We all know about recycling, we’re thinking more about where our food is coming from and we’re starting to realise just how big a problem food waste is, yet we still don’t seem to apply that same conscious attitude to our clothes. But it’s time that we did, and not just for the massively obvious environmental reasons, because sustainable fashion can actually be very good for your purse as well.
Let’s just get those environmental issues out of the way right now because it is important. We have enough shit damaging this planet without us throwing £3 Primark tops on landfills. Fashion is the second most polluting industry in the world – think how many resources, from chemicals to water to fuel, the fashion supply chain uses up before the clothes even make it into our wardrobes. And on top of all that, many of the people “employed” to make our clothes are doing so in unsafe conditions for literal pennies. Over 1000 people died when the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh collapsed four years ago, and it’s not the first time disasters like that have happened.
Being more sustainable with our clothes is better for our planet and the people on it, and it also happens to be easier than you might think.
Buy Eco And Conscious Brands
This is probably the most obvious and easiest way to start shopping sustainably, as all the hard work has been done for you during the production process. This is also the most expensive way to start shopping sustainably, although it’s important to shout out the fact that a lot of progress has been made to make this stuff more affordable – like being able to get eco clothes on the high street. H&M has a regular conscious collection that manages to be pocket-friendly and trend-led, adidas has created trainers made from recycled ocean waste, ASOS has a sustainable ‘Made in Kenya’ collection, the list goes on. And should you not find anything that tickles your fancy from such ranges, even just choosing basics made with organic cotton (which uses up a ton less water than it takes to produce conventional cotton) is a big step in the right direction.
Hit The Thrift Shop
Yes it’s time to go digging around those secondhand stores and show some love to pieces that have been pre-loved. Vintage shopping does require more effort and perseverance than you need on the high street but not only is it normally way cheaper, you’re guaranteed to find pieces that no-one else has, unlike the sell-out embroidered Zara dress that’s on every third girl come summer. And before you go moaning that vintage is only good if you’re into boho and wavy printed shirts, think of all the classic eighties sportswear you could nab instead of buying overpriced 2017 versions of the same thing.
How Many Times Will You Wear It?
As much as I personally love vintage, I do get that the idea of wearing someone else’s old clothes doesn’t get everyone else opening their purses. So if you don’t wanna give up the brands you love, take a few extra seconds whilst you hover your mouse over the buy now button. Whether it’s got a £££ price tag or it’s a bargain, if it’s a piece you genuinely will wear loads then it’s ok to purchase because you’ll be getting the maximum amount of usage out of it (and hopefully not buying something else to replace it in three weeks time). I’ve got Topshop tops that I’ve had since school, ain’t no shame here. It’s hard and we 100% are all guilty of it but try not to buy something just because it’s dirt cheap. It’s cheap for a reason, usually because it’s horrible. Don’t be seduced by reduced.
Sharing Is Caring
Another major way to stay sustainable is to make the most out of what you’ve already got, plus it saves you dollar too. If you’re lucky enough to live with someone who is the same dress/shoe size as you and is open to you raiding their wardrobe, you’ve basically got access to tons of new outfits free of charge. And if you’ve no intention of giving back that top that actually isn’t yours, you can always negotiate swapsies.
Fix Up, Look Sharp
If you don’t want to buy old clothes or wear someone else’s then you should focus on not throwing out the stuff you already own. Granted if the seams holding a whole garment together have totally disintegrated then you might have to get rid, but there are plenty of times you can do repair work on clothes. If your fave jeans get a hole that’s too big to pass off as an intentional rip, cut the legs off and you’ve got a pair of shorts. If you’ve got mad skills on the sewing machine you can do a lot more exotic jobs than that. And you can always pay someone to do the fixing for you – a tenner to patch something up is still cheaper than buying fresh.
Sell, Sell, Sell
Donating clothes to charity seems like a good idea – and it definitely beats the alternative of just binning them – but the items we donate can often get sent abroad, which disrupts the local textile economies. There are so many marketplaces to sell on now, from the old stalwart eBay to Depop to Shpock, so get in the game and make a bit of money, all in the knowledge that the pieces you’re selling are going where they are wanted. Plus you get a weird thrill every time something gets sold; it’s kind of addictive.
So there are multiple ways of consuming fashion in a sustainable way – some more effective than others but to quote a famous supermarket, every little helps - and they don’t all involve buying clothes made of hemp or recycled bin liners (no judgement if that’s your thang). Even if you don’t really care about ethical fashion and are more interested in buying clothes cheaply, you can still make a difference. Simply washing your clothes less often (apart from the times you create a red wine stain that looks like a gunshot wound) and on a lower temperature helps. Hell you can actually get some money back on the things you don’t even like anymore, and you can’t really argue with that.