The world of fashion is seen as being glamorous. But all that glamour comes with a cost, as it is the second leading source of pollution in the world. That’s why Thomas Mo, the founder of Alberta Apparel, is challenging Canadians to shop more sustainably, especially this holiday season.
People tend to buy more items during the holiday season than any other time of year, so it is especially important to be made aware of the effect clothes shopping can have on the planet.
FashionUnited.com, a news site catering to fashion professionals, estimates that “in 2016 the value of the global fashion industry will be at north of $3 trillion or 2 percent of the world’s gross domestic product.”
But, according to an Ellen Macarthur Foundation report entitled A New Textiles Economy: Redesigning Fashion’s Future, “If the industry continues on its current path, by 2050, textiles production would use more than 25 per cent of the carbon budget. Moving away from today’s linear and wasteful textiles system is therefore crucial to keeping the current target of a 2°C average global warming limit within reach.”
In order to help raise awareness about this situation, Mo, a local sustainable fashion designer, organized a meetup up with Plastic Free YYC at a local Calgary pub Brewsters for concerned Calgarians.
“In the industry, mainly the last 23 years the amount of money people spend on clothing, the amount of pieces they have grown, the amount they throw out each year has grown,” says Mo. “In Canada on average each Canadian throws away 70-80 pounds of clothing a year.”
Mo believes this is mainly due to “mass consumerism.” Individuals see other people with new clothing, encouraging them to buy more, says ads encouraging the same thing “are everywhere.”
He believes that “it really depends on how you absorb the marketing that’s out there on billboards,
social media, radio and television.”
Manashri Shejwalkar, who assisted in organizing the fashion waste meetup, has experienced the effect of that marketing firsthand.
“When I’m scrolling on Instagram, they're already ahead, they start selling Christmas accessories the day after Halloween. While I was scrolling I kept saying to myself, I wish I had that sock or I wish I had those decorations, so this just tempts you to buy more stuff,” says Shejwalkar.
Mo has discovered a unique technique to limit waste that really works for him.
“I like to buy stuff that’s not seasonal like a t-shirt or a long sleeve top. Maybe it’s not trendy to some people, but in 10 years it will still look fashionable in other ways,” he says.
He believes if more people were to shop this way, there would be much less waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
Whenever consumers make a purchase, even if it just as simple as a pair of jeans and a T-shirt, Mo encourages them to consider “how the fabric is cut and sewn, what happens to the waste of that fabric, transportation methods, the dyes that are used, how chemical intensive they are and how long that garment lasts. If you can buy a jacket that lasts 10 years versus two years, the lifespan of the garment is going to keep it out of the landfill.”
Sophia Chang, who attended Mo’s talk, takes a similar approach to sustainable fashion.
“It’s all about spending your money on quality pieces that hold their value and that will last you a lifetime,” she says.
As a result, Chang enjoys shopping for designer pieces that will last for longer and won’t end up in the landfill because of their quality.
With that in mind, Mo started Alberta Apparel, his clothing company, four and a half years ago with the same quality over quantity perspective.
“We want people to buy stuff and for it to last a long time and use it a lot, thus the reason my clothing is more expensive,” Mo explains.
In Alberta Apparel, a men’s bamboo stretch polo t-shirt costs 70 dollars, compared to a polo t-shirt from Old Navy, that costs 22 dollars.
The reason sustainable clothing can be more expensive is because of the “organic cotton, fair trade certification and Global Organic Textile Standard. These are different certifications that we want more brands to be aware of and use. The use of less chemicals, fair trade; fair wages for the people, etc,” says Mo.
For this upcoming holiday season, Mo encouraged the audience — which included around 20 middle-aged individuals at the fashion waste meet up — to ask themselves these questions before holiday shopping:
What do you look for when buying new clothes?
How does decluttering your wardrobe help with your shopping choices?
What skills would you love to learn to fix your existing wardrobe?
These questions are designed to help consumers really think about what they are buying before they go to the mall or any other shopping venues.
“We want people to have that sentimental value to the clothing so they don’t treat it like a disposable item. They treat it like something that has a story … that can be passed onto someone else,” Mo explains.
- By Harsimran Chahal and Cassidy Mckay