Can new-season fashion really be as sustainable as pre-loved or vintage?

More and more conscious consumers are turning their attention to sustainable style. Grazia delves deeper into what we can do to really limit fashion waste…
Can new-season fashion really be as sustainable as pre-loved or vintage?

SATC Costume Designer Patricia Field - who created Carrie Bradshaw's seminal style - was an early adopter of vintage

It’s not new information that fashion is one of the most wasteful industries, nor is the fact that it’s polluting and exploitative – for example: it produces 10 per cent of all humanity’s carbon emissions, is the second-largest consumer of the world’s water supply, and less than 2 per cent of clothing workers globally earn a fair living wage. With this in mind, it makes sense that more of us are now turning our attention to more culturally conscious conversations, and looking to brands and designers that offer a sustainable stance on style.

RIOT came about from a personal realisation that we, and pretty much everyone we know, was to varying degrees hoarding luxury designer items,” explains Lara Akkari, Editorial & Marketing Director at RIOT, the pre-owned luxury fashion website. They set out to breathe new life into old products, and change the narrative around second hand from something frowned upon, to something that acknowledges it as a means to elevate your style in a sustainable manner.

Similarly, to RIOT, another online retailer in the region that focuses on sustainable living is Attuale. “We believe sustainability should be a lifestyle made up by responsible, consistent daily decisions,” states its founder, Giuditta Spezzapria. “Throughout our communication, we like to inspire conscious purchasing behaviours with the vision of slowing down fast consumerism and its environmental impact.” As well as offering affordable luxury from ethically minded global brands, Attuale also has a capsule collection called The Archive: “it is a collection of one-of-a-kind vintage pieces that still feel precious today and it aims to reinforce the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ belief that we all share here at Attuale.”

Both of these online UAE-based fashion retailers promote the notion of rehoming previously owned luxury, whether that’s Yves Saint Laurent earrings from the previous century at Attuale, or Saint Laurent T-shirts from past seasons at RIOT. By consuming in this way, we are personally working towards lowering the industry’s waste, even if it’s a small contribution.

When it comes to new-season style, many opt for fast fashion due to convenience and cost, although ethically and environmentally, this is not the best practice. The want to buy something shinny and new will never faulter, but it helps to be mindful and consume consciously, buying into brands that bode to make a difference. “Of course, supporting sustainable brands that are eco-friendly, who create limited stock, and utilise fair trade are admirable qualities that one should invest in whenever they can,” says Akkari. One should also look locally too. It’s important – now more than ever – to shop and support small businesses in your area whenever you can, “as these are all means of building conscientious, like minded communities that will enable change.” But, is one method of shopping more sustainable than the other?

Bembien, Jacinta James, and Dubai-based Lea the Label, are just three of the brands found on Attuale that have a sustainable, as well as seasonless stance on style. “I believe at the base of the sustainable movement, there must be knowledge,” states Spezzapria. “Learning about the processes businesses put into place is key to really understanding which brands to choose and support.” Both buying new-season from ethically minded brands and shopping vintage or pre-loved have merit – it’s the movement and message that’s most important here. Not one is more effective than the other.

“If we can encourage consumers to be more considered,” continues Akkari, “to understand the value of what they buy, to buy what they really love, and encourage them to sell what they no longer wear – then I think that that is an effective way of perpetuating circular fashion.”

At the end of the day, the most sustainable option is to wear what is already in your wardrobe. The second is to shop mindfully, and minimally. As Akkari puts it: “Re-wear, take care and repair. Oh, and re-sell.”

Photos: Supplied