Everything you need to know about sustainable fashion, and where to shop it in Amsterdam
– Ruyaam Khan
Recently I was hanging my laundry to dry and I noticed all the clothing brands I owned: H&M, Zara, Pull&Bear, the usual brands most twenty-something or under would wear. All of them were fast fashion brands – the clothing being cheap, trendy, and not necessarily of the highest quality. While far from perfect, for the average shopper such brands can be attractive for their low prices and au courant style. It’s easy to get lost in a shopping spree that results in five items, three of which you might end up never wearing. The result is a pile of never worn clothes put to waste. The term for this system of clothing and textile production is fast fashion.
Fast Fashion vs Slow Fashion
Fast fashion was revolutionised by the clothing brand Zara, which changed the fashion industry drastically through increased rates of clothing production. Nowadays, fast fashion outlets refresh their clothing line every four to five weeks with a new up-and-coming collection to match whatever street style is in vogue. This maybe explains why, at the end of every month, stores like H&M and Forever 21 have large sales as a way of dumping out the old line to make room for newer up to date one. While it’s nice for consumers to indulge in a monthly sale once in a while, the speed of production has major consequences for the environment. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that 5 % of landfill space is occupied by discarded clothes and other textile waste. Moreover, the average U.S. citizen throws out approximately 32 kilograms of clothing and other textile waste per year.The fashion industry is also the world’s largest water polluting industry: textile waste is dumped into local streams and rivers repeatedly and the growing of cotton not only requires a lot of water, but the pesticides used to sustain it are harmful to the workers who grow it. While many fast fashion brands are working to reduce their carbon footprint over time, consumers must take action by changing their shopping habits. For this reason, consumers should start looking to sustainable fashion, otherwise known as slow fashion.
Types of Slow Fashion
There are a number of ways in which clothing can be sustainable. One example is the repurposing of waste such as plastic bottles. Design students in Milan have proven that it’s even possible to make textiles out of Sicilian orange peels. Another form would be the repair and repurposing of old clothes: old pieces of clothing are revamped, increasing their lifespan. In Japan, frankensteinesque dresses and tunics color the streets of Tokyo. A number of stores make use of old and damaged clothing through innovative forms of stitching together two or more items, creating quirky patchwork garb.
David and Clare Hieatt, sustainable fashion pioneers and co-founders of the Hiut Denim, encourage consumers to wash denim less frequently; not only to increase the lifespan of the fabric, but to conserve water as well. Or a more popular form of sustainable fashion is vintage and secondhand fashion. Ij-Hallen is a perfect example–a flea market teeming with second hand goods. Fast fashion brands are also getting behind the slow fashion movement. H&M has especially been active in promoting its Conscious collection, which uses organic materials. Below is an installation of a pleated dress made of recycled water bottles: a perfect example of how clothing manufacturers can make use of unorthodox materials.
Slow Fashion stores in Amsterdam
After having read so much about slow fashion, you are probably wondering how to implement this concept in your daily life. Luckily, Amsterdam offers many possibilities to engage in the slow fashion movement While there are plenty of small slow fashion brands that sell locally made clothing in boutiques all across the city, here are some larger and acclaimed brands: Kilo shop is a second-hand vintage store with four locations in Amsterdam. Every item’s price is calculated by weight. They sell plenty of jackets and slacks that never go out of style. MudJeans is one of many slow fashion denim stores in Amsterdam, yet probably the most well known. Their highly durable jeans are made of organic and recycled cotton. Their jeans can also be leased and–to top it off–they’re vegan. Lena is a fashion library, an interesting new concept that loans out clothes to subscribers. It’s a cheap way for members to wear and style high-quality vintage clothing. Their clothes can also be bought.
Concluding Remarks: Changing your spending habits will make you come a long way
A downside of buying mostly slow fashion items is that these brands are usually less affordable for the average student budget. However, brands such as Mudjeans sell clothes that are expected to be highly durable. Another way to commit to eco-friendly fashion is to not only consider where you shop, but how much you shop. Next time you hit H&M’s sale section, ask yourself how much you like the clothing and whether it’s versatile enough to be worn with other items in your wardrobe. Also look at the clothing’s material–is it organic? How long will it last? Consumer habits as well as the industry must change in order to help the environment. Don’t forget that even one individual’s decision to transform their wardrobe can go a long way.