THE FASHION WASTE CRISIS : How we can all make more “sustainable” fashion choices.

Sustainable fashion

There are a few buzz words gaining moment at the moment. Sustainable fashion, low environmental impact, ethically sourced, eco-friendly and of course – organic. These terms imply that products manufactured in this way – will reduce ‘the environmental crisis’ we’ve created for our planet.

And then there’s also #greenwashing 

I know myself, as a consumer, it’s a challenge to know what is REALLY the “right” thing to do! On one hand, there is clothing / swimwear made from recycled fishing nets. Hooray! We are totally rescuing the planet’s resources by being able to now wear ‘recycled’ waste. But, on the other hand – what about all the emissions and chemicals used in the recycle process? Is is really better for the planet when we re-use materials? Or should we create less in the first place?

In the past – my career path lead me to design & produce fast fashion for many years. So yep, I too am guilty of contributing to tonnes of landfill over the years. But, like many other consumers and suppliers, we’ve become more aware about the clothing crisis over the past 5 – 10 years. We’ve all started to slow down and become more conscious ….and I made the move out of a career in Fast Fashion. The following post isn’t a shame post, a rant, or meant to point fingers at any one who recently made a purchase from a fast fashion chain! I’m just here learning how I can create positive change and share information. Like many other conscious shoppers, bloggers and designers.

When it comes to clothing (and uniforms)  – we can’t walk around nude, or go to work in our birthday suit!

So, what can we all do?

What is the future of fashion?

Future of fashion?


This might NOT be something that we want to admit – but by educating ourselves in regard to climate positive terms, and what they really mean, we’re able to understand the social impact of the brands where we choose to shop. It’s 2019. We’re all busy. But if we’re buying clothing regularly, it’s entirely OUR responsibility to choose wisely! Prioritising knowledge about the impact our purchase will have on the planet before handing over our money is critical to making better choices. Ignorance isn’t going to make the situation better, or help us find a solution to the crisis.

Ethical Manufacturing :

It can be a broad term, but put simply, this means that the people who made the clothes are not children and they’re paid a fair wage for working in conditions that abide by the laws in those countries. As well as the global safety standards. It can also relate to animal welfare, and often suggests a cruelty free way of harvesting raw materials.

You can look for local and global certification organisations here , here.and here.

At The Uniform Stylist, we choose to partner with suppliers that carry these certifications, and insist on auditing documents to ensure they maintain their commitment to these standards.

Factory Workers in Bangladesh via ABC

Organic/ Sustainable materials :

Just because a supplier is certified for ethical labour, doesn’t mean their products are made with a focus on low environmental impact . Or, that their ‘organic’ yarns are in fact 100% organic.

Processing of organic yarns into fabric/materials means the fibres still need to go through a chemical process, as well as (in some cases) chemical dyes …

Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) certification will provide a guarantee for 100% Organic. With organic cotton, linen and other natural fibres – there will be no pesticides in the production which means low impact on the nearby water & vegetation. A good thing – right?

Cotton growing (organic or not) requires 2,700 litres of water to grow enough cotton to make one t-shirt. GULP.  Cotton is a very ‘thirsty’ crop indeed. Perhaps considering Bamboo over cotton is a more sustainable approach – Bamboo requires no irrigation or pesticides in order to thrive.

I’m not suggesting we all STOP wearing T-shirts – even the cotton ones. What we can do is:

  1. Choose good quality – how ‘good’ is that $3 t-shirt really?
  2. Ethically produced –  It takes someone about 30 – 45 minutes to cut out and sew a T-shirt …what do you think is a fair wage to do that? 
  3. When we wash our t-shirts, we can air dry (in shade). Tumble drying any garment will contribute to a premature trip to landfill.

Australian Retailers and clothing suppliers – what they don’t want you to know!

I’ll be referencing some information about sizing issues, and standard sizing separately (stay tuned for that!).

Have you ever found size inconsistency WITHIN you’re favourite brand? In some styles you’re a 12, in others you’re a 14 – at the same shop! There are a few reasons for this, perhaps you have lost/ gained weight since shopping there last but here’s one you might not know….

Even with the most diligent garment technicians, experienced manufacturers, and quality control procedures that support consistent sizing for a fashion business, every ONCE IN A WHILE, someone might make a typo.

A small typo might affect the sizing in production – not enough to be a disaster, some can be easily altered, but for those size discrepancies that are not …

What is the solution here?

Throw the whole lot the bin – landfill?

Leave all the garments to rot in a warehouse off shore?

Send the entire production run (200, 1000 or 3000+) to a charity?

