CULTURE

Fashion and Sustainability: How Re-Wearing Clothes Can Help Save The Planet

In an age where sustainability and environmental concerns reign supreme, re-wearing your clothes is the only way forward—and yes, this includes those special outfits that you’ve only touched once.

By ADARSH SONI

Emmy-award winning comedian Tiffany Haddish wore a white halter-neck Alexander McQueen dress at a movie premiere back in 2017—a dress that she very famously kept repeating over and over again. From MTV movie awards to Saturday Night Live—the McQueen dress in question saw more flashlights than most garments do in their entire lifetimes. While it might sound fairly normal for everyday clothing, repeating occasion wear that is only meant for special events—not just once but five times—is an occurrence that is bound to grab both eyeballs and headlines.

But Haddish is not the only A-lister that is responsible for kickstarting the ‘re-wear movement’. Across the pond, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge is a repeat offender herself—having constantly re-worn couture garments throughout the years, while closer to home, URLife Managing Director Upasana Kamineni Konidela recently set a good example by re-wearing her own Mehendi outfit—one that she wore almost a decade ago—to her beloved sister Anushpala’s wedding festivities. The outfit was originally designed by esteemed couturier Anamika Khanna, who made some changes to the ensemble in an attempt to lend an air of freshness and modernity to the entire look. The reason behind this conscious decision? Encouraging sustainability of course. According to a report by the BBC, the clothing industry accounts for about 8-10 percent of global carbon emissions and nearly 20 percent of wastewater. And while the environmental impact of flying is now well known, the process of manufacturing your clothes sucks up more energy than both aviation and shipping combined.

The solution might appear convoluted due to throngs of organic clothing brands and ethical companies popping up—but it doesn’t have to be. Reducing your consumption is far more effective than buying eco-friendly clothing that will ultimately end up in a landfill. So if public figures—who are under constant scrutiny—can proudly re-wear decade old outfits, why can’t we do the same? If you decide to follow suit, you can:

 

Aid the minimisation of harmful greenhouse gases

No matter how eco-friendly your cotton sarees are—they are still going to end up polluting the planet once you decide to get rid of them. When people toss out clothes, they very often end up in densely packed landfills where they don’t get enough oxygen to biodegrade properly. Lack of oxygen leads to decomposition through anaerobic digestion—a process that involves microorganisms breaking down the organic matter while producing harmful gases like methane. Produced consistently and uncontrollably, methane escapes into the atmosphere, harming our planet. You might not realise it but even if you resist the urge to buy one garment, it can help the planet in the long run.

 

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Help conserve energy

Fast-fashion brands tend to gloss over this fact, but you must know that the process of producing clothes utilises a ridiculously large amount of energy. Every piece of clothing you’re wearing has gone through a complex manufacturing process that uses a high amount of electricity, water, and other energy sources. According to a report by Eco Watch, it takes around an average of 7000 litres of water, 1.5 kilowatts of energy and 100 grams of chemicals to produce a simple pair of jeans. These numbers are far too large to ignore.

 

Avoid unnecessary clutter

A lot of us have a bad habit of hoarding clothing items that we rarely put to use. And most people don’t have the luxury of unlimited wardrobe space, which means one thing—clutter is bound to occur. According to a Cornell University study from 2016, physical clutter leads to increased levels of cortisol, the stress hormone. This can lead to stress-eating, oversleeping and other unhealthy coping mechanisms. You can avoid this by donating the clothes that you don’t wear anymore, repurposing old clothes to fashion useful items like shopping-bags, and keeping your new purchases under check. Before buying anything, ask yourself—“Do I really need this?”

 

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Honour local artisans

When we mention the ‘re-wear movement’, we’re not only talking about your everyday jeans and tee-shirts but also those heavy sarees and lehengas that are collecting dust at the back of your closet. While we often complain about occasion-wear being a waste of money, did you ever think about the painstaking labour artisans put into creating those garments? When you decide to re-wear these special outfits, you’re not only getting the worth out of your money, but you’re also respecting someone’s hard work.

 

If you absolutely need to buy new clothes, we would suggest you explore your local markets instead of opting for fast-fashion brands. Or even better—get clothes hand-stitched by your neighborhood tailor. This is not just good for the environment, but also for the local economy—sustainable and ethical at the same time.

 

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