I think we are all so much more aware than we used to be about the need to be sustainable if we are to protect our planet.
It’s no secret that the fashion industry is one of the world’s biggest polluters – it accounts for about 10% of global carbon emissions.
What’s more, a staggering 73% of clothes produced worldwide go to landfill.
So how can you develop a sustainable wardrobe?
Maximise Your Existing Wardrobe of Clothes
My clients are often amazed by the number of new outfits that I’m able to put together when I’m doing a Wardrobe Edit for them or creating Capsule Wardrobe(s). Things that they just hadn’t thought to put together themselves.
So take a look in your wardrobe and try:
* putting different combinations of items together. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of wearing the same top with the same skirt/trousers isn’t it? So mix it up a bit.
* wearing different colour combinations. If you always wear navy and red together, why not try red and dark grey, red and white, red and pink, red and purple, red and green etc. You can make some amazing colour combinations if you think outside of the box. Simply consult your Colour Fan if you’ve had a colour consultation and move the colour leaves to visually try the possible combinations.
* splitting up items that go together so that you can wear each piece separately. If you have a suit, for example, wear the jacket with items other than the skirt/trousers/dress that it was bought with.
* layering long sleeve tops under shorter sleeved tops/dresses (you can read more tips on layering here). You can have an ‘all seasons’ wardrobe very easily, meaning that you’ll be wearing your clothes for longer rather than rotating summer and winter wardrobes.
* playing with different accessories as these can really change an outfit too. Dig out your scarves, jewellery, belts, bags and shoes and add them into the mix.
* not saving things for ‘best’. Just enjoy your clothes and get the maximum wear out of them that you can. Wearing something that is ‘extra nice’ can really lift your mood and boost your self esteem, so don’t just leave them languishing in the back of your wardrobe awaiting a special occasion, wear them now!
* dying clothes to give them a new lease of life. If you’re fed up with a white cardigan that you hardly wear, dye it a colour that you know you’ll get lots more wear out of.
* altering your clothes to create new items. If you have a midi skirt, shorten it to become a shorter length. Alter old jeans to become shorts. Create a skirt from a dress. Add new details – buttons, embroidery etc. to give a new twist to something. Use the material from a top/dress/skirt to make a hair band or scarf. You can get really creative if you have the time and inclination and suddenly you have a whole new wardrobe!
Buy Second Hand Clothes
On average, each item that’s bought second hand rather than new saves approximately 4kg of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.
There are so many places where you can buy second hand clothes, from charity shops, to preloved shops, to second hand retaillers like Thrift+ and via the various online apps such as Vinted, Ebay, Depop etc.
Mike Berners-Lee, author of the carbon guide ‘How Bad are Bananas?’ says that ideally a garment should be worn until the end of its life. Buying second hand clothes and either keeping them or passing them onto others to wear, is a step in the right direction to achieving this.
Hold a Clothes Swap Party
This is such a fun idea. Simply get a group of friends together and hold a clothes swap party. You each bring a certain number of items and agree to swap them. Add some food and drink and you can have a fun evening whilst also shopping each others wardrobes, with no money exchanging hands!
There are more and more clothes rental options popping up now. There are dedicated rental companies like Hirestreet, Hurr Collective and MyWardrobeHQ to name just three, plus lots of high street brands also starting to offer a rental option, Baujken being one such example. Isabella West, owner of Hirestreet, suggests that rental provides a lower carbon footprint if you don’t intend to wear something more than 8 times. She believes that a good target would be to have one in five items within your wardrobe as rented and circular. It makes particularly good sense to rent something for special occasions, when you may otherwise end up buying something that then spends most of the time hanging unworn in your wardrobe.
Buy from Eco-friendly Retaillers
There are an ever increasing number of clothing brands that put the planet and people first and foremost within their clothing production processes. Brands like Baukjen, People Tree, Nomads, Thought Clothing, Beaumont Organic, E.L.V. Denim, Cossac to name a few.
A lot of high street brands are also developing ethical and environmentally friendly items across their clothing ranges. There’s an argument that this is simply ‘greenwashing’, an attempt to leverage the positive PR by appearing more ethically and environmentally friendly than their business really is, but I guess small steps in the right direction are better than no steps at all.
Some brands are offering to take your unwanted clothes and recycle them for you. Some are also tying up with companies like Thrift+ and offering discounts off future purchasese for clothes donated for onward recycling – Fat Face being one that I spotted recently.
So it is entirely possible to shop in a more sustainable and eco-friendly way.
Simply Reduce the Number of Clothes you Buy
In honesty, I love clothes! For me buying new clothes and creating new outfits is a real treat. However, I have become increasingly aware of the negative environmental impact that clothes production, and specifically fast fashion, is having on our planet and people. I have intentionally cut down on the number of clothes I am buying as a result. It doesn’t mean that I don’t buy any clothes any more, but it does mean that I approach it in a different manner, consciously thinking about how many times I’m going to wear something and whether I really need it. As I’ve always enjoyed shopping in charity shops and don’t mind in the slightest whether something is new or simply ‘new to me’, I’m really embracing second hand shopping.
I believe that we can all play our part in developing sustainable wardrobes. If you have other ideas or know of initiatives that I can add to my list above, do get in touch to let me know – firstname.lastname@example.org – as I’d love to hear from you.