Untangling The Jargon And Hype Around Sustainable Fashion

Sustainability calls for conscious consumption (of anything). Period. There is a significant element of creating healthier reserves for tomorrow in its protocols.

Whether it be a human body’s ecosystem or our planet, consumption alters the home environment. The good news is, healthy choices are affordable at every level. Paul Wade created an exercise regime doing time in his prison cell, no props. Every bodyweight lifter knows of (and many follow) his calisthenics bible Convict Conditioning.

So you see …

SUSTAINABLE FASHION IS NOT EXPENSIVE FASHION. It never was, it doesn’t have to be!

Sustainable is "causing, or made in a way that causes, little or no damage to the environment and therefore able to continue for a long time."

I pick this Cambridge Dictionary definition of “Sustainable” - it points to two vital attributes: “causes, little or no damage to the environment” and “able to continue for a long time”.

I have always deemed my flamboyant aunt’s rafia (plastic straw) handbag from the decade when melamine crockery was fashionable, to be environment-friendly (and deliciously retro!) I also believe that the two naturally dyed cotton pieces in my wardrobe have not been a sustainable buy for me, my wardrobe, and so, for the planet.

Here’s why:

I cannot afford the time to hand wash them separately every wash. The ash pink turned a sombre grey after its second wash (I had them dry-cleaned first obediently following their care labels). I don’t wear them anymore, my wardrobe has loaned space to them, and I may discard them after 3 months of buy. Not good. It is waste even if it is bio degradable. It is a waste of all logistics it employed to be made including earth, man and machine power.

I haven’t got my foot in my mouth when I claim Aunt Zoya’s once pop-colored plastic straw bag is a more sustainable option for our environment than my natural, onion-dyed, pure cotton oversized shirt and culottes. The non-bio degradable bag has survived 40 years so far and still has good life in it. The eco-happy clothes aged in three months.

Two points stick out here:

. Waste

. Bio-disposability

In our pursuit to address the latter, we blissfully (and purposely) ignore the primary concern of excessive production and its subsequent waste. Lack of education? I say, brands tell and sell it to us as so. Why shouldn’t they? How else will the fashion industry survive?

An impromptu thought: ever noticed there are more “recyclables” than “recycled”?

I sheepishly surmise, we are being hypocritical.


I cannot write this bold enough: SUSTAINABILITY IS TO ENABLE TO LIVE LONGER.

Today, there is little direct relationship between a longer surviving article of fashion and its price. The consumer and/or the brand decide the fate of a fashion piece. A reputable shoe brand, Woodlands, refused to repair my sneakers because I could not produce its physical purchase invoice of 6 years, despite my offer of compensation for their services. (Ideally, a higher-end brand such as theirs shouldn’t charge me.) Nonetheless, their refusal leaves me with two options: repair those blue beauties myself or dump them.

Q: What do you call the phenomenon of touting sustainable fashion and encouraging waste?

A: Seriously Confused Brand Ethics.

Which comes to the obvious supposition that Sustainability is the fashion industry’s promotional tool, a golden goose, if you please.

“It is fashionable to carry an eco-friendly carry bag,” says a department store. Jesus Christ!! What is fashionable about that paper bag?! Tell me every part of it, from print to handle is “made” of recycled stuff and non toxic dyes, and I’ll buy!

When a repaired, recycled, reused, up-cycled, borrowed fashion article, synthetic or otherwise, has lived longer than a discarded pure bred natural one; it has sustained for longer.

I am laying down three radical theories out of my questioning the glossed out image of sustainability:

1-Natural raw materials and processes are not always Eco-friendly.

Statistics claim that cotton is a very thirsty crop. It consumes 2,700 liters of water to produce the raw material required to make a cotton shirt. We consume approximately the same amount of drinking water in two and a half years (assuming we drink 3 liters of water a day). That is what we throw away when we garbage that cotton shirt!

If I stand by what the Collins dictionary says about eco-friendly - "that which is designed to have little or no damaging effect on the environment", I do not think my cotton shirt is very green.

If you notice, when we have marked cotton as eco-friendly we have only addressed its disposability.

2-Natural raw materials and processes are not always Sustainable.

You already know why I am ready to trash my three month old oversized cotton shirt and culottes …

3-Sustainable is always Eco-friendly.

… and why the 40 year old plastic handbag is good for the planet.

The three terms loosely tossed around: Sustainability, Eco-friendly, and Natural are not synonymous as they are generally made out to be.

The deepest and brightest shade of a green planet is made of natural raw materials and processes, is eco-friendly, and is sustainable. It is a bit much asking all three elements be put together, but not impossible.


Reasons why Sustainability is impractical, and why that is a misconception:

I do not have the time to fuss over special handling.

Sustainability and natural materials and processes are not the same thing. No special treatment needed for your polyester shirt. Just give it love.

Repairs cost money.

No counter arguments on that. If DIY repairs are not your thing (they are fun you know!), I do suggest donating your fashion to a shelter if the repair work is respectfully small. Let the shelter know of the tear, perhaps its residents would know how to fix it? I’ve met some seriously talented menders on Instagram. They teach the hows. Who knows, an idea may pop! If the repair is not mendable, repurpose it into rags. I do!

I need new fashion!

For every 2 purchases, give away one from your wardrobe. Share your fashion. I need a brand new wardrobe every music festival I attend. I borrow from brothers and sisters. Visit thrift stores. You might get lucky with some brilliant vintage finds.

Alright, perhaps you can afford a handsome wardrobe. Perhaps you wore the yellow mini to Sammy’s party this summer, and the photos are still up on her socials.

Get creative! Underplay that dress, turn up the accent elsewhere - a stole or big beads; a jacket perhaps? Tried Digital fashion? It can totally sort your virtual self.


Am I advocating Minimalism?

Absolutely not.

I am talking: Re-use, Re-purpose, Re-cycle, and Repair, before there is no other alternative than Remove.

I am requesting you to respect your purchases, find ways that they can live longer.

Sustainability is not an impractical, expensive choice. It is a choice you make happen however convenient for you. Everything else is an excuse.

A bit harsh this quote by fashion’s grande dame and activist Vivienne Westwood, but the mother of punk fashion was never known to sugar her words -

“The fight is no longer between the classes or between rich and poor but between the idiots and the eco-conscious.”

Think about it, let’s talk.


Take care! (of yourself and your wardrobe)

- Quanta x