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Sustainable Fashion

Sustainable fashion: why it's more important than ever to shop sustainably

When it comes to the fashion industry, sustainable shopping is key.

In 2017, around 300,000 tonnes of clothing were sent to landfill sites in the UK; a massive amount of waste which—if unable to biodegrade—will continue to build up over time.

This poses a huge risk to the environment, especially as the concept of 'fast fashion' is on the rise.

'Fast fashion' is a term used to describe inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends.

When people give in to fast fashion and buy inexpensive clothing pieces, they’re also giving into threatening the environment and the sustainability of the fashion industry itself. This is due to the fact that inexpensive clothing pieces are typically made from cheaper and weaker materials, therefore resulting in a lower life for clothing as the fabrics are more susceptible to wear.

This then creates an endless cycle, as more clothes are thrown away to become waste and then replaced with more items which also last a short while—which are then being replaced again and again.

Thankfully, many retailers are now becoming more aware of the risks which their manufacturing can pose to the environment, and are making efforts to improve the sustainability of their processes. This can be reflected in start-up brands too, such as Grace Beverley’s new sustainable activewear brand – TALA.

However, there are also additional steps which can be taken by individuals in society, in order to try and preserve the environment and maintain sustainable shopping.

I’ve highlighted three simple and easy changes which can be made to your shopping habits to make your wardrobe a more sustainable one:

1. Re-educate yourself

When buying new statement pieces, make a point to search for the brands' corporal social responsibility statements. These outline the different ways which the brand itself achieve sustainability, and what their aims are for the company and their environmental goals.

Remember: The less you’re paying for something, the higher the likelihood is that the people who manufacture the item are being paid an extremely small amount. 

Depending on how much information the brand has made available, these facts should help you to make wise decisions when choosing who to buy your clothes from. Of course, there will be times when you’ll purchase items from companies and brands which aren’t as sustainable as you may have liked, and that’s ok. However making small changes to your shopping habits can make a big difference long term, so research is key when sourcing out new brands to support.

Additionally, buying locally is another effective option to support sustainability in the industry. Not only does this support the locals who create the pieces, but also means that the manufacture/supply drain is reduced to an acceptable amount.

2. Invest more time into shopping vintage and second-hand

Instead of looking for all your clothes in high street stores or popular online websites, shopping for second-hand pieces in charity shops and vintage markets is an effective step which can be taken to increase the sustainability of your wardrobe.

Shopping second-hand means that clothes get a longer life before being turned to waste, and can be passed through various wardrobes to be worn and loved in new homes. Not only is this better for the environment, but it’s also better for you—the purchaser—as second-hand clothes are usually sold for much smaller prices whilst still in prime condition.

The same goes for sourcing vintage pieces, and an added bonus is the rarity of many vintage products. Instead of wearing clothes which many people have seen advertised online and on other people, your vintage finds will be almost unique to you—and are bound to get endless compliments!

However, shopping second hand and vintage doesn’t have to just be limited to visiting physical niche stores. Instead, the app Depop is an extremely effective way to find staple items, and also for you to sell on your old clothes to make a little bit of extra money for yourself. Plus, it’s extremely easy to filter through and find your favourite brands, as well as communicate with other sellers to come to mutual agreements on affordable prices. What more could you want?

3. Upcycle and repair your pre-existing wardrobe pieces

With new fashion being so easily accessible nowadays, it’s easy to be tempted to throw away old items the second they show a few signs of wear and tear. However, with just a fraction of the money you’d have spent on replacing them, you can easily repair them or upcycle them to look even better than before.

Upcycling is when you re-purpose an old discarded object or material to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.

Repairing and upcycling clothes can dramatically reduce the amount of waste you output into landfill sites each year, whilst also reducing the manufacturing and delivery emissions involved in ordering new clothes.

If you’re stuck on how to achieve an effective look, there are so many YouTube tutorials and blog posts available on how to successfully upcycle clothes. As well as upcycling, simply repairing small holes in seams can be an easy and cheap job—and most of the time the flaws are left barely noticeable.

If you want to reduce the number of clothes you’re buying and having to repair/upcycle in the future, then buying investment pieces is a good way to go. Despite being more expensive, buying investment pieces which you know you’ll get wear out of and be able to style in various different outfits can often result in being more cost-effective in the long run. Just one or two staple investment pieces can make valuable additions to your wardrobe, as well as your contribution to a more sustainable environment and industry.