Being mindful is more of a priority now than ever before and making more considered clothing choices is something we should all be doing in our efforts to save the planet.
The fashion business is one of the dirtiest in the world, responsible for a global footprint that includes burning through 132 million metric tonnes of coal every year in the production of new fibers, dyeing and bleaching of garments, and between 6 and 9 trillion liters of water. Add those figures to the shocking 300,000 tonnes of unwanted clothes that are binned, not recycled, every year, and it’s obvious that in order to reverse some of the startling statistics about garment waste, being more conscious of what we are buying is vital. But becoming more sustainably minded when it comes to style needn’t be complicated, costly or compromising to our aesthetic principles; small changes regarding how we think about fashion are all that’s needed to make a step in the right direction.
Here’s how you can make your wardrobe more sustainable in seven easy steps:
Be a smart shopper
Making informed decisions about where you shop is the first step in creating a sustainable wardrobe. Think about the labels you love, and research online to see if they follow ethical and sustainable production guidelines – you’ll soon have a wealth of knowledge as to which brands are making the effort to look after the planet. If you’re unsure about something, get in touch with the brand directly through social media, especially if you’re planning on making an expensive purchase – you want to make sure you’re spending with a brand that aligns with your own sustainable values. From who is making your clothes, how they source their materials and how sustainable their production processes are, brand transparency is key for the ethical consumer.
Read the labels
You do it when you’re in the supermarket, so why should clothes shopping be any different? Most eco elements are now communicated transparently in product packaging, so consumers can make an informed decision about what they are buying. Avoid fabrics that contain microfibers, which often end up polluting the ocean and are difficult to clean up because the particles are so tiny. Alternatively, choose organic or GOTS certified cotton, which is monitored from the point of growth and considers the fair trade of the farmers, the consumption of water used, regulates the pesticides used, and oversees the supply chain in full.
Quality over quantity
How many times have you lamented wasting money on a cheap top that falls apart after only a couple of washes? Or a bag whose handles snap after a handful of outings? The truth is that you get what you pay for, and while spending more on a quality item may seem painful at the outset, it will save you money in the long run because you won’t need to replace it as frequently.
Planning your forever purchases in advance pays dividends and making seasonal investments in timeless pieces is a sure-fire start to making your wardrobe more sustainable.
Buying 20 high-quality items a year, rather than 60 cheaper, less eco-friendly pieces will dramatically reduce your carbon footprint, and focus on items that are going to work for you and the environment you live in all year round. In the words of
Vivienne Westwood. “Buy less, choose well, make it last”– excellent advice not only for your wardrobe but every aspect of life.
Belted Wool And Silk-blend Blazer, PRP AED 6526.18, available at net-a-porter.com
Vargas Belted Pleated Wool, Silk, And Linen-blend Wide-leg Pants, PRP AED 4287.22, available at net-a-porter.com
The 30 wear rule
Founder of sustainability consultant Eco-Age, Livia Firth, began the #30Wears campaign to encourage us to only buy an item if we really know that we’ll wear it. “The biggest message is every time you buy something, always think, ‘Will I wear it a minimum of 30 times?’ explains Livia. “If the answer is yes, then buy it. But you’d be surprised how many times you say no.”
Try to veer away from buying statement pieces you know you will only wear once, and instead invest in something with more longevity that you’ll wear again and again and can be styled in numerous different ways. And always calculate the cost per wear of every item you buy – suddenly, those more expensive, quality items seem instantly more reasonably-priced.
Rethink how you shop
Buying new is not the only way to shop. The eco-friendliest way to update your wardrobe is to buy pre-loved pieces, which not only save millions of garments going to landfill but also contribute to the circular economy, a system aimed at minimising waste, making the most of resources and challenging fashion’s linear production line. Buying pre-loved or second-hand clothing means less clothing will be bought, therefore less will be discarded -thus reducing our carbon footprint. Our favourite place to refresh our wardrobes responsibly in Dubai? RETOLD, whose ever-changing array of perfect-condition, pre-loved pieces makes for shopping that’s not only more mindful of the planet, but is also way easier on our wallets.
Get involved with vintage
“Vintage clothing has a huge role to play in making fashion more sustainable,” says actress and environmental campaigner, Emma Watson. “Every new item of clothing made has a substantial carbon footprint attached to its manufacturing, but the amount of new energy needed to produce vintage clothing is zero.” Making absolutely no negative impact on the planet, whether it’s designer items or pieces from high street labels that may not even exist anymore, buying vintage ticks multiple boxes – mainly the thrill of knowing you’ll likely never see anyone wearing the same vintage piece as you. And who doesn’t want to add totally unique pieces to their wardrobe that are guilt-free too?
Never throw clothes away
Repair, reuse, recycle is the mantra of the most sustainably minded style mavens. Clothing that is placed in regular garbage is either incinerated or ends up in a landfill, so ensuring you don’t add to the problem is key. If you don’t wear something anymore, consider ways to extend its life. Selling good quality or designer items through resale boutiques such as RETOLD, or online through luxury resale sites like The Vestiaire Collective is a great way to monetise pieces that you no longer wear anymore.
You could hold a clothes-swapping party with girlfriends to exchange clothes you are bored of or take part in one of the flea markets that run during the cooler months across the UAE. And giving your unwanted clothes to a good cause, rather than leaving them hanging in your wardrobe will help others to be more sustainable, as they will invest in your old pieces, rather than buying something new. Enforce a one-in, one-out policy – live by the mantra that every time you buy something, you’ll donate something else in your wardrobe.
Always think, ‘Repair before you replace.’ Small rips, holes and missing buttons can easily be fixed, and making friends with your cobbler is imperative – quality shoes can be worn for many seasons with a small investment in maintenance. If you are investing in slow fashion pieces – ones that cost more but will invariably last longer than fast fashion items – look after them properly and it’s less likely, you’ll need to replace them. From caring for your cashmere to washing your denim inside out, go the extra mile to ensure your clothes stay looking their best for longer, and you’ll save money whilst helping to save the planet.