Try thinking of it this way – The brand who made the size error, is running a business. Commercially, and ethically, the business will accept the order – and attempt to sell it with a size discrepancy. MOST of us probably wouldn’t even notice. 

So next time you find that your fave brand has gone slightly off on the size you ‘normally wear’ …either go up or down in size, and know that this slight inconvenience is a more positive outcome for the environment than the alternatives.

Sizing - is a little inconvenience worth the waste?

Recycled: It’s chic to repeat.

It’s estimated that we dump half our body weight of clothing each year into landfill – globally.  Many of us will donate to charity or be under the impression that our cast offs will end up in an environmentally friendly recycling process. And that these recycled textiles will be made into blankets …for the homeless. All the feels right?

However, less than 1% of all dumped clothing will end up in these ‘recycled’ textiles. That means there is a LOT that will NOT be repurposed. 

We’ve shared some stats on Instagram – Australia is second to USA as far as textile waste per capita.

3rd world countries, or ‘the poor’ don’t want old, reject clothing.  They want quality that will last, not poor quality stuff – even if it’s free. 

The good news is that it’s now 2019, and consumers are demanding change from retailers. Demanding change that will improve their impact on the environment as a result of their manufacturing principles, so that as consumers, we now have choices. Clothing brands (like Zara) are now looking into how they can save further drain on the planet’s dwindling resources by working with recycled fibres, and by using processes that don’t contribute to harmful emissions or damage to the planet.  By 2025 – they aim to be using 100% sustainable materials. Local iconic brand, Country Road, have taken a few steps in this direction for a while now.

The industry shift to a more ‘sustainable’ way of producing clothing suggests hope for the climate change. However, is the recycling of fast fashion the answer to the fashion waste crisis?

You can read more about the decomposing of textiles as well as the pro’s and cons of recycling synthetic VS organic yarns in this article here and here.

What does the future for Australian Fashion hold?

I admit ,perhaps the following content is a little personal, because I’ve spent years working for Aussie fashion brands. I have many friends, mentors and industry peers who still do …

But, stay with me….

Australian Brands can’t compete on price in the same way global brands with worldwide distribution do.  The Australian brands, and retailers like Target, Big W and Myer are only Aus wide brands. They don’t have the same buying power, so will pay more for almost identical fashion items as brands like H&M and Zara. 

When we buy from Aussie brands and retailers – we’re supporting Australian families that rely on these Australian based company’s for work  – an income. We’re guaranteed quality – because Aussie quality control standards in garment production are some of the highest in the world. Plus, we’re potentially supporting growth in that business which will create jobs for even more Australians.

So before you start online shopping for that dress for your friends hens party – or visit your local Westfield to buy something for your mum’s birthday – perhaps you can consider some Aussie brands with high ethical standards to browse first?

Here are a few ECA certified suggestions : Nobody Denim, Ginger & Smart,  and in fact, a whole list here.

Image Via Business of Fashion / ZARA

Uniforms – how can they reduce the impact on the environment?

I hear “I love wearing a uniform – I don’t have to think in the morning AND I don’t have to wreck my own clothes” ALL. THE.TIME.

We know you will NEED to buy less clothes when you wear a uniform 5 days a week.  You will only need clothes for the weekend & a few special events.

Choosing quality and durability is SO important. Being informed about the pros and cons of your uniform choice, will help you decide what is going to be best as a long term solution for your team.

Training your team to prioritise the care of their uniforms is great, but as a Manager or Business owner – it is not  entirely your responsibility.

I consider it to be my priority and am always here to advise and answer questions. Also, it is up to the staff wearing the uniforms to take responsibility too (it’s also their planet!).

Wearing an apron , especially a bleach proof one if you’re a hair dresser – will also protect your uniforms and every day clothes so that they will last longer. 

Slow fashion – Circular fashion :

Circular Fashion Image via Harpers Bazaar

We’ve unpacked a lot here – phew.

Perhaps you would like to finish up reading over some key principles that enable circular fashion to be successful, and on a positive note, recognise that MANY retailers and manufacturers are already working towards change with climate-positive outcomes. Want more info? Here’s a summary from 

Plus, sharing your wardrobe with your friends, sisters and even strangers  – is a perfect way to maximise the wear for that garment. Renting garments for events is tipped to rise in the near future as well (great concept!).

What other choices are you making as a consumer to support the slow fashion movement?

Please let us know in the comments and share!

Slow fashion : The opposite to fast fashion – a movement that advocates for good quality, clean environment, and fairness for both consumers and producers. In this case – choosing quality over quantity as a means to reduce landfill.

Fast Fashion : will continue to contribute to landfill as long as there continues to be a demand for it.


Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.