Fast fashion is a little bit like social media, in some respects. You know you shouldn’t rely on it so much, but the thought of cutting it out completely feels… well, daunting. You’re not alone. The good news is we all have the power to make a difference. As anyone who’s ever had a stone in their shoe will know: the little things matter. And these changes can start at home. Whether you’re a KonMari convert or not, having a thorough sort through all of your existing clothes and accessories can be good for the soul.
In fact, the process encourages us to be present, thankful for what we’ve got and actually makes it easier to get dressed in the morning. By looking after what we already own, through mending, upcycling or even just switching to a cooler washing machine cycle, we keep our most loved clothes out of landfill.
And by pressing pause on buying fast fashion, we can help the planet and save money too – instead choosing to spend our hard-earned cash supporting secondhand businesses or investing in sustainable and ethical clothing companies that pay their employees a fair living wage. Here are a few tips to help you get started…
Begin with your existing wardrobe
Clothing is the ultimate tool for self-expression, but it can also act as a form of self-care. We all deserve to wear things that fit and flatter us in this very moment, not at some point in the future. Unsupportive and worn-out clothes or garments that pinch, squeeze and suffocate us can affect our mood, confidence and self-esteem over time. You wouldn’t choose to surround yourself with toxic people all day every day; it’s the same with our wardrobe.
With each item you own, ask yourself: Does it fit? Do I like it? Does it make me feel nice when I wear it? Separate everything into piles according to your answers: to keep; to mend; to give away.
Do a little mindful mending
Everyday wear on our favourite clothes is inevitable, but thankfully many of the most common problems can be fixed. Replacing buttons, de-bobbling jumpers or patching up holes require very few supplies to get started. Not only is the process a wonderfully meditative one, but even doubling the useful life of an item of clothing from one year to two can reduce emissions over the year by 24%, according to Greenpeace.
If you’re keen on taking it a step further, visible mending is a brilliant way to celebrate a garment’s imperfections. Take a look at the amazing work by Katrina Rodabaugh (@KatrinaRodabaugh) and Jessica Marquez (@MiniatureRhino) if you need a bit of inspiration.
Try upcycling and refashioning
“There are literally no environmental, ethical or financial downsides to reusing old garments and textiles. It’s win-win all round,” says Refashioners’ founder, Portia Lawrie (makery.co.uk). You can start simply too, as she explains: “Changing small details like the length of a sleeve or hem; or the shape or the taper of a trouser leg. Sometimes recutting the neckline on a top will totally change its look.”
Not sure where to begin? Visit Portia’s blog for ideas, sign up to a sewing class or even take a garment to an alterations specialist.
Look for sustainable choices
Thankfully, organic cotton is now making its way onto the high street, as is bamboo, but there are other sustainable textiles out there. Tencel is the brand name for Lyocell and Modal fabrics. Lyocell is made from wood pulp; meanwhile Modal is mainly made from beech wood. You can also buy Piña silk made from pineapple leaves or Abaca cloth, which is made from banana stalks and cotton. If you’re buying garments off the shelf, don’t be afraid to ask #WhoMadeMyClothes for further insight on the company’s production processes, or read Fashion Revolution’s online annual report showing how your favourite high street brand fares.
Avoiding the relentless, almost-weekly trends set by the high streets creates an all-round calmer shopping experience. Plus, by taking extra time to research the exact garment you want before buying – whether that’s how it’s made, the fit or even care instructions – you make an investment in the future… and yourself. As the talented Anne Klein once said, “Clothes won’t change the world. The women who wear them will.”
Main image by Unsplash/Yasmine Boheas.