Leather jacket, top, bag and shoes – all a number of years old, bought from conventional fashion retailers (not ethical or sustainable) and hoarded in my wardrobe!
Vintage lace skirt – Swap party at The Good Fashion Show
Necklace and ring - Made
Over the last few years, I have been gradually changing and developing the way that I shop for clothes with the aim of making it more sustainable and ethical. I have spent a considerable amount of time not buying anything new at all and about a year ago I made the commitment to switch to buying only ethical or sustainable clothing.
It’s not easy being green!
I can completely understand the difficulties that people face in making this switch. Not only may they have concerns over cost and lack of choice but also the whole question of exactly what is ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’ clothing and which ‘type’ or ‘brand’ of clothing is it best to buy, a topic which I could write about all day.
My work as a writer with a focus on ethical fashion has given me a greater understanding of the issues surrounding ethics and sustainability in the fashion industry and the variety that is available. Whilst I can’t say I have all of the answers, I certainly feel that I can make a reasonably informed decision most of the time and have totally bought into the fact that there is a fantastic selection of high quality ethical clothing out there that offers much better value than fast fashion and could definitely satisfy me in terms of finding what I want to buy.
How much is too much?
The difficulty for me in dressing ethically and sustainably comes into play when I try and work out how much is too much in terms of volumes of clothes. Obviously buying cheap poorly made clothes to wear once and then throw away is not ethical or sustainable. But I have never really done this, even the ‘fast fashion’ clothes that I have bought in the past have usually lasted for years and many that have managed to stand the test of time still remain in my wardrobe now. I treasure my clothes, shoes and accessories and I don’t buy anything that I don’t think I am likely to want to wear 3, 4 or 5 seasons from now. I get some inspiration from current fashions but I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a slave to it and would never discard a piece of clothing because it wasn’t fashionable anymore.
My wardrobe is stacked full of clothes, I am definitely a hoarder/ collector.
Do I really need to buy any more?
I love clothes and I live clothes in both my work and leisure time. For me there is nothing shallow about fashion. What I wear is so important to me on many levels - my self confidence, identity, comfort, success in work, the way others interact with me and treat me and also my own creativity and self expression (another topic, I could write all day about). I don’t need to but I like to wear lots of different outfits and I am constantly looking for and experimenting with new looks. Partly this can be satisfied by remixing, upcycling and recycling.
I also do have a desire to buy new stuff that if I am honest, I don’t really need. Through my blogging I discover so many amazing ethical brands. Not only to I love their clothes and want them but I also want to support these brands to try and help ethical become more mainstream. Supporting ethical brands is great but it isn’t sustainable to keep buying stuff that you don’t need. In order to change the fashion industry and the way it works, I think we all need to move away from the culture of constantly buying new stuff for the sake of it.
My Ethical and Sustainable Shopping Strategy
So here is the strategy that I have come up with, partly in a conscious kind of way but partly it just felt right. Since making changes to my shopping habits I have been really happy with my clothes and the high quality wardrobe that I am building. I never really struggle to find something lovely to wear and I always feel great in what I wear.
1. I consider second hand or vintage is the most sustainable way to shop so I try and satisfy my whimsical desire to shop and constantly refresh my wardrobe in this way most of the time (it is also kindest to my purse!). Even with second hand and vintage shopping and I tend to end up buying too much so try and have in mind the sorts of clothes I am likely to wear and the colours and styles that will suit me and avoid just buying more of what I already have. I also upcycle, swap and readily accept donations of old clothes from friends. If and when I get bored of these clothes I just donate them back to charity.
2. Occasionally for a special treat I like to buy myself a piece of clothing from an ethical/ sustainable brand. This is often when I have some birthday or Christmas money. I always look at these purchases as an investment. I try and buy something that will be a high quality, stylish and flattering staple of my wardrobe for many years to come (if not forever) and will really add to and build on what I already have.
3. I only ever buy a piece of clothing that I really really love and tend to look for unusual and unique pieces. Where possible I try to buy from companies and brands that have made a company wide commitment to ethical fashion and sustainability and practice these principles throughout everything they do as I want to support then and help to push these practices into the mainstream.
4. Before I shop, I try and think carefully about what I need, what I am likely to wear and what colours and styles suit me. In the past I have made lots of mistakes. As I don’t buy as many new clothes as I used to and spend a little more on sustainable/ ethical clothing, I want to be sure that I get it right every single time . I have an ongoing wishlist where each item that I see and want is added, considered for some time and sometimes removed. I only buy something when I am absolutely sure that it will work for me in every way from making me feel good, to going with the other clothes I have to being practical and eco friendly to wash and care for.
5. I do most of my shopping online as it gives me greater access to a huge variety of ethical and sustainable brands and makes it easier to compare, consider, research and read up on ethics if needed. It also cuts down on impulse buys.
So there you have it, that is how I shop. Do you have a shopping strategy? how do you decide what is too much?
With warmest wishes