The lack of sustainability in fashion is a massive issue and it’s high time we started to do something about it. The concept of sustainable fashion isn’t new, but like almost all movements, it’s been co-opted as just another marketing tool in the cogs of consumerism.
We can’t all afford to spend £150 on a pair of jeans, but what we can do is implement a few practical, easy steps into our shopping routines.
Know your stuff
One of the most important things when having a wardrobe is to know exactly what you own. Usually, we find ourselves doing a little extra shopping during times of boredom (this quarantine period has been a testament to that!) and when something catches our eye, into the basket it goes. Window shopping in itself isn’t a bad thing, but when it’s coupled with vague knowledge, it becomes very hard to keep track of what you need and what you don’t.
Knowing your stuff makes it easier to discipline ourselves into buying only what we need. If you already have a denim jacket, what’s the point in buying an almost identical addition to your wardrobe?
This doesn’t really sound sustainable, but bear with me. We’re in an age where online shopping has become increasingly popular and that shows no signs of changing and why would it? Online shopping is accessible, easy and removes all of that IRL employee-customer awkwardness.
The issue is, it can be damaging to the environment. Items may be produced abroad (often at the exploitation of vulnerable people) and even if they’re made domestically, they still need to be transported to warehouses etc., before they’re eventually shipped out to our homes. I’m not here to shame anyone (I’m still in the process of weaning myself off fast fashion) and it’s not for me to preach an ‘invest more, buy less’ lifestyle that isn’t accessible to everyone. What I do insist on is scheduling your purchases; if you know you need some ASOS shopping pronto, have a look at your wardrobe or skincare shelf for what you’ll be needing before you click checkout. If you’re going to be running out of your favourite hyaluronic acid soon (mine is this one from The Ordinary), do what needs to be done. The less times you have to order, the less times those vans will be pulling up and if we all did this, we’d make a small but significant impact.
This also ties into the previous tip in that where and when you can, take the option of picking up from your local store (and of course, be safe and wear a mask while you’re at it).
If you don’t feel like spending time browsing the stores for your goods, many online retailers with physical presences allow customers to check whether an item is in stock in a particular store.
Lockdown means we have more than enough time to be creative and many of us are learning new skills or starting a variety of side hustles. I’ve seen more small businesses cropping up in the last few months than I’ve ever seen and that is uh-mazing.
In the spirit of this innovativeness, you can also reinvent your own pieces with a variety of techniques like dyeing, bleaching, adding in hardware or deconstruction- the sky’s the limit when it comes to upcycling. If you’re unsure as to where to start, there are a variety of Instagram pages and YouTube tutorials to peruse.
Here’s one from the super cool TheNotoriousKia on YouTube!
Arrange your wardrobe in cycles
This is something that I only started doing a few years ago, and honestly, it’s been one of the best things I’ve done for my wardrobe. As we all know, there’re two fashion seasons in the year; Autumn/Winter (or Fall/Winter if you’re from across the pond) and Spring/Summer. So what I do is arrange my wardrobe according to these seasons. When the weather begins to cool down (usually around the September-October period), I bring out my turtlenecks, jeans, midi skirts and dresses to hang whereas my t-shirts and shorter skirts get folded and into my drawers. I always leave a couple of crop tops and bralettes out for layering purposes, but for the most part, my wardrobe gets a complete rehaul without any new buys.
Organising my wardrobe in this way forces me to be more creative with what I have and to get the most wear out of my clothes. It also brings some excitement for the changing seasons and allows me to fall in love with old pieces again and again.
Clothes swap (but be responsible)
My final piece of advice is to clothes-swap. Clothes-swapping is so cool because it’s like shopping, but free! There are plenty of places that hold clothes-swapping events so ask around in your local community or if you’re a student, check out your Union events page to see where your local events are being held.
If the prospect of going to an official clothes-swap do seems daunting, hold your own with a few friends and family. As they say, one man’s trash is another’s treasure!
Of course, it’s unrealistic to assume that our recycling and thrifting of jeans will singlehandedly save the planet, however what our individual efforts do is allow us to be more aware of what and how we’re buying. Furthermore, the more aware of the current situation we are, the more pressure we can apply on big corporations to do the right thing in how they produce and sell products which is where the real change will come.
Use these tips to make small but necessary changes in your lifestyle, but don’t forget to use your voice and stay on the necks of these companies!