Marie Claire's chief purpose and sustainability advisor, Sara Vaughan, lets us in on her secrets of how to dress to impress (the planet)
Everyone who knows me, knows that I simply LOVE clothes and fashion, but with it not being the most environmentally-friendly industry, it’s important to know how to practice sustainable fashion.
The undeniable and uncomfortable truth is that the fashion industry is one of the largest polluters of the planet after coal, oil & gas. It is also an industry rife with human rights abuse and in some cases, slave labour. Did you know for instance that about 1,800 gallons of water are needed to produce the cotton in a single pair of jeans or about 400 gallons to produce a single T-shirt? Sobering stuff indeed.
So here are my top tips for how to practice sustainable fashion and therefore enjoying fashion while minimising your impact on the planet:
1. Do the 30 wear challenge
The amazing Livia Firth gave me the very best advice about how to shop sustainably. She is the founder and creative director of Eco-age and founder of the Green Carpet Challenge. She is also the Executive Producer of the must-see film True Cost. She introduced me to the 30 Wear Challenge. Which is every time you shop, always ask yourself, will I wear this a minimum of 30 times. If it’s a no. Then just don’t buy it.
2. Join generation rent
Why buy one, when you can rent three, four, five…? According to Nina Marenzi and Amanda Johnston from The Sustainable Angle and organisers of the Future Fabric Expo, one of the best ways to look up to the minute without breaking the bank or the planet is to rent your clothes and accessories. No longer just about evening gowns or statement pieces you can now access a constantly rotating wardrobe with 1,000s of options for every eventuality at your fingertips and not have to worry about closet space or cleaning. Sadly US darling Rent the Runway is not yet in the UK (Please come!!). But there are some brilliant best of British dress rental alternatives such as GirlMeetsDress .
Hurr the peer rental site, gives you the opportunity to make money while renting your clothes and currently has a pop-up in Selfridges for the next six months. Another option is the aptly named Endless Wardrobe. There’s also Cocoon Club for designer handbags, Belles and Babes for maternity wear and if you are skiing in the French Alps this season you can even rent your skiwear with Ski-Chic which will deliver it to your chalet door.
3. Swap it up
Bored of your own wardrobe and want a change? Well why not overhaul it, by joining The Big Clothes Switch set up by friends Jemma Finch and Ella Grace Dent – a series of pop-up events where you take along pieces you no longer want and swap them for something you do.
4. Get thrifty
Another great way to shop sustainably is to go vintage. My recent great finds have all come from thrift stores or charity shops including a fabulous red skirt I literally discovered in the middle of a field in Australia that gets loads of compliments whenever I wear it. As they say, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure. Oxfam Boutiques in London, Windsor, Newton Mearns, Durham and Cardiff stock particularly good finds. Oxfam also has an online designer store which features everything from Jimmy Choo to Burberry.
I’ve also become a big fan of Resale sites (and they’re a great way to potentially recoup some money for the no longer loved items in your wardrobe). For big ticket luxury items check out The Real Real. Vestiare and Timpanys based in Berkshire which has a pop-up shop in Wimbledon Village until the end of March. For more accessible fashion check out Depop and Thredup which claims to be the world’s largest secondhand shopping destination.
There’s something about vintage fashion that is timelessly elegant and the UK has a plethora of vintage stores and online sites where you can track down the most incredible finds. William Vintage in Marylebone Street stocks the finest vintage in the world but also check out the likes of RESEE based in Paris but which ships worldwide, Rokit Vintage in London, Vintage to Vogue in Bath, Armstrongs Vintage in Edinburgh and Retro Rehab in Manchester.
5. Get a new lease of life
Did you know that half of all clothes are thrown away because they are stained? So, extend the life of your favourite clothes by arming yourself with a good stain remover. To shift stains, act quickly and use a specialist stain remover such as Vanish with its eco-friendly oxy-action rather than shoving the item in a general wash – as washing without a stain remover can actually set the stain. I have a habit of dropping all manner of things on my clothes and carry a mini stain remover with me at all times. So believe me, this is a tried and tested method.
Repair and mend your clothes, shoes and handbags. And if you are hopeless at needlework like me, find yourself a brilliant repair team close to home. One that can also tailor or mend your new finds. For more specialist jobs such as handbags check out The Handbag Clinic.
6. Buy biodegradable
When buying new, go for clothing & accessories that are designed with an end of life in mind such as Waes the cool new sneakers by Ed Temperley and Damian Quinn that are plastic-free and 100% biodegradable. Also Wolford’s Aurora Collection which is Crade to Cradle certified, The Very Good Bra Company which sells compostable underwear, Stella Mccartney who has won Cradle to Cradle Certified Gold level certification for its wool yarn and Joseph who have recently formed a partnership with Vestiare.
7. Be inspired
Finally make sure to enjoy the clothes you already have. After all as the great and late Gianni Versace said. “don’t make fashion own you, but you decide what you are, what you want to express by the way you dress and the way to live.”