Some things in life we cannot do without: clothing is one of them. But in the global economy, we are increasingly disconnected from the processes behind our garments. Clothing ourselves in an ethical manner is a daunting task, and Fashion Revolution Day reminds us of this.

On April 24th 2013, 1,133 sweat shop workers died in a clothing factory collapse in Dhaka, Bangladesh. To commemorate this tragic occasion, forward-thinking members of the fashion industry have started Fashion Revolution Day, which aims to raise awareness of the true cost of fashion, and celebrate all those involved in creating a more sustainable future.

More consideration for the social and environmental impacts of our fashion choices are needed from both the supply and the demand side. By prolonging the lifecycle of both your garments and others you can get more sustainable with your clothing now. Here are some quick tips to stay fashionable without increasing demand:

Recycle

Shoppers can be compelled to go back to the mall on a seasonal basis, creating a glut of underused clothing. What is the silver lining? Fashionistas have access to a near-endless supply of material to comb through and upcycle (creating something new out of something old). Profitable businesses have developed out of this near-waste stream, giving you greater access to repurposed clothing.

  • Shop second hand, and feel good about it! Check out REAP member ReWorks Upcycle Shop for some great accessories, bags, or items for around the home.

Reduce

How many of us have clothes in our closet that we haven’t worn in months, or even years? One answer to overconsumption is not a break in purchasing, but rather to rethink what we truly need.

  • Cut down on your purchasing! A quick Google search of essential clothing items will give you ideas of how to pare down your closet without sacrificing style.
  • Buy higher quality clothing! Those bulk socks from Costco may be the same price as the quality pair, but twice the material, twice the work, and twice the shipping. They are cheaper for a reason, and the price could be due to lower quality or a social or environmental cost.

Reuse

One (hu)man’s trash is another’s treasure! Give new life to your underused clothing. Aside from giving it away (we suggest Women In Need Society’s social enterprise Shop 4 Change), here are some other options to give your clothing a new home.

  • Put it on Kijiji! If you didn’t get full use out of an item, you might as well recoup some of the cost, and find someone who will lend a hand with wearing it out.
  • Organize a clothing swap with friends or colleagues! SquareKnot Coop member Paula Blundell organizes an annual clothing swap that plays host to over 15 women who wind up with numerous items for their wardrobe that, though not new, will be appreciated that way. Thrive partner Momentum has an annual clothing swap for its staff members (<50). Could you host a clothing swap at work?

Shopping Sustainably

If you do want to find ethically sourced, environmentally friendly clothing,Riva’s Eco Store is an excellent local business here to start at.

Knowing the detailed story of every piece of your clothing can be a daunting task, so take it one step at a time. By following these quick wins you can ensure your economic footprint is considered along with the environmental and social, and start becoming a more sustainable shopper.

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Kate Lawrence is an entertainment journalist with special focus on modeling and corporate social responsibility.

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