How To Buy A Sustainable Coat That Lasts

Wondering how to buy a sustainable coat for winter that will last season after season? Read on!

By Chere Di Boscio

Forget the LBD: a winter coat may well be the most important sartorial purchase you’ll ever make. Knowing how to buy a sustainable winter coat matters: on average, you’ll wear it five times a week in the season. You’ll keep it for an average of three years. And most vitally: no matter what you’ve got on underneath, it will be the first thing people see when you walk into cafes, bars, restaurants, parties and work.

A good winter coat is like a mattress: it’s one of those purchases you need to really carefully consider, because it should last for years and years. Not only that, but you should be able to get a lot of wear out of it. It should seamlessly take you to the office, to a party, and to Christmas drinks with friends.

Your winter coat will be subjected to not only winter weather (sleet, snow, rain) but also to various environments. That means sitting on the subway; walking through polluted streets, and being thrown over countless chairs and coat racks (and often ending up on the floor, accidentally). That coat needs to be sturdy!

And of course, for the eco-conscious consumer, you’ll want to choose a sustainable coat that won’t kill the planet. One that’s made from materials that are recycled or natural, and one that’s built to last.

In short, it’s important to properly know how to choose a sustainable coat for winter. And in order to do so, you need to keep some things in mind.

What To Consider When Buying A Winter Coat

gucci coat campaign 2014

1. Patience pays

This is something you will wear again and again. Flip through magazines (or scroll down!) and seek out ‘the One’ – the coat you truly love. It may take time, but won’t you just kick yourself if you buy something out of immediate need or frustration, then see ‘the One’ a few weeks later?

2. Make room for layers

As it gets colder, you will want to bulk up, be it through layers or thicker sweaters. Make sure the coat you choose won’t be straining at the buttons if you do. In fact, I usually go shopping wearing (or taking) a heavy sweater to ‘test’ how it will look under my (potential) winter coat.

3. Spend the money

As mentioned, a coat is a true investment piece. A really good one can literally be passed down through generations. One of the most gorgeous coats I’ve ever seen was a super-long Chanel wool military number owned by my friend Andrea, who got the coat from her mom. She looks amazing in it! Her mom must have spent a mint on it, but that coat has been going for at least 25 years now.

If you’re not lucky enough to inherit something, save up and spend money on a coat that could well become a heritage piece itself.

4. Know your body

Knowing your body and what looks good on it is an important factor in knowing how to buy a sustainable winter coat. Thick waisted? Forget a cinched, belted coat. Petite? A cocoon coat could consume you. Shorter than 5 feet tall? Full length military could make you look like you’re playing dress up. Just be aware of your body and what suits your size.

gucci coat campaign 2014

5. Get a coat with pockets!

Whether you’re buying an organic cotton trench or a thick wool coat, make sure you choose a coat with lots of pockets. Ideally, two outside, and possibly one on the inside. You will need these. For keys, for tissues, for phones and of course, for hands when you forget your gloves. A must-have.

6. Be prepared for wear

Yes, white coats are lovely. But how long can you keep that clean, really? Got a cat? Then maybe that full length black wool coat isn’t such a great idea. 100% wool? Remember this could easily pill. Coats are worn more than most items in your wardrobe and are exposed to all kinds of city pollution, table spills and seat disasters. So make sure it’s a garment you can easily keep clean, and that will withstand a lot of wear in heavy snows, winds and rain.

7. Nix the trends

Remember how last year, the pink cocoon coat was all the rage? How would you feel wearing that now? Choose a classic coat in navy, black or camel – these colours never go out of style, especially for outerwear. Experiment with styles, but keep in mind some are eternal. Every year a major designer will show a bomber, a pea coat or something rather military looking.

How to Buy A Sustainable Coat That Lasts

8. Know your fabrics

When thinking about how to buy a sustainable winter coat, fabric should be at the forefront of your mind. If you’re vegan, choose a sustainable coat for winter that’s made from recycled plastic bottles or organic cotton. Not a vegan? Go for alpaca, wool, or if you can afford it, cashmere.

You should also choose fabrics that are suitable for your region. If you’re, say, in northern Canada, you’ll want an ultra-warm puffa jacket using the latest high tech filler. But if you’re in northern California, a lighter poncho style coat in wool will do, for example.

9. Go eco-faux

By now, most of us understand that fur isn’t just not sustainable, it’s not ethical, either. But the same could be said for most faux fur coats made of petroleum based, synthetic fibres. These take centuries to biodegrade, and of course, the ecological footprint of extracting petroleum from the earth is enormous. But there is a solution! And that solution is eco faux fur. 

Luckily, there’s more and more of this being created. You can find faux fur made from everything from wool to denim. And if you find a coat made of recycled plastic bottles, go for it! You don’t need to worry about microparticle pollution. I mean, how often do you wash your coat, right? And such coats are a great way to keep plastic out of landfill and the oceans.

How To Buy A Sustainable Coat That Lasts

10. Keep an open mind

Most people wondering how to buy a sustainable coat for winter will obviously look to brands that are known as ‘sustainable’. But it’s not really necessary. Loads of ‘regular’ designers use pure alpaca, wool and cashmere in their winter designs. They may not be as eco-friendly as a brand that uses recycled wool, plastics or other such materials, but it’s a start. The idea is to find the right fit, colour, size, style and fabric – not the right brand.

11. Consider vintage

There’s no need to buy a new coat, especially with so many coats you can thrift. And the best part? Many of the ‘old’ styles are classic, or are coming back! Go for a chubby fake fur from the 70’s, a traditional trench silhouette or an oversized, loose number from the 80’s if you want to look modern in vintage.

12. Check the quality

Before you choose a sustainable coat for winter, check the quality. Are the buttons sewn on solidly? Does the coat come with extra buttons, just in case? How is the stitching? Are there any loose threads? Is it even? Are the hems tight, or is the stitching already coming loose?

How To Buy A Sustainable Coat That Lasts

13. Check the lining

Importantly, when considering how to buy a sustainable winter coat, you should check the lining. A good coat should be lined with a sturdy, thick fabric. The lining helps reduce friction between your day clothes and the coat, keeping both looking fresh. It also keeps you warmer. This is one of the most important points when you’re about to choose a sustainable coat for winter. Remember: well-made coat should last for years to come!

14. Do your research

Our last tip on how to buy a sustainable coat is this: research! Sustainability can be defined in many ways. Check out the website of the brand of any coat you might be interested in buying. Some brands we like are: Eco Alf, Maison Atia, Frank & Oak and Matt and Nat. All make great coats that are ethical and eco friendly in different ways. Read up on each to see which one best suits your standards. And don’t forget to read reviews to see what others thought about the coats!

Main and third image credit: Maison Atia All other images: Gucci

Do you have any other tips for how to buy a sustainable coat? Let us know in the comments!

Chere Di Boscio
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