hanging clothes rack priscilla du preez unsplash
Priscilla Du Preez Via Unsplash

Sustainable fashion and living in Singapore: 5 baby steps you can take today

VIVIAN YUEN | 2 October 2020


While I was, like many other Singaporeans, thrilled about the announcement of the approval of staycations, I’m also a proud homebody that would be perfectly comfortable spending my time lounging in my humble abode. I must confess, the past seven months of work-from-home have only reinforced my love for organisation and cleaning, and increased my awareness of the fashion revolution taking the world, and slowly, Singapore, by storm.


Yes, it’s sustainable fashion – and it’s no longer just a buzzword.

Flaunter via Unsplash

For a myriad of reasons from the showcase of fall/winter trends to fashion weeks in New York, London, Paris, and Milan, September has been dubbed the most important month for fashion – the January of fashion. However, with the various eco and social justice movements this year, it’s safe to say that one of the world’s most polluting industries is going to have to think further about its next steps.


A movement that stood out for me in particular was #SecondhandSeptember. Started by NGO Oxfam (Oxford Committee for Famine Relief), the campaign attempts to raise awareness of the environmental impact of fashion and help alleviate global poverty through their charity shops by encouraging consumers to shop only second hand for 30 days or more.

H&M - Garment Recycling Project

Prior to my knowledge of campaign, I had already spent hours online reading and watching others advocate “slow fashion” or “sustainable fashion”. And I must say – a lot of valid points, many backed up with extensive research and statistics, were put out. Not to be mistaken for minimalism, where the aim is to have only the essentials in your closet, slow fashion, as the name suggests, is a global response to fast fashion. Fast fashion has been getting a bad rep in the last decade due to its notorious impact of polluting our oceans, land and air and underpaying its garment factory workers.


In fact, Oxfam estimates that it would take a person 13 years to drink the amount of water used to create one t-shirt and a pair of jeans. Global greenhouse gas emissions from the apparel industry is expected to increase from 10% to 26% by 2050, according to findings by the United Nations. Here in Singapore, only 4% of 168,000 tonnes (that’s x1000 in kilograms) of textile waste generated in 2019 were recycled, with the rest either incinerated or dumped into the Semakau Landfill.


The impact of the fashion industry is unparalleled.

Sweater Stack with Flowers and Candle
Sarah Boudreau via Unsplash

With all this said, it doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of that sweater you’ve been eyeing. The key is thoughtfulness. Here are some methods I’ve picked up to radically transform mindless shopping habits:

  1. Change your mindset
    We’re talking about genuine, lasting change. That’s why going on a 30-day no-buy may be a good start, but we’ll have to go beyond that. Our actions start out as thoughts, and that’s why changing our mindsets about shopping is crucial.

    We all buy clothes for different reasons, but we have to dig deeper into our motivations for shopping. Whether it’s for stress relief or just to have something new for a special occasion, consider why you actually want it. Then, recall why you’re embarking on this journey in the first place.


  2. 24-hour rule
    One day, I overheard a group of friends saying how despite staying home more often, they’ve found themselves spend equally much – if not, more – due to the wonders of online shopping. It has become scarily easy to be taken in by the massive sales and end up with things that you don’t actually need in your cart.

    Something that has helped me (and my wallet) is leaving the product in my wish list for 24 hours. If I’m not thinking about that dress after the allotted time frame, it isn’t true love. If I’m in a physical store, I will literally pull myself away so I have the space to evaluate.Another handy tip: If you’re unable to incorporate that item into five outfits or more with your current wardrobe, you’re better off without it.


  3. Go cold turkey
    Out of sight, out of mind. I receive two newsletters telling me about the latest apparel drop every. single. day. On top of that, their ruthless retargeting habits mean a chaser is sent to remind you of the items you just browsed an hour ago. I do generally like the apparels so I haven’t unsubscribed yet, but I’ve severed ties with a good 70% of fashion brands I used to buy from.


  4. Get up to speed on recycling and/or donation programmes
    Knowledge is power. While it’s easy to bag all your clothes and send them off to your nearest Salvation Army, it would prove to be more worthwhile donating them to people you know will actually use them. Apps like OLIO and Scratchbac are just two of the many platforms that encourage a circular economy.

    For instance, OLIO allows you to list anything from food to non-food items for donation to other users within your neighbourhood. As it’s difficult to gauge the quality of an item through an app, the transactions are based fully on trust. When I listed my clothing items on the app, I received over 10 messages within the first hour and cleared what I had intended to donate within 2 weeks. The best thing of all? I didn’t need to travel further than my block, and the fact that they’re going to people who’ll love the items more than I did.

  5. Get your friends and family to do it with you
    You know how they say a habit is formed in 21 days? It’s true. My consistency in setting aside empty cereal boxes, toilet roll, tissue boxes, and even used envelopes for recycling has influenced my family to do the same. In fact, my dad would now, without fail, ask me if there’s anything I’d like to recycle before heading down to toss his milk carton into the green bin. Now, I just need to find a time to declutter his wardrobe with him – wish me luck!


Are you keen to be a part of the sustainable fashion and living community in Singapore?
Check out these social pages:
– @greensquare.sg
– @thegreecollective.sg
– @thefashionpulpit
– @a.tiny.warrior
– @shopbettr
– @fash_rev_sg
– @olio.app
– @scratchbac_sg


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