The fashion industry has come under massive scrutiny over the last few years featuring discoveries of big brands incinerating their excess stock and images of landfills full of the western world’s unsold stock. Building a sustainable wardrobe can help ease some of the issues.
Unfortunately, a lot of fashion brands aren’t transparent with their processes and we do end up seeing a lot of “greenwashing” and misleading information aiming to capitalise on the modern green movement. This makes ethical purchase decisions for the average person very challenging.
Most of us are hoping to make better choices and look after the planet, which is a wonderful thing. But navigating sustainable fashion can feel very overwhelming and making good choices may seem expensive. However, sustainable fashion is about a shift in mindset, going against the grain of what most brands stand for.
We are excited to start this journey to a more sustainable lifestyle with you, we’re not eco snobs, we don’t preach and we believe that changes are made one at a time. Our team are consumers just like you, learning and expanding our knowledge around sustainable decisions. So how can you build a more sustainable wardrobe?
1. Buy Less and Better Quality
Buying less is the complete opposite of what fashion marketers have been aiming for over the last 100+ years. The fashion industry has been built to make us buy more, more often. Unfortunately, this approach has led us to this very dangerous place where we are now.
Most of the clothing end up either in landfill or is incinerated at mass, given that there are so many people in poverty who struggle to find their next meal and something warm to wear, this sounds completely ludicrous.
Another issue is that modern-day fast fashion is made to fall apart quite quickly, again encouraging us to buy more. On the other hand minimalist, sustainable, ethical and conscious fashion is built to last season after season.
I personally have quite a few dresses that I’ve been wearing for over 10 years, dresses that get me a compliment every time. This makes me giggle as my friends know by now that my reply will most likely be, “oh thanks, I’ve had this for 10 years”. Keeping your weight steady here does help as it also extends the shelf-life of your sustainable wardrobe, to be fair. And don’t feel like you have to throw things out if you’ve not worn them for a while, fashion trends are cyclical and will most likely come around again, so hold on to your quality pieces if they’re in good condition and fit you well.
2. Buy Mindfully
Most of us, myself included, at some point or another have treated ourselves to a bit of retail therapy, but making purchase decisions when you’re emotional isn’t the best idea.
Before buying something new use this test:
- Is this a good fit for your body shape?
- Can you mix and match it with other things in my wardrobe?
- Does buying this brand and product fit with your personal value system?
- Will I wear it 30 times or more, for the next 3+ years?
Making mindful purchase decisions allows you to evaluate the reasoning behind your purchase. It will help you waste less and save money in the long term. I have many friends, that I love dearly, who have items in their “not so minimalist wardrobe” with the labels still attached months after it’s been purchased!
Buying more sustainably means that the items you do purchase should be constructed with quality, last several years, fit you beautifully and make you feel like a million bucks every time you wear it.
3. Research the Companies and Brands you’re Buying From
It might sound daunting and time-consuming, but important purchases are worth researching. Knowing where your clothing comes from will help you understand:
- What the company is doing to reduce its environmental impact
- Whether those who made the product are treated fairly
- How transparent the company is about their production processes
- From which materials the products are made
- How far it will travel before it gets to you (closer is better of course)
4. Repair Where Possible
Taking the time to repair your favourite pieces, either yourself or by using a local seamstress, will save you countless hours of shopping for something new again and again. You will reduce waste, carbon emissions and you will be supporting a local business if you pay for someone to repair it for you.
5. Buy Vintage and Trade
Thrifting and trading are becoming more and more popular, there are some great sites such as Thrifted, Beyond Retro and local charity shops are great examples of where you can find incredible items for less. See our list of online thrift stores for a few ideas.
“The whole thing of clothes is insane. You can spend a dollar on a jacket in a thrift store. And you can spend a thousand dollars on a jacket in a shop. And if you saw those two jackets walking down the street, you probably wouldn’t know which was which.”Helen Mirren
6. Rent for Special Occasions
If you need a statement piece that you’re likely to only wear once, renting is a great solution. There is an increasing number of rental stores at a range of prices that will help you look great for every event, and your more sustainable & minimalist wardrobe won’t be clogged up with single wear items. It’s a win-win for everyone! Companies such as Hirestreet and Hire the Catwalk are options to consider
7. Buy Timeless Chic
Think timeless chic that fits your personality and body shape perfectly when you buy new pieces. The best ones are those that make you feel more confident, relaxed and happy.
Keeping up with the latest fashion trends really is exhausting and hard work, rather spend your precious time on the things that count, family, friends and experiences. The older you become, the more you’ll appreciate the timeless silhouettes in your go-to sustainable wardrobe that makes you feel incredible.
8. Wash Garments Sparingly
This might sound a little too “extreme eco-warrior”, but hear us out. Washing your clothing after every wear adds to environmental damage in a few ways:
- Using laundry detergent and its associated packaging adds to the environmental impact
- Washing most fabrics that contain things like acrylic, polyester and elastane sheds microplastics every time it’s washed. Studies have shown that garments can shed up to 1,900 fibres a wash which most likely will end up in the ocean where fish will ingest them, which in turn will end up on your plate (unless you’re veggie of course)
- Exessive washing and using a drier reduces the life of your carefully selected pieces
Whenever you’ve worn something inspect it and please smell it too, to see if it does need washing before putting it in the washbasket and use an eco-friendly and zero waste laundry detergent when you wash. Things like jeans can be worn many times before it needs a wash.
On the other hand, just sticking to natural fibres aren’t always a foolproof solution as the cotton production process for e.g. has its own issues. Fabrics like bamboo and hemp can be better in this case but usually contain a percentage of elastane to give it stretch as they don’t have the same stretch capability as synthetic fibres so washing only when needed.