Go sustainable: Designers plead for end to massive fashion waste

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Sarah Freeman, founder of Sydney’s Clothes Library store where customers can borrow and return good-quality secondhand clothes for a small monthly subscription fee. She says she is shocked by the speed at which Australians buy and throw away cheap garments. 

By ISABELLA REHARTA

Fast fashion could be responsible for consumers churning through wardrobe items faster than ever before and shopping more frequently.

A YouGov study in 2017 found 30 per cent of Australians threw away clothes after wearing them only once and this contributed to large amounts of garment waste.

It found customers bought 27kg of new clothes on average every year.

Revel Knitwear is one of many sustainable clothing brands that aim to reduce waste, in their case by focusing  on quality and durability. 

Revel Knitwear aims to create products with timeless styles that are versatile and long-lasting. Photo: Revel Knitwear

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Shannyn Lorkin, founder and designer of the company, said what made Revel more environment-conscious was that everything was made to order.

“Being handmade is more environmentally friendly and by using natural fibres they will naturally be more biodegradable,” she said.

Ms Lorkin’s brand is also working on getting their offcuts of wool spun into new wool, which would help them towards zero waste.

Zero Waste Victoria is a community group that also aims to reduce fashion waste.

Revel Knitwear produces environmentally friendly clothing. Photo: Revel Knitwear

The group’s sustainable fashion advocate Elisabeth van Roosendael said it was important to make conscious changes as opposed to reactionary ones.

Since the focus of most customers is now on social media, Ms van Roosendael suggested using the hashtag #whomademyclothes and the Good On You app to find ethical and sustainable brands.

She also recommended clothing share group Tumnus Melbourne, which allows consumers to borrow high-quality fashion pieces at no cost instead of buying a new garment.

Ms Roosendael said fast fashion was non-recyclable and was also contributing to pollution in the way the raw materials were grown, harvested and manufactured.

“It uses up our natural resources. From water pollution and soil degradation to increased greenhouse gas emissions, the environmental damage is far-reaching and at times dangerously toxic to human life,” she said.

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Piles of discarded clothing find their way to op shops, but much has to be thrown away. 

Fast fashion, despite the negative environmental impact, is still extremely popular with consumers because of its convenience.

Fast-fashion consumer Indigo Keyla said she chose to shop at H&M and Zara because the clothes were affordable and accessible compared with sustainable clothing lines.

“There are enough sustainable clothing lines in Australia. But I don’t think they’re promoted enough,” she said.

The 21-year-old said shoppers had to actively seek out sustainable labels and they were  not as affordable as fast fashion brands.

“As someone that lives in a fast-paced environment, I personally prefer to buy something that is easy, fast, and cheap,” Ms Keyla said.