When it comes to the current climate crisis, we’re all doing our bit to try and reduce our environmental impact. Amongst other things, I’ve invested in metal drinking straws and a Chilly’s reusable water bottle to reduce my use of single-use plastic. However, as a fashion devotee, adopting a more sustainable approach to clothes shopping is something I’ve admittedly struggled with, despite knowing the dire impacts the fashion industry, and the growing market for cheap, fast fashion, is having on the environment.
A 2019 report by Business Insider found that the fashion industry responsible for 10% of humanity’s carbon emissions – more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. The same report found that it also accounts for 20% of all industrial water pollution worldwide. As consumers, we’re buying on average 60% more garments than we did 20 years ago but only keeping them for half as long. And, what’s more, over 300,000 tons of clothing ends up in landfill sites every year.
If our consumption rates continue on their current trajectory, the fashion industry is in danger of quickly becoming one of the world’s biggest polluters. While an increasing number of brands are adopting more sustainable practices, we as consumers must also do our bit. So, while stopping myself from buying everything that takes my fancy is breaking the habit of a lifetime, making more sustainable shopping choices matters and I’m trying my damned hardest to do so.
My plan is to take a buy less, wear more approach. Buying less clothing and committing to wearing the pieces I do buy for longer. Aside from an addiction to browsing Zara’s ‘New In’ section, my personal taste has never been drawn towards fast fashion brands. But, more than ever, I’m determined to be mindful when making purchases, keeping the following things in mind:
Quality over quantity
From the perspective of being able to wear a garment over and over again, I focus on buying high-quality pieces that have been made to last. Natural fabrics and good construction are key. When beautiful fabrics meet superior construction, you get a garment that lasts longer and ages gracefully. For example, I own a pair of 100% cotton straight-leg jeans that I bought from American Apparel when I was 17 years old. Eight years and good 40 washes later and they still look brand new.
Typically, high-quality garments tend to cost more than their synthetic counterparts, but when considering cost per wear, spending that little bit of extra money is more than worth it. And, by buying less, I have more money to invest in high-quality pieces.
Versatility is key
I used to have a really bad habit of buying garments with just one outfit or event in mind. A tweed skirt that I’d only ever wear with the matching blazer. A statement dress that I’d wear to one party then never again. A printed mesh turtleneck that looked fantastic layered underneath a silk slip dress but nothing else in my wardrobe. But, by doing this, I ended up with a mismatched collection of clothes with incredibly limited styling choices.
Picking versatile garments that can be styled in a variety of ways with pieces I already own is beneficial for so many reasons. To start, having a wardrobe full of clothing that can mostly be mixed and matched together makes getting dressed really easy. It also allows me to get creative beyond copying runway or mannequin styling. And lastly, it means I’m more likely to wear it over and over again – the driving force behind my sustainable approach to shopping.
Avoid fleeting trends
It was Yves Saint Laurent that said, “Fashion fades, style is eternal.” And, it’s true. The Guardian reported just last year that the average life cycle of a fast fashion item is a mere five weeks. That’s because fast fashion brands are releasing trend-driven pieces at such a fast rate that trends are constantly changing at an unrelenting pace. For example, my guilty pleasure, Zara puts out 24 collections per year. And, it’s not just high-street retailers that are fueling the fire. Between 2000 and 2011, fashion houses went from offering two collections per year to five.
So, I’m choosing to forgo a lot of the fleeting trends that used to entice me and instead invest in stylish pieces that will transcend the seasons to come. For one, buying into every trend doesn’t make you a stylish person. But, more importantly, I’m a lot more likely to wear a classic piece (like my aforementioned jeans) for years and years than the latest denim trend that’s likely to be considered ridiculous in a few months time.
Only buy pieces I truly love
No matter how many garments are hanging up in my wardrobe, I always find myself reaching for the same few pieces. An oatmeal wool blend cardigan. My beloved Prada ankle boots. Those bloody American Apparel jeans. That’s because, in true Marie Kondo style, they spark joy and have done since the first time I tried them on.
You tend to know in an instant whether you absolutely love a piece of clothing or just quite like it. And, I try to only buy things that fulfil the former. That way, they become pieces that I truly look forward to wearing and therefore make the effort to do so.
Speaking of things that spark joy, I bought the dress in the featured images for this post last September to wear for London Fashion Week. It’s a classic babydoll dress made from a beautiful thick cotton fabric and I fell in love the instant I put it on my body. It makes me feel somewhat like an extra from Ari Aster’s Midsommar, but I think that’s why I love it so much. I’ve very much enjoyed rewearing it whilst the UK is on lockdown as a put-together (yet still incredibly comfortable) alternative to staying in my pyjamas all day.
Alongside the above key points I consider with every purchase I make, there are other things to think about when looking to make more sustainable shopping choices. I try to purchase the majority of my clothing from either sustainable brands or those doing their bit to become more sustainable. For example, my latest shoe purchase was a pair of trainers from Veja, who make all their products using organic and recycled materials.
I’m also making a marked effort to shop in-store instead of online wherever I can. By checking the quality and fit of garments before I buy them, I’m a hell of a lot less likely to buy things I don’t need. It also reduces unnecessary plastic packaging, particularly by shopping with a reusable tote bag (I’ve had my eye on the Coach Field Tote since it was released), as well as the environmental impact of shipping. This is obviously difficult with the current climate surrounding Covid-19 but, being in lockdown I haven’t found a particular need to buy new things anyway.
I entered this mindset of wanting to have a more sustainable approach towards shopping a few months ago now and so far, I’ve definitely made smarter choices. I’ve certainly bought less than I normally would and my focus has been on classic, good quality pieces that fit with my personal style. As a fashion blogger and major shopper, I know I’m part of the problem when it comes to consumption. But, that doesn’t mean I won’t try to make a positive impact wherever I can.