We’ll start by saying this, the most sustainable piece of clothing is the one that’s already in your wardrobe. When you’re beginning your journey to shop more sustainably and ethically, it can be tempting to throw out everything you have (especially if it’s fast fashion) and want to start from scratch. Not only is this bad for your wallet, but it’s also bad for the planet. We already have issues with how often as a society we throw out clothing, with opp shops overflowing, and excess clothing sent to developing countries, often in such poor quality and destroying their local markets. So first things first...
Don’t throw your clothes away
We know Marie Kondo said so, but there really is no such thing as ‘away’. It goes somewhere, even if it is landfill. Out of sight can mean out of mind, but is it a sustainable option, no. And whilst it can be tempting to throw out that top you picked up for $15, we’d recommend you ask yourself first if there’s a better option.
Can you fix it, by sewing up that little tear, or adding a button back on? Youtube has your back for some handy tutorials on mending and upcycling, even if you can barely thread a needle. Those jeans that you don’t love anymore can they be cut into a pair of shorts, that you would get more use out of? Or perhaps an old cotton tee can be cut up and used as reusable face wipes and for removing makeup, sure they mightn’t look as Pinterest worthy as the set you can purchase, but sustainability was a thing, long before Pinterest (even if it’s only beginning to reach mainstream levels of being cool).
Next, we’d recommend jumping on eBay, Depop or Facebook marketplace. Not only can you earn some pocket money for coffee next week, but you’re also ensuring that the piece you no longer love is going to a good home, right into the wardrobe of someone who might love it exactly as it is. Opp shops do appreciate receiving good quality clothing if it’s clean and in resellable condition, but they don’t want to receive it if it’s need of some TLC or in need of a wash and some bleach. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable giving it to a friend because of the quality, it’s safe to assume it’ll just end up in the mass pile of rubbish that unfortunately, opp shops have to throw out, as they don’t have the time and resources to clean and repair donations. If you’re unsure of what they’re accepting, give them a call and ask if they’re in need of winter woolies, or if they accept footwear or particular types of clothing, as they do change from place to place.
Create a capsule wardrobe
What’s this you might ask? A capsule wardrobe is one which is created with minimalism in mind, rather than it overflowing and creating decision fatigue each time you open the doors, it’s full of your favourite pieces, that can be worn for years to come, and is easily interchangeable by occasion and season, rather full of whatever the latest trend is. Think simple and versatile. It doesn’t mean that it has to be all beige and neutrals if that’s not what you’re into, we obviously love a good print and splash of colour, but think about mixing and matching and how you can reduce your consumption of new clothes, without compromising on your style and needs. Which brings us to the next important point...
Invest in quality, rather than cheap
Sustainable and ethical fashion is more important and we understand it’s a privilege to be able to afford to invest in quality. However, it is more affordable than you may first consider when you learn about a little concept called ‘Cost per Wear’. Put simply this is the cost per wear of a garment, to understand the true cost to your wallet and wardrobe. For example, if you chose to invest in a $100 pair of leggings, this may seem expensive, however, if you wore them twice a week for two years, the cost per wear is under 50 cents. Versus if you chose to purchase a cheaper $40 pair of leggings, but you only wore them 4 times as the quality was poor and you didn’t love them, your cost per wear is $10. This effectively makes your fast fashion purchase 20x more expensive than the sustainable choice and doesn’t even consider the cost of additional purchase you’ll make to fill the gap in your wardrobe and the negative environmental impact of creating fabrics (typically made from oil), only to be discarded after the first few wears.
It’s worth noting that just because a brand does sell the $100 pair of leggings, it doesn’t mean they are sustainable or ethical. Depending on the brand, they might even be made in the same factory as the $40 fast fashion pair. Which understandably creates confusion. We’ll deep dive into how to find sustainable brands a little later on, but to keep it simple, we’d recommend looking at the fabric which it is made out of, is it a natural fibre or a recycled fabric? And to have a look on a brand's website about their sustainability, ethics or factories. Transparency is key in the fashion industry making progress to a more sustainable future, so if there isn’t any information online, simply jump into their inbox and ask who made their clothes. And if they’re not willing to share any information, or there are big claims, but nothing to back up their jazzy marketing, chances are they’re greenwashing or don’t even know who’s in their supply chain.
How to find better brands
One word. Research. But if you’re tight on time, some of our favourite sustainable, ethical bloggers are: The Green Hub, Britts List, Ethical Made Easy and Kate Hall. The world of sustainable and ethical fashion can be overwhelming when you first start off, but it’s definitely worth leveling up, as there's such a large impact on both people and planet, and we personally believe both need to be looked after.