From online hauls to impulse next day deliveries, fast fashion is a hard habit to crack. It’s cheap, it’s easy but it’s also one of the most polluting industries in the world. You may carry a reusable coffee cup and have swapped plastic straws for metal but have you ever thought about the plastic AKA virgin polyester in your clothes or who actually made that £12.99 dress? According to WRAP, in the UK if each of us changed the way we shopped, wore and disposed of clothing we could each reduce our carbon and waste footprints by 10 to 20 per cent each. As individuals we can often feel powerless but a few small and consistent changes can often be a huge step in the right direction. From thrifting to repairing, here’s the export guide to building a more sustainable wardrobe…
Organisation Is Key
We might not all be able to have a walk-in wardrobe à la Carrie Bradshaw but we can make the most of what we’ve got. When it comes to truly embracing your existing clothing selection, wardrobe layout is key. By ensuring you know exactly what’s in your wardrobe you’ll be able to cull impulse buying habits and overconsumption. Anna Berkeley, a former buyer for Selfridges and Prada turned personal stylist and wardrobe expert says: “I always advise clients to make sure they can see all their clothes easily – you won’t wear what you can’t see. I suggest hanging special tops, all dresses, jackets, shirts, trousers and skirts. Fold T-shirts, jersey, knitwear and jeans. This is easiest if you use open shelving or shelves within a wardrobe, not up high as that won’t work! I like to sort into categories – smart trousers, suits, tailoring, special occasion tops and shirts. Then dresses and skirts.”
Danijela Coha AKA The Wardrobe Fairy who counts Rita Ora as a client also stresses the importance of hanging your clothes. She prefers to divide by category, colour and season which can help you see where your repeat buys are. “Go from dark to light colour-wise. Long sleeves, short sleeves and lastly sleeveless,” she says. When it comes to seasons, Anna suggests rotating clothes. “Don’t over stuff your wardrobe. You can pack away a selection of pieces, this is especially good if you have repeats and then swap over when you want to. This also focuses the mind on whether you really missed those items you put away.”
Rewear, Rewear, Rewear!
Who hasn’t stood in front of their wardrobe on a Monday morning and declared I have nothing to wear? Or panic bought a dress before a Saturday night out? With brands constantly pushing newness and trends, no wonder a recent survey found that 64 percent of people only wear an item once before throwing it away. This is having a serious impact on the environment with the UK alone sending 350,000 tons of still wearable clothing to a landfill every year. One of the easiest ways in playing a part in stopping this is to become an outfit repeater. It can seem a little daunting but Vanish has teamed up with the British Fashion Council to create #GenerationRewear, a campaign that easily outlines the steps to take to adopt more sustainable clothing habits. They’ve created a documentary series highlighting the serious impact of our fashion choices and how designers, innovators and consumers can take practical steps to help clothes live longer. As the London based designer, Phoebe English explains in episode two,
“The most sustainable clothes are the clothes that you already have.”
Rewearing doesn’t mean you’re boring. If anything it forces you to be more creative with your style. How about dressing down an evening dress with your trusty denim jacket and chunky boots? Or elevating casual jeans with a workwear blazer. It’s all about pushing yourself to be more adventurous. If you’re stuck, book a wardrobe cleanse with Charlie Collins. The fashion expert who has worked with brands including Vestiaire Collective and William Vintage will help you “breathe new life into your style” by “cleansing, curating and having fun restyling older pieces.”
Make Do And Mend
When it comes to clothing damage, the throwaway culture of fast fashion encourages the easy option – just buy something new! However, longevity is key to ensuring your wardrobe is as sustainable as possible. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials that can teach you basic sewing skills or for more serious repairs try The Restory who tackle everything from moth holes to broken heels. For stains the Vanish Oxi Advance Gel can eliminate coffee, wine and sweat stains. You can even use it on delicate fabrics such as silk and wool. As for those white pieces that have turned dull and grey, pop them in the washing machine on an eco-cycle with the Vanish Miracle Whites Revival Serum and prepare to be dazzled. It can even help with that annoying pilling more precious pieces tend to get.
Thrifting Is Trending
If you do find your wardrobe is missing a key piece or can’t resist the urge for something new, try thrifting first. From charity shops to Depop, there’s a plethora of second-hand clothing and vintage options. For first timers it can be a little overwhelming so it’s often best to focus on categories rather than pieces. Candice Fragis who has worked as a Buying Director for brands including Net-a-Porter and FarFetch says:
“I often focus on accessories as they usually stand the test of time and are easier to wear. For me vintage shopping is really about finding something that would work in my existing wardrobe. It can’t look too dated, it needs to feel authentic of the time.”
Katty Patterson, a vintage expert whose online store Finds By Foxes specialises in curating premium pieces for a UK size 12 and above explains: “It’s sometimes hard to match your personal taste to what’s available but I never rule out any decade or style. Start by knowing your measurements inside out and that way you’ll not waste any previous time poring over pieces that won’t work for you. If a seller doesn’t list these, just ask.”
Most private sellers will ensure their pieces are cleaned before sending them out. However, for any musty odours or stains simply pop them in the washing machine with the Vanish Booster Gel for a total refresh.
Hiring Is Haute
With the invites piling up for rescheduled weddings spanning everywhere from local town halls to sun soaked locations, for many the “what should I wear” conundrum is at an all time high. This is where the garment rental market really shines. Look for services with the Eco-Age brandmark – a recognition of championing circularity through peer-to-peer renting and reducing over consumption. By Rotation who was awarded the badge in 2019 features over 90,000 users and has had a 850 per cent increase in bookings since the beginning of this year. With fans including Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan its founder Eshita Kabra-Davies says: “Using By Rotation is a no-brainer now event season is in full swing. We love seeing rotators from all over the country renting their outfits and experimenting with new styles. Instead of whim-filled trips to the high-street, you can rent luxury designer pieces, even couture, for a fraction of the retail price.”
Be A Savvy Shopping
If you do want to buy something new, read the clothing label carefully. Jemma Finch, founder and CEO of Stories Behind Things, a storytelling platform exploring sustainability, climate and consumption explains linen, hemp and bamboo are the best materials to look for. “These are all less planetary intensive as they use less water, energy, pesticides and fertilisers to produce. Particular certifications I look out for are from the Soil Association on organic products to ensure harmful chemicals have not been used.”
Before you hit up your favorite stores, check how they measure up on Good On You. This free app rates brands on everything from waste management to microfibre pollution and supply chains. Its scale from “Avoid” to “Great” can help you make better informed choices.
Curate Your Feed
Have an Instagram cull and unfollow any brands that promote shopping habits or ethics that you don’t want to be part of. Instead, fill your feed with positive influencers. Hannah Rochell, an avid re-wearer after giving up clothes shopping for a year, shares informative tips such as “5 Ways To Find Your Personal Style.” Emma Slade Edmondson’s IGTV series “Come Second Hand Shopping With Me” is full of savvy sartorial inspiration whilst Venetia La Manna’s is all about mindful consumption whilst still having fun with fashion.
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