There is concept of the 4 Rs of sustainability: reuse, rewear, repair, recycle are the paths to create a more sustainable fashion industry. When it comes to fashion's sustainability initiatives, we primarily read about whether the brand uses recycled materials or offers resale as part of a circularity effort. The idea of repairing and restyling what you already own so you can reuse and rewear the garments is the optimal route to shop more sustainably.
Reuse and Rewearing what we own — used to be a way of life and it must be again for fashion to ever be sustainable.
The greenest most ethically made garment isn't very green or sustainable if it's only been worn once. We never hear about what brands are doing to increase clothing durability, how they are planning to help customers increase the use of each item — yet reusing and rewearing is the most effective way to lower a garment's environmental footprint. This is not an opinion, but common sense supported by research (here's one of several studies that show this) and history — it's how the industry operated for decades.
The greenest, most ethically made garment in the world isn't very green if you only wear it once or twice. A truly greener approach would be making higher quality, longer-lasting garments, that can be reused and reworn through style inspiration and repair ideas. An idea supported by research and promoted by the EU in their New Consumer Agenda, and again — how consumers operated for decades.
We used to be better at reuse as a society because we had to be and we must be again. Clothing was more expensive and better made because it better reflected the true costs of production, so customers found creative ways to rewear a garment and to make them last. Clothing broadly had a lower carbon footprint because it was largely regionally made.
Shopping sustainably is often considered a luxury, but any garment can be more sustainable if you reuse and rewear it more. Buying for longevity is what's sustainable. To be a more sustainable shopper, you must understand how to buy for longevity.
Brands love to play buzzword bingo and the media plays along. The mainstream sustainability narrative suggests that a list of adjectives and certifications, which Changing Markets Foundation found broadly give brands a license to greenwash. Brands want to skip to the end by touting their use of recycled materials or resale schemes as evidence of their green credentials. These strategies are easier to communicate to the media and customers, and generally more profitable.
Sustainability is a mindset, not an adjective. It's not only about how something is designed and made, but how it's used, reused and for how long.
Every time you re-wear the same garment, you reduce its original impact. Here is one way to think about it visually. Note: the exact shape of this graph depends on the frequency of wear, so it's not meant to be precise, but gives a general idea.
A product's impact will never be zero — no matter what brands suggest. "Net-zero" or "carbon neutral" is more about creative math and good marketing, a blog post for another day.
Reuse, re-wearing and repurposing what you own is the ideal way to make any garment more sustainable. Senza Tempo focuses on quality construction, timeless designs and clean lines to facilitate maximum reuse.
If you buy a garment with the idea of longevity in mind, you'll naturally make better, more sustainable choices.
Design Choices and Longevity
Senza Tempo's focus on quality and timeless design is the only way to enable maximum reuse — not whether it has a list of adjectives and certifications attached to it.
We've written about sustainability myths and how you can't greenwash quality. We also regularly discuss and post about how timeless style icons like Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Grace Kelly, and Carolyn Bessette Kennedy inspire Senza Tempo's designs.
When it comes to maximizing the utility of any piece of clothing it ultimately comes down to this: Can a it pass the 10-year test?
· Will it be in style in 10 years?
· Can you wear it for 10 years straight?
· Will the garment last that long?
· If it's a basic that would be worn on a weekly basis and will often wear out faster no matter how well they are made, would you wear it and will it last for at least 3-5 years?
· Can it be repaired/upcycled/repurposed to help maximize its lifespan?
When it comes to design, think about why the boxy 60s, Chanel-style blazers like the Natalie endure? Proportion and timeless design. They aren't too fitted or too oversized. They are also incredibly versatile. This style can be paired with a pencil skirt, full A-line style skirt, or jeans. It's a truly timeless style, unlike the oversized blazers promoted as "fashionable" of late. No matter how sustainably these styles are made, in a few years when they are no longer "fashionable." These "green" garments will likely be collecting dust in the back of a closet or on resale sites instead of continuing to be re-worn, steadily reducing the impact of their initial environmental impact.
How we used to live
Reuse is how the world operated for years. I grew up with a grandmother who was a child of the Depression and WWII bride. She never
She had an entire drawer dedicated to used aluminum foil and plastic bags. She returned her glass soda bottles and milk was delivered in reusable glass bottles. Old clothing became rags for cleaning or rugs for the basement and spare rooms. Nothing was wasted. Today, everything is disposable because it's cheap or can be recycled.
Reuse isn't the easiest or cheapest way out. Reusing and rewearing a garment many times requires buying a better quality garment, which is often more expensive. Reuse can require creativity and finding new ways to style the same item. When you do get bored with an item, sometimes it can be revived so it can continue to be reused with a few simple alterations. For example, we salvaged this sample that was too small by removing the sleeves.
Figuring out how to repair general wear and tear, or accidental stains to extend the useful life of a garment through care is an essential part of operating more sustainably. It's why we have an entire page dedicated to washing and stain tips, and post regularly about these topics on social media. The WWII era book "Make Do and Mend" to help Britons repair and reuse their belongings due to shortages and rationing is a classic resource.
Finding ways to restyle, repair and revive our clothing is crucial to creating a more sustainable fashion industry and becoming a more sustainable shopper.
The best way to be a green shopper isn't about the adjectives that describe the garment or the brand, but about what you do with the garment. Every time a garment is recycled or even resold, you add to its initial carbon footprint. Yes, resale or recycling is better than putting it in a landfill. But it's not optimal from a carbon minimization standpoint.
No matter what you buy, using what you have as long as possible, as much as possible is the surest path to being green. Remember, sustainability is a mindset not an adjective.