Why sustainability matters
The fashion industry is facing its biggest challenges to date. It’s one of the top five threats to the planet, there are ethical issues with the treatment of its workers and our consumption has spiralled out of control. Fashion as we know it is unsustainable.
The fashion industry
The issues are complex and deeply embedded in the very fabric of the industry. Unpicking the problems and rebuilding a more sustainable fashion world is not straightforward. Our insatiable demand for new clothes has driven production into overdrive resulting in serious environmental issues and unaccountable supply chains where appalling factory conditions and unethical treatment of workers goes unchallenged.
The necessary systemic changes have to come about through industry-wide collaborations and government legislation. Thankfully the progressive brands and sustainable fashion heroes like Stella McCartney and Livia Firth are spearheading the movement to bring about a bright new sustainable fashion world but there’s no quick fix.
And that’s where we come in – as consumers we all have a HUGE part to play too.
Let’s put this in perspective
We’re buying 80 billion items of new clothing every year, tossing a quarter of them into landfill and most of us only wear 20% of the clothes in our wardrobes. I mean….WHAAAAT?!
Our clothes, and the people who make them, deserve new lives and the planet deserves a second chance.
How we can make a difference
First up, do what you can. This isn’t about being purist or sacrificing things you love – fashion should be fun. Even a few changes in a your closet will make a big difference, so start small and enjoy the ride.
Secondly, we are not sacrificing style for sustainability. NO WAY. There are stylishly sustainable options out there and I’m going to help you find them.
So…here’s how to become a stylish fashion activist with a sustainable closet:
Convert your clothes
Obviously! You don’t have to buy new, there’ll be some gems in the back of your wardrobe that are just waiting for a conversion. Use this site as well as my Instagram and YouTube channel for ideas on how to convert your clothes. Find out more about conversion.
Buy what you love
Buying sustainably is about choosing consciously. Make sure you love what you buy and be sure you’d wear it more than 30 times. If you don’t love it, don’t buy it otherwise it’ll very probably sit unworn in your wardrobe before ending up in landfill.
Ask in store, send an email, make a phone call, look at their CSR report – find out who made the clothes you want to buy. Is their supply chain ethical? Do they take steps to limit their environmental damage? No company is perfect but are they on the journey?
Wash your clothes sustainably
Not the most glamorous of topics but it’s super-important and a few changes will make a big difference. Wash your clothes on a low wash, make sure it’s always a full load and, if you can, put on a filter to stop the tiny polyester micro-plastics from polluting our water systems.
Find sustainable designer and brands
There are plenty of stylish, sustainable designers and brands out there.
Recycle your clothes
Find your local textile recycling bins and use these instead of throwing away your clothes. Burying our clothes in landfill is not the answer. Did you know polyester takes 200 years to break down?
Visit vintage fairs
If you’re in the UK check The Vintage Network and social media for your local vintage fairs.
If you happen to be in London, the Clerkenwell Vintage Fairs are a must, I’ve had incredible finds there – trousers made out of a sleeping bag, a 19th century Chinese silk jacket, a Sherlock Holmes coat – it’s an absolute treasure trove. I also love Frock Me on the King’s Road and the fairs at the Hammersmith Town Hall every month.
Buy from vintage shops
If you’re looking for something special that no-one else will be wearing, go vintage all the way. Every town has their own designer vintage shop but my London favourite is Deborah Woolf, she’s super-knowledgable with a fabulously eclectic range in her bijou shop. And if you’re in New York head straight for New York Vintage. You’ll be in good company in these shops – it’s where the stylists and A listers go.
Trawl second-hand or thrift shops
Head for second hand shops in affluent areas, you can often snap up designer clothes that have hardly been worn. Don’t just look for clothes in your size, if you find something that’s too big, you can always convert it. I bought a Burberry kilt three sizes too big for me and, for £20, it now fits like a dream. It works the other way too – clothes that are too small can be made bigger. Did you know that most vintage clothes were made with large inside seams to allow for expansion? The generations behind us were full-on converters! Here are a few of my top tips on how to convert vintage.
Buy from second-hand websites
These are all a converters dream with incredible bargains if you’re prepared to rummage around:
Hardly Ever Worn It
The Next Closet
What Goes Around Comes Around
Clothing swap parties and events are huge in the US and they’re taking off here too. Even the V&A got on board with their ‘Green Champions’ all-staff clothes swapping event which was a raving success. Let’s do more of these.
Vintage kilo sales
This is where you pay for the clothes you’ve found by weight, rather than as individual pieces. Often linked to textiles recycling plants, kilo sales can be found in town halls and event spaces. My step-daughters are obsessed and travel all over the place picking up other people’s trash and turning it into their own personal treasure. Go online to find one near to you – they’re happening all over the place.
The power is in our hands
Awareness drives choice. And choice drives action. The power is in all our hands to bring about the fashion world we want that’s breathtaking inside AND out.
You need to know about…
Eco labels in clothes
Ellen MacArthur Foundation