Since the invention of the mechanical loom more than two centuries ago, fashion has often been a dirty business, exploiting humans and the Earth alike. Until the late 1970s, the U.S. produced 70% of the apparel that Americans purchased, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However, Americans buy five times as much clothing now as we did in 1980. And according to Business Insider, clothing production has roughly doubled in the last 20 years.
From the factory to the retail floor, fashion employs one out of six people on Earth, which makes it one of the most labor-intensive industries, according to the 2015 documentary The True Cost. This growth model needs to be addressed and shifted to a slower and smaller fashion system, towards prosperity without growth. The ever-shortening lifecycle of clothing is a significant factor in the ecological impact of the fashion industry. On average, each piece will be worn just seven times before ending up in the waste stream, according to a 2015 study by Barnado's, a British charity. Increasing the life span of a garment is one of the most effective means of slowing down the consumption of new clothing and reducing the environmental footprint.
Enter the 30 Wear Challenge
The 30 wear challenge is a commitment to wearing a new item of clothing at least 30 times. Livia Firth, the founder of EcoAge, launched this campaign in 2016. She asserts that you need to wear a piece of clothing 30 times to offset the carbon emissions created during its production.
It may not sound like a challenging goal to wear a garment 30 times. But, if you were to wear the same item of clothing once a week, it would take seven and a half months before you had achieved the 30 wear target. It is easier to do over the years, but then the quality of the item becomes crucial.
You don’t need to give up buying the clothes you love. You only need to invest wisely.
How can you determine if an item will pass the test?
Here are 5 questions to ask yourself before you buy.
1. Is it good quality?
Higher-quality clothes are likely to last longer, and you will likely treat them more carefully because they were more expensive. Slow fashion garments possess natural durability because they use high-quality textiles and construction methods that are strong and rarely need repair.
Look for garments made from natural and organic materials such as linen, hemp, bamboo, and cotton.
2. Does it fit me well?
Now that most of us are shopping for clothes online, finding the best fit can be tricky. Working out whether a 2D picture on a screen will fit your 3D body is a challenge. Knowing your exact measurements is the first step to finding the right fit. Grab a tape measure and a how-to video, then look for the brand’s size chart to see where you lie. And remember, it is just a number, not a judgment. You can also look for model stats. Many brands now offer information on the height and size the model is wearing.
Sometimes regular sizes will never be the right fit, but alterations are your friend.
3. What will I wear with it?
Building a capsule collection will help you figure out what to wear quickly and easily, avoiding decision fatigue. Purchasing decisions become easier because you are intimately familiar with your closet and know how an item will integrate into your style. It also encourages you to get creative by styling your wardrobe in new ways that mix and match. Plus, you will always feel like you have something great to put on because every single item hanging in your closet is something you love to wear.
4. What is the cost-per-wear ratio?
Purchasing higher-quality clothing will cost you more money, initially. But when you consider buying only one pair of jeans this year, that cost is absorbed. For example, if you buy The Coat for $640 and wear it 30 times, that averages out to about $21 per wear. BUT, you will meet the goal of 30 wears very quickly because you will want to wear your Coat every day. Analyze your purchases in this way to get a greater perspective on how an item fits your budget.
5. Does this brand support my values?
It is becoming increasingly important to know who is making our clothes, and accessibility is one of the upsides to online shopping. Find a handful of brands you love and start from there. Do a little investigative work. If it is difficult to find info on their production chain, chances are the brand is not as eco-conscious as they seem.
The sole artisan and owner of Raanu Handwoven, Bridgette, understands the importance of sustainable, ethically responsible practices. She also believes clothing should be beautiful, high-quality, versatile, and long-lasting. She always starts with natural fibers to create modern, machine washable heirlooms through the model of closed-loop production. Lastly, she pre-shrinks the cloth and assembles your garment using durable seams to ensure longevity.
Naturally, Raanu has a much smaller eco-footprint than nearly every other Slow Fashion brand out there. Since only 10% of our production relies on fossil fuel, our garments require fewer wears to offset their impact. But we are pretty sure that once you put one on, you'll lose count.