How to get started with Sustainable Fashion

So you’ve understood that the fashion industry is severely damaging our environment. At the same time, you don’t want to give up on your love of clothing and style, so you’re looking for a more sustainable way of enjoying fashion…

I get it! You’re in the same place as me. This blog is all part of my own journey towards learning how to indulge my own interest in menswear and styling, but in a more responsible way. I recently posted about my first steps towards understanding slow fashion. Here’s what I’ve learned since then and what I’m now starting to practice…albeit in tiny steps!

The good news is that there are lots of bloggers, vloggers and social media influencers all actively talking about sustainable fashion right now (although notably not as many talking specifically about sustainable menswear). Nonetheless there’s great advice abound that applies equally to men’s and women’s fashion. At some point I’ll post a directory of resources that I’ve found so far; in the meantime I’ll refer out to a few of them as I go.

When I started out, I assumed sustainable fashion was simply about buying clothes that were better made (i.e. using organic or recycled materials) and better controlled in terms of ethical supply chain management. What I’ve learned is that whilst that’s important, the first thing you need to do if you want to be behave more responsibly is to change your shopping habits.

Shop From Your Closet

I didn’t invent this phrase, which is probably evident because being British I would have referred to a ‘wardrobe’ rather than a ‘closet’! I’ve read it in a few places, most recently in this great post on the Dstylebook blog.

There are triggers that prompt us to buy clothing and they’re probably different for all of us. For me it’s usually one of the following:

  • I’ve seen a look that I like, either on someone else or online…and I believe I need a new article of clothing to copy that look
  • I’ve got some kind of event coming up and I feel that I need something new to wear for it
  • I simply get lulled into buying clothing by an online advert, on the basis that somehow my life will be better as a result of owning it!

Whatever your trigger is, the principle of shopping from your closet is about examining the clothes you already have in order to satisfy your need. Very often you can create something close to the look you’re seeking using clothes you already have in your wardrobe. Even if you feel the need for something ‘new’, you can often create a new look simply by wearing your existing clothes in a different way or in a different combination. By doing this, you avoid altogether the need to get anything new…fashion-wise it’s the most sustainable thing you can do!

Make your clothes last longer

Occasionally I buy new clothes to replace something that’s worn. The way to mitigate this, be more sustainable and save lots of money is to look after your clothes and make them last longer! This subject warrants a post of it’s own but positive things you can do include:

  • Wash your clothes less
  • Sorting your clothes properly into different groups before washing
  • Not overloading your washing machine
  • Invest in good hangars
  • Rotate your clothes
  • Air-dry clothes rather than using the tumble-dryer
  • Spot clean small stains rather than washing the whole item
  • Not over-packing your wardrobe

So we’re two techniques in to more sustainable fashion and so far we haven’t purchased anything!

Buy second-hand clothing

So this is a major leap for me having never done it before but it makes total sense. Inspired by this article on the amazing ‘Use Less’ blog, as well as a video I watched by instagrammer and sustainability activist Venetia La Manna, I recently made my first second-hand clothing purchase on eBay (post coming soon!)

It might take more time to find what you’re looking for secondhand, whether that’s in vintage clothing stores on online (I’ve only just discovered Depop and Vestiaire Collective!), but buying something secondhand is way more sustainable than buying something new that’s made from say, organic cotton. Plus it can save you money, which is always good!

Buying from sustainable brands

So if you’ve exhausted the other options and you’re convinced you need something new. Stop! Whatever you’re planning to buy, will you wear it at least thirty times? If not, choose something else that’s more adaptable and that you’ll get more longevity and use from.

Ok, when it comes to buying new and choosing brands, here are some things to consider:

  • Find out about the brand of clothes you’re considering; check out their website and what they say about sustainability. Are they just paying lip-service or is sustainability ingrained in their brand values? How do they evidence it? What are other people writing about those brands?
  • What do they say about minimising packaging?
  • What materials are the clothes made of? Look for organic, recycled, natural? What dyes are used in manufacturing and are they using safe, non-polluting options?
  • What sustainability-related certifications does the brand have (e.g.GOTS – Global Organic Textile Standard)
  • How transparent is the brand about their supply chain and how it’s managed?
  • Do the clothes seem to too cheap? If so, that’s a sign that somewhere in their supply chain, someone is getting exploited. Well made clothing will cost you more but it will last longer, feel better and you’ll have paid a fair price.
  • Can you buy what you want from the UK? Buying locally will have less of a carbon impact.
  • Is the brand giving back to help society and the planet?

Here’s one thing I’ve found to be true so far; buying sustainably takes time. Whether it’s examining the clothes you already have, searching for something second-hand or researching clothing need to put some legwork in. This is a good thing! By taking the time to shop more carefully, there’s less change of us impulse buying, we’ll make better choices and we’ll value our clothes a lot more as a result of having invested more in acquiring them.

These are all things that I’ve personally learned about in the last few weeks as I’ve started on this journey and I’m planning to dive into more detail on all these topics in coming weeks. In the meantime I hope this has given you a taster for how you can start to make better decisions when it comes to buying clothes. Let me know what you think!

(Go check out what’s in your wardrobe now…I bet there’s something in there that you forgot you had!)

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