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By Marina Sergeeva
Rana Plaza drew our attention to the human cost of fast fashion more than any other incident in human history. But there are loads of other reasons that even the keenest fashionistas are aiming for a more sustainable wardrobe: we’re increasingly aware of the environmental cost, and the social stigma of coming across as a greedy, needy twat when you display a boxfresh new look every week or so.
It’s pretty incredible to learn how damaging the fashion industry really is. You’d never think that it impacts trees, but it actually accounts for 70 million trees logged every year, and is the second biggest polluter of freshwater resources in the world (after agriculture).
Still, you may be wondering: ‘how can my fashion choices make a difference?’ After all, it’s pretty confusing out there. Some say ‘eco collections‘ by the likes of H&M and Mango are the way to go, whilst others will tell you vegan fashion by Stella McCartney and others are the best way forward. Here, we’ve come up with 6 Tips for a More Sustainable Wardrobe that we hope will help you make great fashion choices that benefit you, your bank account, and the planet.
1. Buy Less Crap
This is clearly the most obvious tip, but one that many ignore – at our peril. The apparel industry accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions, and fast fashion garments which are worn less than 5 times and kept for 35 days produce over 400% more carbon emissions per item per year than garments worn 50 times and kept for a full year, according to this article by Forbes. So in short, the less stuff you buy and the more often you wear it, the better it is for the planet.
It should go without saying, but it’s pretty shocking how many people still throw unwanted, yet totally wearable, clothes in the rubbish. Y Waste, an art installation by Redress Asia, pointed out the horrifying amount of clothing waste that gets dumped in Hong Kong: 360kg of discarded clothing. But guess what? That’s not per day, or per hour even – that amount gets thrown away on this little island every two minutes! Imagine how bad the situation in America must be!
The only solution is to buy better. That means clothes that aren’t too trendy (so they can be worn season after season); that fit well; that were bought consciously and thoughtfully (as opposed to on impulse or due to peer pressure) and that were really, really needed, not just coveted. I mean, think about it: how much crap clothing do you have sitting in your wardrobe because you don’t actually like it that much, or you’re hoping to fit into it again ‘one day’ or because your friend pressured you into buying it? Just say NO. Wouldn’t you rather have that money to spend on something else?
2. Make More Informed Choices
By ‘buying better’ you’re also ‘choosing better’ – making a decision to purchase a better-quality product; that means one whose production chain considers the human and ecological cost of every step along the way, from field to consumer.
People Tree, for example, are proud pioneers of ethical and sustainable, high quality fashion that uses environmentally friendly materials in their production (many of which they grow themselves), sources local recycled products; pays their workers fairly, and even does their shipping by sea (as opposed to air). Clearly, they’ve got this sustainable fashion thing down to a T.
Not sure which other brands are like that? A good source of information (besides Eluxe, of course!) is Ethicaloo. Check them out here. But as a general guideline? Anything made of plastic fabrics like rayon, acrylic or polyester that you’re buying at Forever 21 or Topshop is seriously not a good idea.
3. Fix, Don’t Nix
Once upon a time, people knew how to mend clothing properly. They could sew on buttons, darn holes and even repair heels with few issues. For those less apt with the needle, there were tailors and cobblers on every city corner. It would have been unthinkable to toss out a perfectly good sweater because a moth made a little lunch out of part of the sleeve. Little fixes to things like holes, snapped straps, worn heels, and sweater bobbles are all still easy enough to do yourself; if not, just pay someone else to do it for you. Though if you’re up for the challenge, take some tips on board from DIY Joy’s 31 DIY Hacks For Fixing Ruined Clothes– you are bound to find something that will aid your wardrobe malfunctions and quench your shopping desires.
4. Buy Pre-Loved Whenever Possible
As suggested earlier, vintage or pre-owned clothing is the other alternative for shopaholics. Online vintage stores are on the up now, and most will deliver anywhere in the world. There are plenty of online shops to browse, so even if there are no consignment, charity or vintage shops in your area, there’s no excuse. Whether it’s designer vintage that you’re after or purely more affordable clothing, this is a great way to restock your wardrobe when needed. And don’t forget to be a bit creative – if you find an item that’s ‘almost perfect’, there are plenty of ways to modernise it; all it takes is a bit of imagination! Cut too-short dresses into tops; chop off ugly sleeves to make a vest top; lengthen a mini hemline with lace…the possibilities are endless! Some brands, like Vintage STHLM, will make the changes for you, or click here for more DIY tips.
5. Rent, Don’t Buy
We’ve all done it: gone out and bought a super fancy evening gown that we spent a fortune on, but wore, oh, twice. Why bother when you can spend less money on something even more stunning that you probably couldn’t afford otherwise, and which gets returned for someone else to wear afterwards? Services like Rent the Runway, Bag Borrow Steal or Front Row London offer clients designer frocks for an average of five days’ use, after which you simply return the item. You’ll be given a variety of styles and sizes to try; just take what you like, rock it for the rental period and return, guilt free.
6. Wash Less
It sounds gross, but the fact is, you’re probably washing your clothes way more than you need to – and remember that washing items made of recycled plastic or petrol based fabrics like polyester leave microparticles of plastics in the water table, which we end up eating and drinking. We also tend to overwash fabrics like denim. In their garment care guide, denim experts Mr Black state that washing denim should only be done every 6 months. In fact, doing so more often is not only harmful to the environment, it could be harmful to the clothes themselves. Yes, seriously!
7. Avoid the worst of the worst
Once upon a time, it was thought that Zara, Primark and H&M were the (un)holy trinity of nasty, unethical fashion. But thanks to public pressure, these brands have largely cleaned up their acts, employing better labour practices, implementing clothing recycling schemes and even launching various eco-collections. But guess what? New ‘nasty fashion’ labels have risen to fill the fast fashion space, namely Missguided, Boohoo and Forever 21. When you’re not sure where to shop for a more sustainable wardrobe, sometimes it helps to know where not to shop. When it comes to these labels, we’d say: avoid at all costs!
Images: 1-Sydney Brown 2-NAE Vegan 3-Karen Ross 4-DIY Tailor 5-Buzzfeed 6-Front Row London