I have started about 3 different blog posts discussing the fast fashion industry and the controversies that have recently been in the press, namely the exploitation of factory workers at Boohoo.com and the hypocrisy of the new Missguided documentary on Channel 4.
I think it’s really important to discuss these issues but whenever I started writing a piece, it just turned into a rant about the fast fashion industry and why it’s a horrible monster. As much as I wanted to publish those rants, I realised that they wouldn’t do any good – I would just be adding my voice to the barrage of outcry about these awful exploitations. Instead, I have decided to channel my energy into putting some solutions out there. If you have had a change of mindset in the last couple of months (a pandemic is enough to slow anything down...) or have always wanted to shop more sustainably, but don’t really know where to start, I'm here to help. Here are my 5 top tips to think about when starting to shop sustainably – so grab a cuppa and settle in!
1. Remove temptation and stop impulse buying
Are you constantly tempted by emails dropping into your inbox, promising the latest style and a hefty discount? Unsubscribe! The easiest way to shop slower, is to remove some of the temptation to buy for the sake of buying. Have a clear out of that inbox, unsubscribe to any enticing emails and always ask yourself if you really need the thing you’re lusting over, or whether it will just get stuck in the back of your wardrobe. Not only will it stop you impulse buying, it will lower your carbon footprint, according to Science Focus, “in a year, an average person in the developed world adds 136kg of CO2 to their carbon footprint from the emails they send and receive”. That’s the equivalent of an extra 320km drive - crazy, right?!
2. Shop Second-hand
Shopping second-hand can be really overwhelming and feel a bit like a minefield, but it is a great way to shop more slowly, avoid fast-fashion brands and purchase high quality clothing without the price tag. As reported by the BBC, ‘continuing to wear a garment for just nine months longer could diminish its environmental impacts by 20-30%’, so, by purchasing a pre-loved garment you are actively extending its life and lowering its environmental impact.
I love shopping second-hand, whether via charity shops or eBay, and think it’s the easiest way to switch up your fashion habits. I am a big lover of eBay – and often find myself in a frantic bidding war over a lovely piece – as it’s easy to search for what you’re looking for. Charity shops are also a great place to dive in and find some gems, but they are a bit more work. A couple of my charity shop tips are to make sure you’re in the right mood to rifle through lots you don’t like to find something you love and to keep open mind – that patterned top may scare you instore but it’d look great with those jeans you’ve got waiting at home! Second-hand fashion really allows you to develop your own style and look, as well as help the planet.
3. Shop small, Shop slow
When you are looking to buy a new piece of clothing, shop made-to-order. As Emma Slade Edmondson says in a recent article for Elle, made-to-order fashion is ‘a far more ethical and sustainable approach because there is no overproduction, reducing the risk of excess unwanted stock going to landfill.'. Wild Strings, and many other independent fashion brands, offer a much slower approach to shopping by providing a made-to-order service, which encourages you to move away from that instant browse, buy, get model promoted by the wider fashion industry. Not only is there less unwanted stock, your piece will be high-quality and well made, meaning it will last longer and therefore be less likely to end up in landfill. Shopping from small, independent business shows support for this slower version of the industry and you’re also getting a beautiful garment, created specifically for you, which is ethically made with a (usually) transparent pricing structure.
4. Reuse. Repair. Recycle
If you pick only one of these tips to try out, let it be this one (or three…). Following the ‘Reuse. Repair. Recycle’ mantra will extend the lifecycle of the clothes you already own, as well as improve your shopping habits. Let’s break it down:
Reuse – reusing and re-wearing your clothes massively reduces their carbon footprint, therefore reducing yours. When shopping for new pieces, consider how many times you would wear it and how many outfits you could make with it – this will really help you adopt better shopping practices and curate a wardrobe you love.
Repair – a true love of mine. When your clothes get tired, or that bloomin’ red wine stain won’t come out, repair them. As Lily Fulop says for Refinery29, mending ‘sends a message that we care about reducing waste and minimising our environmental impact’. Mending is also truly mindful; taking care and repairing reminds us that our handiwork is valuable and creates a unique piece that no-one else has. If you’re unsure where to start, I wrote a blog on my favourite mending techniques and where to find other great resources.
Recycle – so you’ve had a wardrobe clear out and there’s a load of stuff you don’t wear any more. What now..? Time to recycle. It’s okay to get rid of clothes, but never just throw them in the bin. If they’re just not your style anymore, why not resell them on eBay or Depop and earn some extra pennies? This would be a great way to further extend the lifecycle of your clothes. If your clothes have had their day, drop them at a local council clothes bank where they can be recycled and made into new items, such as padding for chairs and car seats, cleaning cloths and industrial blankets.
5. Be Kind to yourself
Last but not least, be kind to yourself. Changing your shopping habits can take time and isn’t always easy – it is okay to get it wrong sometimes. If everyone in the world did sustainability in an imperfect way, we would be in a much better place. There is no need to feel guilty for that last fast fashion buy or clicking on that ‘new in’ email, just consider how to shop more slowly in the future and ask yourself the question; do I need this? What will I wear it with? Do I love it? Will I wear it at least 20 times? – if the answer to all is yes, then go right ahead!