This blog post is long overdue for two reasons. One, because I’ve been enduring my slow-fashion journey for over a year now and have been meaning to share my experience - and two, because the subject deserves more limelight from ‘people of the internet’ spreading it’s worth.
My perception of the fashion industry has traditionally been through rose-tinted glasses, like for many of us out there – we see the glamour, the influencers and the marketing campaigns and turn a blind eye to the rest.
That being said, we’re not the only ones to be held accountable here – fast-fashion brands also play a huge part in covering-up the truth of their operations, greenwashing us with false claims and leaving us none the wiser.
So, how do we become savvier on the subject? Fortunately, more people are now shining a light over the reality of what the industry has become – sharing the truth online and forcing brands to put their hands up. Of course, there are some brilliant documentaries, books and podcasts that are excellent starting points – but the truth is, you have to want to learn and be ready for any discomfort that you’re likely to uncover.
The positives? Aside from disrupting the fast-fashion system and improving the health of our planet - we can actually all make a change – and pretty quickly. I’m hoping that these Five Steps to Shopping Sustainably inspire and encourage you to do so.
1. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH
You wouldn’t go into an important exam without revising, right? The same principle goes for understanding the supply chain of fast-fashion. To be able to truly understand what’s going on, you’ve got to start looking for the facts – think of yourself as a journalist here. Instagram has some great campaigners sharing insight, some of my favourite accounts include; @useless_dk, @audreyacoyne @venetialamanna, @thesustainablefashionforum, @ecoage, @wowsancho, @remakeourworld, @cleanclothescampaign, @knowtheorigin.
A quick mention of some documentaries that are worth the watch; “The True Cost” on Netflix, “Stacey Dooley Investigates: Fashion’s Dirty Secrets” on BBC IPlayer and “Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion” on Amazon.
Once you become equipped with the tools you need to fuel your sustainable journey, you’ll feel more comfortable acting as an advocate for the cause – knowledge is power.
2. WARDROBE REFLECTION
A wardrobe reflection (or detox, should I say) is something I’d advocate for everyone – not just those who are looking to adopt a more sustainable, minimal closet. It’s a great way to see what you have and more often than not, you’ll realise that you do have more than you need. The trick here is filtering through what you love, what’s a necessity and what you bought on impulse that you never really wear.
Take all of the clothes you own and lay them on your bed – if you have a lot, perhaps split this exercise up into different types of clothing (eg: jeans, tops etc). Pick up each piece of clothing and take a good look at it – think about how you feel in this item, the quality of the fabric and how many times you’ve worn it. If you can justify keeping it, then do – but if like me, you were just hanging onto things for the sake of it, then it’s time to let go. Put this piece aside and store in a bag ready to sell or give to charity.
Once you’ve don’t this, not only will you have a decluttered wardrobe space, but you’ll also be able to identify the gaps in your closet – which leads us onto the best bit…
3. BUILDING YOUR CAPSULE WARDROBE: QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
The term “capsule wardrobe” has been coined by many but was originally created by Susie Faux, the owner of a London boutique called "Wardrobe" in the 1970s. According to Faux, the definition of a capsule wardrobe is “a collection of a few essential items of clothing that do not go out of fashion, such as skirts, trousers, and coats, which can then be augmented with seasonal pieces.”
Over 50 years later and the concept of this still rings true – base your wardrobe around lifestyle, body shape and tastes. Remember, trends come and go, but style lasts a lifetime.
A true capsule will have around 30-40 pieces in total, with some items of clothing being interchanged throughout the different seasons. From your wardrobe detox, make a note of the items of clothing you’re missing and begin to look for those pieces – this could be from an ethically-made store, thrifted or better yet, vintage. For me, these were good quality basics, jeans and smart / casual jackets. If you’re not sure where to start, here are some of my favourite ethical* brands:
Once you begin to base your wardrobe around clothing that is made in an ethical way with good quality fabrics, you’ll find that they last for years – as will your desire to take care of them.
* These brands are not 100% ethical, but I've mentioned them here as they are making progressive steps towards a more ethical supply chain.
ArmedAngels cardigan - gifted from Sanchos.
4. SECOND HAND IS GRAND
I briefly mentioned above about sourcing clothing from second-hand sources, this is because I’ve found so many wonderful pieces over the last two years on eBay, Depop and through charity shopping. I’d say 80% of the time you can find second-hand items you’ve seen on the high street, for a fraction of the cost. Not only is it a great way to support a more ethical supply chain, but it also opens your eyes to all of the amazing vintage clothing there is out there – a lot of the times in styles that are currently “on trend” because of the cyclical way the fashion industry works. I also love finding unique pieces that no one else will have, because of the fact they’re vintage or not on the high street anymore. If you’re shopping online, look for sellers with good reviews and reasonable returns policies – you may also find that certain bloggers you follow have a Depop account, so watch out for any sales that they offer if their style is something you aspire to.
Above: A few of the beautiful pieces I've found on eBay or have been passed down.
5. LOVE WHAT YOU HAVE
I used to be a real sucker for the “out with the old, in with the new” motto – as soon as an item of clothing had a defect or stain, I’d immediately chuck it away. For our parents and grandparents’ generation, this just wouldn’t happen – you’d fix whatever needed fixing (usually yourself) and put that item of clothing back in your wardrobe, no questions asked.
Recently, I told a friend I wanted to invest in some new smart trousers, as my existing ones were gaping around the waist. I said how much of a shame it was as the trousers were expensive and no longer available in the shops - it wasn’t until my friend recommended a local tailor that I actually considered being able to adjust the trousers without having to replace them. The next afternoon, I took the trousers to be adjusted – when they came back to me, they had the exact fit that I’d wanted, and it only cost me £12!
It seems like such an obvious thing to repair what you already own, but because of the rapid speed of which fast-fashion works, it’s now easier to replace the item with something new. Not only is this unnecessary (in most cases) but it’s fuelling the issue at hand – the fast-fashion items are made poorly and are likely to become damaged anyway. Of course, there are some clothes that just cannot be brought back to life – but if I can urge you to do one thing, that’s really question whether or not that “damaged” piece as another round left in it. If it does, find a good tailor that can help you – you’ll feel so much better knowing you’ve resisted the urge to throwaway a perfectly decent item of clothing in favour of something new.
Above: Wearing the 'Trapeze' jumpsuit from Sanchos - loaned
I hope the above has given you some more information around shopping sustainably, and a little nudge to get yourself started. My transition to shopping more consciously wasn’t an overnight switch and I’m still learning the ropes, so don’t be harsh on yourself if you feel like you can’t be the consumer you want to be right away – good things take time and every little helps.
I also made an IGTV video last year that talks more about the subject – if you’re interested, you can view this here <<