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New “Sustainable Style Guide for Everyone” provides comprehensive starting point for more conscious fashion consumption

By Simone Preuss


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Images from the Sustainable Style Guide for Everyone. Credits: Black Pearl

Cultural sustainability organisation Black Pearl has published a sustainable style guide today that is meant for anyone who wears clothes, across age, race, gender, ability, geography, socioeconomics, values and beliefs. The “Sustainable Style Guide For Everyone” aims to provide sustainable fashion solutions for any wardrobe, from the every day to special occasions and even red carpet events.

According to Black Pearl, “cultural sustainability refers to the preservation and enrichment of diverse cultural aspects within a society or social group, ensuring their continuity and thriving existence alongside the pursuit of sustainability goals. It recognises culture not just as art and literature but also as lifestyles, values, traditions, and beliefs that define a community.”

“The Sustainable Style Guide For Everyone offers us an opportunity to refresh our conversation about sustainable fashion, highlighting that it is not about sacrificing style but instead about enhancing it through deeper meaning. Style is a canvas where we can paint our identities, creativity, passions and values,” explains Black Pearl founder Samata Pattinson.

“We believe that a shortfall in knowledge deprives people of the opportunity to make sustainable decisions— decisions informed by truth. Informed choices and citizen conscientiousness trump everything,” states the Guide.

Chapter on “Representation through Faith”. Credits: Black Pearl

To provide that knowledge, the Guide considers six questions:

  • Who is making our clothes and under what circumstances?
  • How are they being made?
  • Where are they being made?
  • What is being used to make them?
  • Where do our clothes go when we no longer want or use them?
  • What can we—as individuals—do to dress more sustainably?

“Access to resources like the ‘Sustainable Style Guide for Everyone’ is crucial for a clear understanding of sustainable fashion. It opens up opportunities for more people to feel seen and reflected within and outside the industry, fostering a better and more inclusive environment for everyone involved,” comments Andrew Morgan, director of the 2015 documentary “The True Cost”.

More knowledge = more sustainable choices

The Guide also points to uncomfortable truths that the fashion industry should consider before making more clothes and consumers before buying them. For example, that the global garment production causes 20 percent of global clean water pollution (according to a European Parliament infographic).

In addition, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that 98 million tonnes of non-renewable resources are consumed each year to produce garments. According to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center, around 80 percent of the people who make our clothes are women of colour.

The most mind-boggling fact is probably that there are currently enough garments in the world to clothe the next six generations (according to information on The Great British Sewing Bee show). Yet, every year, 80 billion new items of clothing are purchased (as published in the Environmental Health journal). Last but not least, some of the 3,000 chemicals used to make our clothes have been linked to harmful impacts on human health (Harper’s Bazaar 16th Oct 2020).

A Sustainable Style Guide For Everyone

“Sustainable fashion should educate citizens about the impact of their choices, empowering them to make conscious and ethical decisions that align with their identities. By supporting sustainable fashion, we can collectively drive positive change within the industry,” assures the Guide.

It aims to help consumers find brands, stores and organisations committed to sustainability and accessibility as well as to identify organisations committed to diversity, inclusivity, representation and fair labour standards. In addition, it presents sustainable textile and dye alternatives along with technologies and AI that help in reducing waste in the design processes themselves and improving transparency.

“To me, sustainable style is simply about rethinking your wardrobe and its relationship with the planet. Making creative and thoughtful choices with every outfit,” sums up celebrity wardrobe stylist Tara Swennen. “Resist the urge to impulse buy. By purchasing quality pieces that you intend to make last, you immediately become a more conscious shopper. Pick versatile pieces that can be styled in many ways so that you can get the most use out of them! The goal should be to wear them dozens and dozens of times, rather than only a handful.”

How to consume sustainably and reuse/rewear

The 141-page thick Sustainable Style Guide is divided into 22 chapters, which provide practical guidance, starting with how to buy thoughtfully, how to practice cultural appreciation and how to engage with culture through fashion. The chapter “Buy Thoughtfully” includes handy features to look for when clothes shopping, for example checking out how a garment is constructed, from its material composition and quality, how to care for it (to make it last) and how alteration friendly it is to the aftercare services provided and timeless styles to look for. The chapter also mentions fashion brand rating apps like Good on You, Delve and Renoon.

A young woman browsing in a second-hand store. Credits: Burst / Pexels

Six chapters are dedicated to vintage and second hand (including luxury consignment and pre-owned marketplaces); borrowing from friends and clothing libraries (including clothes swapping and resale apps and rental services and platforms); re-wearing, reimagining and repairing; repurposing and do-it-yourself options; fashion archives and donating and discarding responsibly (including global and local textile recycling resources).

“The pursuit of fashion archives encourages an element of education and reflection on fashion history and an appreciation for the dedication and work of designers. … Investing in fashion archives encourages a disengagement from the consumption mindset and fosters an ethos that values existing design and craft,” explains the Guide.

Values and standards

Further chapters focus on values in the sustainability journey, haute couture, special occasion and red carpet wear, textiles, details, colours and dyes, transparency, standards and certifications (for example Oeko-Tex, GOTS, Textile Exchange, Bluesign) as well as legislation and campaigns (Fashion Revolution, Detox Fashion, Who Made My Clothes and others).

Among the sustainability values to consider when shopping for clothes, the publication mentions frugality and discernment, if a brand is women-led or fosters diversity, inclusion, and representation or indigenous voices, has a climate focus, is cruelty free and respect and dignity for labour among others. It also refers to global organisations like Fashion for Good, the Slow Fashion Movement, the Global Fashion Exchange, the Ethical Fashion Initiative, the Clean Clothes Campaign, Fashion Revolution, Remake, the Fair Wear Foundation and more.

The chapter on textiles gives the pros and cons for a host of materials like cotton and hemp in terms of plant-based natural fibres; wool, cashmere and silk in terms of animal-based materials; synthetic fibres such as recycled polyester; manmade cellulosic fibres such as viscose/rayon, bamboo, lyocell and Cupro; as well as leather alternatives and textile innovations.

Last but not least, the chapter “How to get up to speed” mentions worthwhile visual resources like films, documentaries and TV shows, but also podcasts and books to add to the discussion.

Overall, the Sustainable Style Guide for Everyone keeps its promise and delivers useful information and guidance for everyone, be it fashionistas just jumping onto the sustainability band wagon or seasoned veterans in the sustainability journey. There is always more to know and consider and the Guide does a good job of touching on many aspects and providing individuals a good basis to start from, be it for their personal or professional choices.

“Sustainable fashion need not be a conversation full of self-righteous judgement and shaming. Instead, it can be one that acknowledges shortcomings in accessibility and transparency. It can be one that encourages, educates, and assists through practical advice and strategies. It can be one that invites participation, innovation, and input. It can be one that recognises the value of individual contributions alongside broad systemic and organisational changes. It can be one that celebrates the inherent creativity of an industry as it simultaneously pushes us to be accountable and socially responsible. There are ways to make better, fairer choices without having to compromise our style,” concludes the Guide.

Starting from today, 5th March 2024, the „Sustainable Style Guide for Everyone“ can be viewed and downloaded free of charge from the Black Pearl website.

Black Pearl
Sustainable Fashion