environment2021/09/24

What Is Circular Fashion?

Photographs by Jackie Galleghan

While I was growing up, I was always inspired by the beauty and the feeling that fashion gave. I was taught to sew from by mother who used to stay home on a Friday night in the 1970s to make outfits to go out in on a Saturday night. 

Since graduating from the Fashion Design Studio in Sydney in 2011, I've seen first-hand that fashion is in a state of crisis. I have spent several years researching and studying extensively sustainable, circular and ethical practices, suppliers, partners and processes. It has been a dream of mine to have my own business since I can remember, and I knew if I started something it had to be purpose-driven. 

I had been sourcing and collecting dead-stock fabrics and came up with the idea for madre natura in 2017, while I was working full time. I couldn’t seem to work on the brand until a series of unfortunate events like losing my job, the covid pandemic and the loss of my late grandmother Mary Galleghan inspired me to launch madre natura in late 2020. 

Sustainable fashion can take so many forms nowadays, but there’s much more to the concept of sustainability than meets the eye. For example, a brand can use ethically sourced materials and yet not pay fair wages, just as a label might produce season-less collections, while still contributing to material waste. 

These days, there are many designers and brands who are fighting the good fight alongside ethical consumers to help unwind the grasp of the fast fashion industry. 

Never heard of circular fashion? I don’t blame you. Circular fashion is a considered, systemic approach to creating clothing that won’t ever end up in landfills. It’s achieved through repairing, recycling, and up-cycling each garment to ensure long wear.

How can we spot circular or sustainable fashion when shopping?

The first tip, and one of the most important, is looking for transparency. If a brand isn’t proud to share its practices, it’s a red flag that it isn’t doing things the right way.

Next, make sure you’re checking the composition of the garment on the label or in the product description. Look for materials like hemp, GOTS organic cotton and linen, recycled materials (e.g. cotton, merino, wool), TENCEL™ and ECONYL® regenerated nylon. 

This one can be tricky to uncover, but try to determine who made the garment and where the garment is made. If you can, look for fair and living wages. Most sustainable brands will say where the fabric was made. Look for regenerative, organic, and post-consumer fabrics.

The last big one to remember is price, and this one is simple. Craftsmanship, quality, sustainability, and ethically made clothes are not inexpensive. Remember when you’re looking at a higher price tag: fast fashion isn’t cheap - it's actually costing the planet’s human and natural resources that we can never get back.

Finally, don’t be afraid to ask your favourite designers all of the above. Remember, we are on this journey together for a positive future for the fashion industry. 

What can we do to prolong the lives of our clothes?

The best way to ensure longevity for your clothes is by loving your clothes and washing them less. The more you wash the quicker they wear out.

To avoid washing your clothes too much, air them inside out in sunlight for a day or two or spot clean if you find a stain. And, when you have to wash your clothes, hand wash them with a biodegradable natural washing liquid.  Definitely don’t tumble dry—it uses a huge amount of energy and damages your clothes. If you need to dry clean, only use green dry cleaners. 

Apart from washing, there are a number of ways to build and maintain a wardrobe that is sustainable. First, always mend and repair your clothes—don’t just throw something away. Only purchase timeless durable, quality clothing and don’t follow trends.

Finally, building a timeless, classic wardrobe that you can wear for years to come is one of the best ways to stop wastage.

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