This is one of the most popular topics in different areas, and the fashion industry is no exception. It's often regarded as a trend, a craze many desperately chase to feel cool and in step with the times. Although it might seem that buying sustainably is a passing trend, like total black or flared jeans, this is a lifestyle, a value increasingly embraced by many. The masses often associate sustainable fashion only with the materials used to produce clothes and accessories. However, in a broad sense, sustainability aims at satisfying human necessities without compromising or reducing the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This will only be possible if we avoid the depletion of current natural resources, thus maintaining an ecological balance. The fashion industry is often blamed for manufacturers' poor working conditions and unfair wages. Indeed, sustainability is given by the synergy of environmental, social and economic conditions that safeguard the planet and takes into consideration the psychophysical well-being of workers and animals involved in the production process.
WHY SHOULD WE HAVE A MORE SUSTAINABLE WARDROBE?
Obviously, in addition to helping the planet, making your closet a bit more sustainable makes you mindful of the products you already own. Sustainable fashion is often thought of as overpriced and ugly clothes, but that's not the case! Well, not always. For those who want to start giving a new life to their wardrobe, I propose a short series of steps that will surely be useful in approaching shopping more conscientiously.
EXPLORE YOUR WARDROBE
Start by looking inside your closet. Are you serial accumulator or are you a fashion lover with garments in shades of colour? In both cases, empty drawers, shoe racks and trunks and act as if you were setting up a clothing home market. You will immediately realise how many items you have, and likely, you will be shocked. Be honest with yourself, and put aside anything you haven't put in for years, or that you've never even taken off the tag. The brand new reindeer sweater your granny gifted you back in Christmas 1990, well maybe should get out of that wardrobe. I'm not saying that gifts made by loved ones need to be thrown away, just put what you don't wear aside, and a way for the following steps. So, no sentimentalism, roll your sleeves up and start with a big decluttering.
DISPOSE THE UNWANTED ITEMS
After the exploring phase of your closet, I'm sure you have a consistent mound of fashion items next to you. This is perhaps the most painful phase of decluttering. Start by dividing the products that could have a new life from the ones that you don't like anymore. Everything can be recycled and reinvented like the clothes you are particularly attached to but which are now worn-out or new but not suitable for your style. With a collection of t-shirts you love you can sew a fantastic blanket. Using awkward but still soft sweaters, you can create home slippers or pillow covers. Creativity and passion for sustainability are the winning combo, so don't forget to open Pinterest looking for some cool DIY ideas.
Remember, sustainability hates waste, so don't throw away what's left. Donate the clothes you don't want anymore. You can opt for charity and vintage shops that will resell your items, as well as the voluntary associations donating clothes and accessories to the neediest.
PLANNING YOUR SHOPPING SESSION
Once you have dismantled what languished for years on the bottom of your drawers, you can start the planning phase. Take a look at the basic pieces you have, these are t-shirts, jeans, single-colour sweaters in neutral tones and accessories easy to match with anything. These pieces, even if not made out of the best materials, will be the starting point of the shopping plan. There is no need to throw away them simply because they are not sustainable. Go on wearing them and once worn-out they will be replaced. Now it's time to do some online research. Look for what would like to wear, especially basic items you don’t have. Remember you don’t need to spend a fortune to make your wardrobe more eco-friendly. You can find out about well-known brands having a conscious or sustainable line.
H&M Conscious line, Zara Join Life are just two of the many fast fashion labels starting to pay more attention to the materials and production processes used. Take a look at their online portals, I'm sure many people will change their mind about these brands , often vilified because of their environmental waste. If your style has changed over time and you want to renew your wardrobe in terms of sustainability and aesthetics, check for some outfits ideas. Take a look at the websites at the bottom of the article, you will find excellent basic and particular brands, all pleasantly sustainable.
HIT THE HIGH STREET
The purchasing phase is the most fun in my opinion. It is up to you to choose whether to buy online or to go to the high street in your city. If you want to feel the materials of your new clothes, then enjoy a refreshening shopping session. Many people choose to visit shops especially when buying from a brand for the first time. Touching the clothes, checking the store interiors are just two of the main aspects online shopping cannot replace. Check the fabrics used and understand their quality, this is a step every sustainability lover will always emphasise. By reading the tags you can understand if the items are really worth the price on the tag. H&M and Zara are introducing many sustainable practices to their supply chain, while at Primark you can find excellent basic pieces in 100% organic cotton. This famous Irish brand is renowned for the low prices and certainly not for the quality of the products. However, especially in summer, you can find great clothes at ridiculously cheap prices. They are not advertised or placed in a special department, so you need to rummage through the shelves. Sharpen your eyes, you need to recognise those clothes having the ‘organic cotton’ label sewn on them
Remember that sustainability praises quality over quantity. So don't get carried away by the shopping frenzy, falling back into old habits. Invest wisely in trans-seasonal garments you can use all year round with outfits of all kinds. T-shirts, jeans, underwear are items you can wear in any season. Many women opt for linen dresses and skirts even in winter, combining them with heavy cotton tights. If you are sceptical, check for some linen outfits inspiration on Instagram and Pinterest, maybe you will be pleasantly surprised. As for the sweaters, look for them in different weights, as no one tells you to cover up with a chunky woollen sweater just to be protected from the seaside breeze. Many sustainable brands offer amazing jumpers lasting for years, it's about making a small investment trying to safeguard the planet and the manufacturing workers well-being.
The last step for your purchasing session is to explore vintage and charity shops. Not many people like to wear second hand clothes, but surely you can find stunning statement pieces such as bags, bijoux, hats, and belts ready to boost your sustainable outfits. Recycling accompanies you from the DIY activities with your old garments to the last step of your shopping phase. There is no sustainable wardrobe that does not have some beautiful vintage pieces. Avoid waste, give a second life to previously owned items.
TAKE CARE OF YOUR CLOTHES
Eventually, although it may seem obvious, taking care of your items is vital. How many people throw piles of garments in the washing machine without even looking at the laundry instructions? Be honest with yourself, after all, it happens to everyone. Haste, however, is the enemy of clothes. If garments are not properly washed they come out of the washing machine ready to be trashed. Those who are now seasoned experts in sustainability often use fabric sprays to avoid excessive consumption of water and electricity. However, this extreme choice is not for everyone. At the same time, no one wants woollen sweaters covered with lints. Especially if you have spent quite a bit on the renovation of your wardrobe, so I strongly recommend you to pay a little more attention to laundry sessions.
Probably after the decluttering of the wardrobe, you will already be exhausted, but if you have the patience to complete all the steps towards sustainability, you will be knackered but happy. The planet thanks you, and in a long-term perspective your wallet too. Shopping and sustainability can get along very well if you choose your clothes consciously. Don't forget to venture to the high street with some canvas tote bags ready to be filled, that is a must for any true sustainability-loving shopper.
Take a look at these mainly UK sustainable brands.