A Sustainable Wardrobe: Where to start?

Often people approach me in a situation along the lines of “I want to act more consciously when thinking about what to wear – but where do I begin?! What advice would you give me?” It’s world environment day and probably about time I put pen to paper with a response to this.

As with many things, there is no single easy response, as a sustainable wardrobe covers many aspects, and honestly is something that’s not completely achievable right now. But I want to sing the praises of some pioneers and approaches which will make sure we get there and have a sustainable future for what’s in our wardrobes.

Slow down

Goes without saying, this whole movement has evolved from a slow approach and thinking, in contrast to the fast pace of trends we’ve been taught to buy into. Along my journey in sustainable fashion I’ve been through a period of slowing down my consumption completely.

This meant for a good year I didn’t bring anything new into my wardrobe. Nothing. Not even a plain t-shirt. It was a combination of ‘not feeling it’ and being overwhelmed by the number of things there were to consider.

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‘The long way’ Tee by KowTow Clothing

It can certainly be overwhelming to think about the vast range of impacts our clothing has on people and planet once you learn more. I channeled this in to looking through all the pieces I currently had in my wardrobe, remembering why I bought them, where I wore them and what I loved about them. I realised there were so many pieces I’d forgotten about, which I immediately got to work pairing with something newer in my wardrobe.

It’s crazy to think how long I lasted without needing to buy anything new, once I realised how revitalising it was to be creative with what I already had. Ultimately, I came to realise that fashion repeats itself. The pair of trousers I bought 10 years ago will fit with a new trend today and the pastel colour I loved in my teens is now being worn by Cara Delevigne on the Burberry catwalk, for example.

To this day I haven’t actually bought a pair of jeans in the past 3 years, I haven’t needed to, and there’s all sorts of tricks which play into this I’ll explain further down. I’m not saying let’s completely slow down forever, it was a useful period for me to go through. Important though is to….

Have fun

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Style Icon Iris Apfel – @iris.apfel instagram

It can easily seem like doom and gloom when you hear about all the milestones we have yet to achieve on the road to sustainable fashion. Though the reason I got engaged with fashion in the first place as a way to engage us with climate change, is because it’s an exciting, fun and challenging industry!

I still seek inspiration every day in the fashion and clothing choices I see around me, and I want to have fun in the way I reflect my feelings about the environment to others through what I wear.

When you start to discover more about the stories behind the people who made your clothes by seeking responsible fashion brands who have access to those stories, you start to get excited about supporting people through what you choose to wear.

Go along to some ethical fashion boutiques – in London I could recommend Finisterre and Reformation in Seven Dials etc. There’s even some pop-ups such as House Of which means you can bring a group of friends along, or Swishing events all over the UK.

Care for your clothing

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Did you know, the majority of the environmental impact of a garment happens after you’ve bought it? Yes it does, because of how you care for your clothing, and hugely depends on how you approach washing.

Yes, wierd to consider since we usually throw things in the washing machine without giving it a second thought, and I don’t blame you. Yet for their size and purpose washing machines use a ridiculous amount of water and your choice of detergent can leave long lasting marks and pollution on the environment and water scarcity.

To avoid this, think before you even approach the washing machine. For example, an alternative to washing jeans is to put them in your freezer. Not washing them at all keeps their shape. Maybe you can handwash select pieces instead of making up pieces that don’t really need washing to do a full load in the machine.

When it comes to putting things in the machine, I now also choose the lowest spin setting possible, I think spinning your clothes at high speeds wears the fibres out and shortens the life of your garments. When you have decided to part with your clothing at the end of it’s lifespan, remember to take care with how you dispose.

It’s scary to think  how much clothing ends up in landfill. Recycling isn’t always the best alternative though, as even though some useful schemes have been set up, the circular economy systems and machinery don’t really exist yet to deal with a big volume of clothing. Donating or swapping is often your best bet – how about even giving to a friend.

Those are my top tips! Slow down, have fun, and remember to care. Let me know how you’ve approached beginning to make your wardrobe more sustainable, and whether these ideas have helped you out.

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