With the rise of sea levels has come the rise of veganism, recycling, and now, sustainable fashion. Most people have become focussed on how much of a negative environmental impact they have and are trying to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint. The fashion industry has one of the largest damaging impacts on the environment, as “fast fashion” is thought to be responsible for 1.2 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases each year. Reducing the amount of clothes you purchase from the high-street is one way to become more sustainable. Buying second hand clothes is nothing new, but it often has negative associations. However, in recent years attitudes to buying second hand have shifted. Buying at thrift stores is popular, and apps like Depop are making it easier than ever to access second hand clothes, or for people to sell their unwanted clothing. However big your budget is, it is possible to shop sustainably without hurting your purse strings or the world we live in.
The fashion industry is responsible for a massive portion of the world’s carbon emissions – 10% in fact. Clothing brands are facing increasing amounts of criticism as a result of how unsustainable their products are. Zara, Pull & Bear, and Bershka have all pledged that all their clothes will be organic, sustainable or recycled by 2025. Their pledges cast a lens on the need to change the way we shop and the kind of clothes we purchase. The Refashion Guide works in collaboration with brands on how they dispose of their leftover stock: helping them on their journey to becoming more sustainable. Many brands have acknowledged that the way they get rid of their unwanted stock is not sustainable. It is burnt. It is auctioned. It is dumped on landfill sites. Why can’t it be donated and go to those in need of clothes? “Fast fashion” and “throwaway fashion” are terms which go hand-in-hand. Instead of throwing our unwanted items away, there are lots of changes we can make to help shift our attitudes regarding how we dispose of unwanted clothes, – in turn helping us to become more conscious about how sustainable our shopping habits are.
We are a nation of hoarders – perhaps giving back to the community is the motive we need to declutter. Donating unwanted clothes is charitable, as well as a good way to clear out your wardrobe. Many universities have a collection for unwanted clothes to give to refugees or other people in need. It is important to recognise that there are many different ways to give back to the community and make a positive impact within society. As part of Norwich’s Refugee Week, UEA ran a clothes donation for a week and donated the clothes that were given to refugees in need. Donating items you have no use for and giving to those who need it most is an excellent way to help.
If you already own a lot of clothes, resist the urge to splurge and buy more. Instead, think of ways to manage the amount of clothes you own. Sorting through and clearing out what you have in your wardrobe is a brilliant way to visualise how many clothes you own. One great way to kick start the decluttering journey is to take inspiration from Marie Kondo and see if you love, or at least really like, everything that you keep in your wardrobe. We are more likely to wear things that suit us, or help increase our confidence as we love the clothes we are dressed in. Knowing exactly what you have in your wardrobe can help to deter you from buying more clothes unnecessarily. Having a thorough sort through what you own will also give you the opportunity to donate or get rid of any items that are out of style, worn out, or don’t fit you anymore. It’s a win for you, but also a win for the environment.
Another way to try and cut down how many clothes you own is by creating a capsule wardrobe – a collection that can be pieced together in lots of different combinations to suit all occasions. There are many different ways to interpret the “capsule wardrobe” – you could go full Gok Wan and only have 36 items in your wardrobe in total, however this is quite extreme and encourages you to get rid of the majority of your wardrobe and start the process with a blank slate. An alternative way to create a capsule wardrobe is to restrict yourself to wearing only wear 33 items each season. Having a capsule wardrobe ensures that you wear all of your clothes frequently. This version of a capsule wardrobe also gives you an opportunity to wear them out before you feel the need to buy more – we’ve all been there, standing in front of our wardrobe deciding which of our almost identical black tops to put on. It’s time to change our attitudes from believing that fashion is disposable, to buying sustainably from charity shops or second-hand selling apps like Depop.
The peer-to-peer social shopping app, Depop, has hit society by storm recently. Depop have stated that 90 percent of its active users are under 26 years old and that one third of all 16 to 24-year olds in the UK are registered on the app. Depop has also become popular since its creation in 2011, but only has 140 employees. It prides itself on hosting over 10 million “stylists, artists and collectors”. Many people have began to recognise that apps like Depop are shaking up the way we shop, providing a sustainable and ethical alternative to selling clothes and buying clothes online.
Recently, Oxfam have promoted an initiative called “Sustainable September” – a challenge to not buy any new clothes for a whole month. Sustainable September was set up in 2014, but many had not heard of it until Oxfam ran an advert campaign to promote it. In order to encourage people to sign up, they have used facts to demonstrate how out of control the throwaway fashion industry is. One fact they presented is that every week 11 million items of clothing are dumped on landfill sites. Fast fashion is encouraging people to view fashion as constantly changing and having trends that we must keep up with. This perception of the fashion industry is leading the public to view their clothes as disposable – a view which is unsustainable and destructive. Perhaps it is time that more of us embrace eco-friendly alternatives of getting our fashion fix.
Most large cities also hold a Preloved Kilo event, home of wholesale vintage clothing. During these events, clothes are purchased by weight rather than at an individual rate. These are items mostly classed as “vintage,” which has increased in popularity in the last few years. Typically, Preloved Kilo charge £15 per kilogram of clothes, and they tour the UK visiting two cities every weekend. Preloved Kilo and buying vintage clothing are accessible alternatives to fast fashion. The demand for vintage clothing has helped to dissolve the stigma surrounding buying second hand clothes and the domino effect caused by buying vintage clothing has led to more millennial and Gen Z shoppers turning to charity shops as a place to discover great items for low prices.
Fast fashion has long been recognised for being extremely unethical, however the fact that it is one of the most environmentally destructive industries has gone amiss amongst the media for some time. Recently, society has become increasingly aware of how environmentally damaging the fashion industry is, and many new ways to shop sustainably have emerged. It’s time to act on our increased awareness of how destructive the fashion industry is to the environment. It’s time to make a change and shop more sustainably.