Eco-friendly shopping in Singapore: Can you truly be fashionable yet sustainable?

Eco-friendly shopping in Singapore: Can you truly be fashionable yet sustainable?

Green scheme

Text: Ho Guo Xiong

Editor: Jolene Khor

Image: Instagram | @olivankara | @totiefor

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, sustainability has been one of the biggest buzzwords in fashion. Yet, the idea of being fashionable and sustainable seems paradoxical. The former calls for us to keep up with the current trends, which promotes continuous, conspicuous consumption, while the latter advocates for conscious and mindful purchasing. In light of this contradiction, we weigh in on the realities of our conundrum.

Yes, we can be sustainable

...starting with the plethora of eco-friendly fashion labels available, the number of which is only going to multiply. We have previously covered international labels in this category such as Greg Lauren, Tove & Libra, and the Instagram-famous Reformation. Closer to home, Singaporean names Qlothe, To Tie For, and OliveAnkara follow a green business model. And then there are the select few who take it a step further by leading the transparency movement, placing a microscope on their supply chain operations to prove their green credentials. Shoutout to Everlane and Asket.

Luxury giants have also responded to calls for sustainability by making moves to clean up their act. The Fashion Pact, for example, is a non-binding initiative signed only weeks ago by 32 of the biggest fashion companies in the world, including Ermenegildo Zegna, Stella McCartney, and Tapestry (parent company of Kate Spade and Coach) to tackle climate change and fashion’s environmental impact. LVMH and Kering too, have committed to their own green goals.

Instead of buying, renting fashion greatly reduces our carbon footprint. Companies such as Style Theory, Covetella, and Style Lease allow us to dabble in trends responsibly by renting dresses, bags, and more, while Vestiaire Collective, The Fifth Collection, and Carousell are but some our favourite platforms to get our hands on pre-loved and vintage items. Consumers should also consider upping their visits to cobblers and seamstresses to fix broken items and give them new life, as opposed to bidding them adieu at landfills. These avenues allow us to reuse products that have already been created, rather than replacing worn items.

No, we can't

...because fashion is business fundamentally sustained by consumption and our desire to own the next big, best thing. Fashion is a well-oiled machine that continually churns out new products each season. To increase profitability, brands tap on celebrities and influencers to nudge us to part ways with our monies. End-of-season sales, shopping events such as Singles’ Day and the upcoming Black Friday, along with online discounts and rebates are subsets of capitalist trappings which fuel the market.

And if we dig deeper, the idea of what is “fashionable” is too, tagged by consumerism. Every outfit Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian wears becomes a trend piece that is accompanied by a call to shop on Instagram. Heck, even we as members of the media are complicit too.

Eco-friendly shopping in Singapore: Can you truly be fashionable yet sustainable? (фото 1)

The premise of minimalism as a lifestyle choice — which is often seen as the antithesis to unnecessary consumption — is modelled by the act of streamlining, the purging of excesses that don't serve us or spark joy, before overhauling your wardrobe with nothing but the bare essentials. Then again, even our heroes can't escape the very doctrine they are famous for denouncing. Marie Kondo recently launched her online store stocked with the very items her book and Netflix show encourage people to part with. Many have expressed outrage on social media, calling Kondo out for hiding capitalist agendas under her green sleeves which ultimately hurt the environment she made money "protecting".

Lastly, from the growing of cotton (which demands heavy use of water and pesticides), to the production and shipping of the finished apparel to our shores, there is hardly a point along the supply chain of fashion we can truly call sustainable. It may be argued that upcycled fashion brands that use only deadstock fabrics still inflict a negative impact on the environment as they ultimately feed the system of consumption.

So what can we do?

At the recently concluded Boutiques Fair, we held a discussion on the topic of sustainability. One of the panellists, social impact strategist Laura Francois, discussed how sustainability has been wrongly framed as a destination, a covetable end goal. Francois argued that sustainability should be a never-ending journey where we (as individuals and corporations) continually strive to make our actions and thoughts greener.

In the same grain, being fashionable and sustainable is a possibility. At present, the most sustainable way we can live fashionably is to buy only that which we love and wear them for a long, long, long time. If they fall apart, seek solutions to repair them, not throw them away. Another solution is to shop vintage and consignment items. Do one better and save fashion from the trash at the likes of Salvation Army and Red Cross.

Sure, sustainability is a buzzword, so let’s make it buzz and buzz and buzz...