainable fashion trends in 2023 are:
Upcycling your clothes is the latest trend in fashion and sustainability, and it's an easy way to give a new life to items that aren't being used or may no longer fit. Upcycling involves taking clothing or household items that are no longer in use and giving them new purpose. The best part is you can find all sorts of inspiration, tutorials, and materials needed for the project right on the internet and social media! Making changes or repairs to freshen up old clothes in the back of your closet is an excellent way to give them a longer lifespan. This also opens up a way to flex your creativity and keep up with current trends without spending extra money. Additionally, most upcycled clothing projects require minimal skills or prior knowledge to complete.
While this is something that consumers are doing themselves, the market has grown large enough that you can purchase upcycled clothing easily from sites like Etsy or from creators found through social media channels such as Youtube, Instagram, and TikTok, as well as from established brands and designers who are making a name for themselves in the sustainable space by creating garments using deadstock or household fabrics. Instead of thrift store finds, upcycled garments come designed with unique embellishments, fabrics, and color palettes. By choosing to upcycle instead of purchasing something new, you not only support your local DIY shops or independent brands and designers but also help contribute towards reducing waste while expressing your creative side at the same time. This makes upcycling an affordable solution for inspiring sustainable fashion choices and creativity. From patterns such as distressed denim or floral maxi skirts, there are endless possibilities when it comes to upcycling!
Along the same lines as upcycling, second-hand fashion is another hot fashion trend of today, and it seems like it’s not going away any time soon. According to ThredUp, a leading thrift store for second-hand fashion, the second-hand clothing market has grown significantly in the past decade, with 24% growth in 2022 alone. It is projected that this market will reach up to $218 billion by 2026. This tremendous growth can be attributed to the fact that millennials are chasing after second-hand garments more than ever before.
If you think buying a used skirt versus a new one doesn't make a difference, think again. That same data from ThredUp indicates that secondhand shopping displaced nearly one billion new clothing purchases just last year. Major brands and retailers have been quick to respond to this soaring demand and have adapted their business models accordingly. Nowadays, one can find countless stores around the world offering vintage and thrifted items at great prices. With its unique styles, second-hand shopping is becoming especially popular for those wishing for something special which stands out from the typical fashion trends out there. By opting for preloved items, conscious shoppers can make more sustainable choices while also showcasing their own unique sense of style.
You can also find great clothing items through hand-me-downs. Just like you, friends and family most likely have old clothes in the back of their closet that are no longer worn and no longer inspire. By having a small clothing swap, you'd be surprised what you can do with new pieces in your wardrobe, even when your styles don't exactly match. Lastly, if you can't find a home for your old clothes, clear out your closet and thrift them yourself! Try selling them to clothing resale stores such as Plato's Closet and Clothes Mentor, or listing them yourself on app and sites such as ThredUp, Poshmark, and Ebay. And if that doesn't work, donate them to your local shelter or Goodwill.
CUSTOM AND UNIQUE PIECES
As the fashion industry is evolving, custom clothing is on the rise in the world of apparel. Consumers are becoming more inclined towards customized and on-demand clothes as it provides them with unique, personalized garments that have amazing fits that suit their needs. With this, brands and retailers are focusing on personalizing their entire shopping experience to get closer to their customers.
Customization has grown to become a consumer-driven choice, where they are given the control over what they can design and achieve the look they desire. To deliver an enhanced consumer experience, many brands and designers have adopted different technologies such as 3D tech or other advanced pattern-making software to bring creative designs to life faster than ever before. Moreover, eco-conscious shoppers are also choosing tailored clothing over mass production as it can save natural resources and raw materials and support ethical manufacturing practices.
In addition to creating custom pieces, because some of this fashion is one-of-a-kind, some companies are specializing in renting out clothing. This is especially helpful for one-time events such as themed parties, prom, galas, or charity balls. The next fancy or themed event you go to, think about whether you will really have another opportunity to wear that tuxedo or dress again, and if the answer is no or a time in the distant future, think about saving some money and renting out a piece!
AVOIDING FAST FASHION BRANDS
Fast fashion is a term used to describe the current trend in clothing production that focuses on keeping up with the latest fashion trends at a low cost. It refers to products that are made cheaply and quickly, mimicking the latest runway styles without taking into consideration their impact on workers, society, or the environment. This approach has been adopted by many fashion brands globally and has resulted in an increase in clothing consumption, contributing significantly to environmental pollution.
The fast fashion industry relies on high-volume production using heavily processed materials that are often made from synthetic fibers like polyester. Brands can produce clothes quickly and inexpensively by exploiting low-cost labor in developing countries. This model results in consumer fashion markets flooded with identical-looking clothes that will soon become disposable instead of having long-lasting utility for their consumers. Thus, fast fashion has significant environmental, social, and economic repercussions both locally and globally.
Every day, more people are becoming conscious of their purchases in search of fashionable products which do not compromise on animal welfare, human ethics, or damage the environment. Consequently, it is leading to innovation in both the materials used and the ways these products are manufactured - all for the good of those who wear them. To make ethical fashion choices accessible for everyone, several brands have implemented recycling and upcycling measures, such as using recycled plastic in shoes or woven into clothing.
ETHICAL AND SUSTAINABLE SLOW FASHION
In recent years, the fashion industry has taken a turn towards ethical practices, with more and more consumers choosing fair and ethical fashion. This means that brands are now following more sustainable practices to ensure that their products don't cause harm to animals, prioritize labor rights, and don't harm the planet during production.
The idea of buying quality over quantity is becoming increasingly important, especially when it comes to clothing. It is crucial to consider the type of fibers used in the materials that we wear as they can have a significant impact on the environment. Natural fibers like cotton, wool, and silk are biodegradable, which means that once disposed of, they will eventually break down over time. Synthetic fibers like nylon and polyester are made from microplastic fibers that do not break down easily, but are longer lasting and more resilient. New innovations such as ECONYL®, regenerated yarn from nylon waste, help strike a balance between durability and sustainability.
The textile industry has also been known to use some pretty toxic chemicals during fiber growth and processing stages. These toxic chemicals can be harmful to both people and the environment as they seep into our waterways and airways. It is important to look for organic fibers that have been grown without any harmful pesticides or chemicals and choose clothes with natural dyes instead of synthetic dyes. Purchasing clothing made from natural organic fibers using natural dye processes is a conscious choice towards finding sustainable alternatives in fashion today, and more and more consumers have been making sustainable choices and choosing high-quality pieces that last longer.
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The fashion industry is immense and shows no signs of declining. From jeans to designer gowns, manufacturers must mass produce items for their customers and most big brands and fast fashion brands typically do so at a fraction of the cost. Unfortunately, this often means using environmentally hazardous materials, cheap labor, and polluting the Earth in their production processes. This is why ethical fashion has become an integral part of sustainability efforts today. By upcycling your clothing or buying upcycled or thrifted clothes, seeking out custom and unique pieces and renting when possible, avoiding fast fashion brands, and seeking out slow fashion brands, you can stay trendy and fashionable in 2023 while feeling good about your fashion choices!
Written by Neesha Basnyat - Sustainability Writer for Koraru
Neesha Basnyat is a an experienced sustainability writer and researcher specialising in biology, sustainability, CSR, and ESG analysis and reporting. With an educational background in Biology and Environmental Science and over 6 years of experience in the sustainability field, Neesha loves everything green, from shoveling compost to calculating emissions or researching the best new standards in the sustainability space.
Header image by Filipp Romano