It’s no secret the fashion industry is one of most unsustainable, unethical industries on the planet.
We’ve known for years about human rights violations and poor treatment of workers by fast fashion brands online and on the high street, and with more documentaries (such as The True Cost) bringing this issue to the forefront of our minds once again, it’s definitely something that people are starting to take more notice of.
As well as the ethical issues surrounding the industry, fast fashion is unsustainable in terms of manufacturing processes AND the incredible amount of waste created by ‘throw away fashion’ each year. We like to think that the clothes we donate or give to textile banks end up being reused and worn by someone in a third world country or recycled into new items, but the reality is that most of it ends up either in landfill.
It’s a huge issue and I’m DEFINITELY not perfect in terms of my own shopping habits. I buy a lot less clothes than I used to (I’d say I have a fairly minimal wardrobe!) and I’ve been trying to buy more things second hand, but I still occasionally end up buying an item here or there from fast fashion brands – usually because of convenience.
However knowing more about the devastating effects the industry is having on the planet (and its inhabitants!) has made me more aware and the ‘eco-guilt’ *most of the time* kicks in to remind me that there are bigger issues than me not owning the right style playsuit.
Below are some of the 5 tips I’ve been following in my journey to building a more sustainable wardrobe, that will hopefully inspire you too!
1. REDUCE – Minimise Your Wardrobe
You can read 1001 articles around the internet about minimalism, reducing what you have, or creating a ‘capsule wardrobe’, but at the end of the day it’s simply about looking at what you have, creating a few core outfits that you LOVE for different situations, and decluttering so you can clearly find what you need every day. If your closet is a bomb site, it’s no wonder you keep thinking you need yet another white t-shirt, because all the ones you already have are hidden away and aren’t visible to you each morning!
2. RENEW – Take Better Care of What You Have
It’s so easy these days to see a rip or a stain on an item of clothing and think about binning it; clothes have become so cheap that it’s not a big deal to us anymore! But of course that’s not only extremely wasteful, it also encourages to buy more clothes as replacements. By learning some basic sewing skills (it takes a 5 minute video on YouTube if you’ve literally never picked up a needle and thread in your life!) and buying a couple of Stain Devil pens*, you could save on waste AND save money too.
3. RECYCLE – Find Brands that Recycle Materials
I love hearing about brands who have found innovative ways to recycle waste materials into something new, and Stutterheim is one of those brands that I think do a great job! These Swedish designed raincoats are made from recycled rubber (and lined with unwashed cotton), created to last a lifetime.
The shape and style of these raincoats is pretty iconic, so you can see that they haven’t sacrificed looks for sustainability. I love all the different colours they have available, and this super lightweight one is perfect for summer in Cornwall – where it’s too warm for a heavyweight raincoat but we need some coverage from the rain.
4. REUSE – Shop Second Hand
I challenged myself this year to only shop second hand (either in charity shops or on places like eBay or Depop), inspired by Elise’s article on The Financial Diet. So far I’ve done pretty well and ended up finding some bargains in my local charity shops and on Depop, but unfortunately I did end up buying some trousers new from a high street shop last month as I struggle to find trousers that fit me just right. I was annoyed that I’d let myself down but I’m determined to continue for the rest of the year!
It’s amazing what you can find on Depop for a great price, and it’s encouraged me to sell some of my old clothing on there as well. Definitely go check out my account if you’re interested!
5. REVIEW – Your Shopping Habits & Stores
I’ve personally found that the key to reducing the amount I buy and being more mindful about WHAT I buy is to understand my habits surrounding shopping. For example, I tend to find myself browsing places like ASOS when I’m bored or trying to procrastinate, or I end up just popping into high street shops if I’m out and about doing something else in town.
I’ve tried to overcome these bad habits by doing things like unsubscribing from mailing lists, blocking websites on my browser, paying for the minimum time possible in the car park do I can’t ‘wander’ mindlessly into shops while out running errands, and just generally being more aware of what I’m doing and stop myself before I carry on.
Notice that I haven’t included anything about ‘investing in higher price, higher quality items’. This is one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to discussions around fast fashion. Whilst yes of course I do advocate for finding brands that use recycled, sustainable materials and who purposefully source their materials ethically etc., I understand that I am privileged that I have access to these brands and items that are usually more expensive than high street fast fashion stores.
I do not think it is useful to tell people to ‘invest in quality’ when some people may not be able to do that financially, and also when society and the whole fashion industry is built around creating desire and a culture of trends and comparison. You can’t realistically change peoples’ mindsets overnight, especially if you’re asking them to spend more money on something they’re used to getting for dirt cheap.
It is more helpful to focus on educating people about the issues first and then giving smaller more achievable tips that can be followed regardless of a person’s financial situation.
/ Rant over.
Have you been trying to cut down on fast fashion? What’s been your biggest struggle?
*Stutterheim sent me this coat for the purpose of review but all thoughts are my own