Consider how many items you actually wear in your closet. Now imagine that’s all you own. A capsule wardrobe is easier than you think. Your favorite pair of jeans can attest to how few clothes we actually need if we truly love the ones we have.
In the iconic words of Fashion Revolution, “If we want to see fashion become a force for good, we’re going to have to change the way we think about what we wear and why we wear it. We need to love our clothes more. We need to look at them as precious heirlooms and as trusted friends.”
Minimalist fashion means both less and more. Less items and more thought, more quality, more versatility. Minimalist fashion means sustainable and ethical fashion, and a focus on timeless designs made of materials designed to last.
If you’re not convinced why minimizing our wardrobes and maximizing sustainable garments matters, here’s what choosing a conscious capsule closet can achieve:
1. Decreasing Clothing Consumption
Fast fashion is what we call everything wrong with an industry that churns out 80 billion garments per year. Its name succinctly summarizes the intent: fast-changing styles, garments made for landfill, and fast money.
Refusing to play the fast fashion game means opting out of the more more more model by buying fewer things you intend to wear for longer. Rather than buying 80 pounds of clothes per year (like the average North American), try to buy 8!
The most sustainable choice is to simply not buy anything. Though, apart from buying used or renting, we sometimes just need something new, even if it’s in effort of curating that simple, well-made wardrobe. Even if you're still buying, you’re buying from good brands that build their clothing to last beyond next week’s blow out sale, you’re still taking steps to reduce how much you need to buy and how often.
Minimalism doesn’t necessarily mean never buying anything; it means buying intentionally and thoughtfully on a less frequent basis. For fashion, minimalism has the power to stop fast fashion in its tracks by telling the industry that we want to slow down and really enjoy our new favorite t-shirt.
2. Preventing Human Rights Violations
Sustainable fashion intrinsically means ethical fashion. You can’t have one without the other. Sustainability itself rests on three pillars: environmental, social, and economic. Amid feverish debates about climate change and ocean plastic amassing into continent-sized patches, it’s easy for the first to overshadow the others. However, if we truly hope to live and dress sustainably, we need to pay equal mind to all three interconnected components.
For that reason, we should support responsible fashion companies to fight for the human rights of the 150 million people working in connection with the fashion industry.
Many don’t even receive a living wage. In exchange, they get to endure hazardous workplace conditions rife with chemical exposure, poor ventilation, and even unstable facilities.
It goes even deeper: Garment workers all over the world face abuse, forced overtime (without extra pay), gender discrimination, child labor, and even human trafficking.
Which is why the more transparent a brand is about a garment’s lifespan, seed to shelf, the smaller that risk becomes.Transparency breeds traceability and accountability.
Keeping a supply chain localized is another way to keep ethical tabs. The Classic T-Shirt Company, for example, sources and manufactures entirely in the USA, which also enforces strict labor and wage laws.
3. Eliminating Unsustainable Farming Practices
When we choose crops grown with an abundance of pesticides and fertilizers (ahem, traditional cotton), we’re choosing to perpetuate the continual damage to the world's precious biodiversity, one of the most critical planetary boundaries we simply cannot afford to cross.
Along with all those chemicals that are killing our insects and pollinators, cotton production causes 220 tons of CO2 emissions every year.
So let’s ensure any of the cotton garments we own are made with organic cotton (like The Classic T-Shirt Company’s 100% GOTS-certified eco friendly t-shirt) which prevents much environmental damage before the fabric even gets to the factory.
4. Less Chemical and Water Pollution
Do you know what the second dirtiest industry in the world is? Hint: It’s not oil or coal (that’s #1). It’s fashion, and it accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions.
One branch of its negative impact is chemical use. Toxic chemicals (like lead and formaldehyde) are EVERYWHERE in fashion, from dyes to plasticizers used to turn plastic into workable material. About 17 teaspoons of them are in the cotton t-shirt you’re wearing (unless it’s a Classic T-Shirt, anyway).
All that spells not only harmful exposure to millions of farmers, workers, and wearers, but astronomical amounts of chemical runoff into waterways. It’s not enough that inorganic farming and fashion production consumes trillions of liters of water annually; it needs to poison what’s left, too.
Organic natural fibers are a better alternative, with no chemical pollution AND no microplastic pollution from every time wearers wash synthetic garb.
5. Solving the Textile Waste Problem
Remember, “sustainable living aims to achieve an environmental equilibrium. [...] In other words, return to the earth whatever you take from it.” That pretty much immediately disqualifies a huge percentage (64%, to be precise) of synthetic fiber petroleum-based clothing out there.
But wait, can’t we donate or recycle synthetic clothing? In theory, yes, but in reality, textiles have the worst recycling rate of all materials. Only 15% of Americans donate clothes and 20% of that gets resold. That’s just textile waste on the consumer side, not even accounting for the production side wasted offcuts, trimmings, and unsold “deadstock”.
Buying from companies that use pure natural, organic fabrics means not just no chemical waste, but no textile waste. Natural, non-chemical fibers can be safely composted right in your own backyard. So simple, yet such a huge step toward achieving that elusive zero waste circular economy we desperately need to implement.
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Minimalist Fashion
Again, fashion, as it exists today, is causing irreparable damage to the planet. We may not be able to reverse the damage, but through our actions we can certainly prevent any further harm.
As consumers, we hold the most powerful weapon when it comes to changing the fashion industry: the dollar. Each time we buy something as simple as a new t-shirt whether it’s a minimalist gift or something for yourself, we’re essentially casting a vote for the kind of fashion we want to see proliferated.
Let’s vote sparingly and sustainably and help put minimalist fashion in the magazines.
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