Sustainable Fashion


Underlying all that we do at Mercado 32 is a commitment to fostering sustainability in the fashion industry and minimising textile waste by increasing the life cycle of clothing.  We absolutely love the glorious beast that is fashion, and live for the rush of finding the perfect piece that makes us feel like we can conquer the world. 

For all the joys fashion bring us, there is a very dark side. Looking at the whole industry – from seed, to factory, to shop, to landfill — it causes the second highest amount of pollution, after oil. 80 billion pieces of clothing are churned out every year – 400% more than 20 years ago. Both synthetic and natural fibre clothing are infused with chemicals that don’t wash out. Our skin continues to absorb them long after they’ve left the factory floor. They leach into groundwater once dumped in a landfill or released into the air when incinerated.

The fashion industry employs one out of six people on the planet. Many of these “employees” are hidden in a shadow system that intrinsically uses child and forced labour. Cotton — which is used for over half of textile production — is a highly water-intensive crop (it takes more than 20,000 litres of water to produce 1kg of cotton – i.e. a shirt and a pair of jeans). According to the World Wildlife Fund, it is slowly drying up the world and has been linked to the destruction of large-scale ecosystems in Asia and livelihoods worldwide.  Don’t even get us started on GMO and patented crops, toxic leather tanneries, or what really happens to all the clothes we donate (hint: they don’t get sold - they just flood and destroy other domestic textile industries)… ugh.

But, it doesn’t need to all be doom and gloom!

Consumers have so much power to push for change and accountability. Slowly but surely, we are making slow fashion sexy. Much like slow food, slow fashion is a broad concept addressing the whole cycle of fashion – from design, to production, to use and potential for reuse. It is the antithesis of the fast fashion that gives us a new $4 shirt every week at a high cost to the environment and communities. It is a movement that encourages consumers to pause and think about how and what they buy — how is the garment constructed? Can it last multiple washes? Can it be repaired? Who made it? Where did the raw materials come from?

Slow fashion encompasses sustainable fashion, which includes using more renewable and pesticide free materials (e.g., organic cotton, hemp) as well as recycling and upcyling items.

We spend so much time ensuring we have organic food and all-natural beauty products. We recognized that it makes a difference to our insides when we eat clean and natural products that don’t harm the environment. So, why not extend that same love to our whole body? After all, our skin is our largest organ. There is no point covering up your organic body lotion with toxic clothing.

Despite the myriad issues presented within the industry, we live in a society that rewards consumption and variety.  Instagram influencers are paid thousands to push a new trend daily, and there is a reason Inditex group (Zara et al), is one of the wealthiest companies in the world.  Most of us aren't minimalists and we realise society won't change overnight.  It has taken us over 100 years to get to this point of egalitarian mass consumption, so it will likely take us another 100 years to pare it back.  But that doesn't mean we can't do something to make a difference. 

Our store exists to bridge the gap between wanting to work those trends (floral printed pleats today, all black tomorrow) but also wanting to do better for the world.  We recognise that many of us want a new look for each event but don't want to spend much.  So rather than blow $50 at a fast fashion store with dubious production ethics for a look you will only wear once, come shop and swap with us and breathe new life into existing clothing.  Second hand does not mean second best - it means saving money and helping the planet.  It bridges the gap between what you can afford and what you want, allowing you to buy higher quality pieces for a fraction of retail.  It opens up a whole realm of unique possibilities, so you don't have to worry about having the same mini wrap dress as three other girls at the party.  

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If you'd like to learn more about the issues raised above, here are some of our favourite resources:

  • Fashion Revolution: Find out who made your clothes. Great instagram campaign #fashrev #whomademyclothes 

  • True Cost: A stunning documentary looking at all aspects of the fashion industry and the production costs  - both human and environmental - behind fast fashion. Available to download or watch online.  An absolute must watch film. 

  • Good On You: app for iPhone & Android that rates the ethics of fashion brands based on their impact on people, animals, & the environment.  The data is drawn from certification schemes and independent rating project.

  • Undress Runways: Hosting sustainable fashion runway shows, currently in Brisbane, Melbourne & Sydney.

  • Redress: Hong Kong-based NGO "with a mission to promote environmental sustainability in the fashion industry by reducing textile waste, pollution, water and energy consumption."  Their website contains a heap of information for both consumers and industry professionals.

  • Clean Clothes Campaign: Promoting workers rights in the garment industry. 

  • Ecouterre: an "online guide to the best ideas, innovations and merging trends in eco fashion, sustainable style, organic beauty and ethical apparel." 
  • Some Recommended Books:

    • Wardrobe Crisis by Clare Press - also def check out her amazing podcast 

    • Naked Fashion: The New Sustainable Fashion Revolution by Safia Minney

    • To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World? by Lucy Siegle

    • Why Fashion Matters by Frances Corner; Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline

    • The Sustainable Fashion Handbook by Sandy Black

    • Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion by Tansy E Hoskins

    • Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change by Kate Fletcher & Lynda Grose

    • ReFashioned: Cutting-Edge Clothing from Upcycled Materials by Sass Brown