In an age where instant gratification is just so darn achievable, it’s hard to say no to something we want right this minute. Everybody wants cheap clothes, and in an ideal world, they would all be produced ethically. It’s all well and good picking up Primark’s finest bits and bobs without having to deal with a hefty price tag, but can we really guarantee that the places our clothes are coming from are ethically sourced? And it’s not just the low-cost companies that are the problem: with bigger, more expensive brands like Victoria’s Secret and Beyonce’s line Ivy Park being called out for unethical practices, can we trust anyone at all?
It’s easy to shove all that ethical and environmentally friendly business to the back of our minds and pretend that it doesn’t concern us when we’re browsing Topshop’s latest stock, but in reality it does concern us. We are responsible for our planet, and we are responsible for the health and happiness of our fellow human beings, whether they’re people we know personally or not. These are the things that we should be training ourselves to actively think about when we make a purchase, because it has become all too common to sweep it all under the rug. Does it really matter that the person who sewed your garments is a child, or is paid a suitable amount for them to survive, or has clean water that isn’t polluted by dyes? Does all that stuff matter when that dress looks so good on you?
It’s time to start having a guilty conscience and making active changes when it comes to the way we think about fashion.
The average consumer spends over £1000 on clothes each year – a pretty hefty amount. That can add up to a whole lot of new items, and inevitably a whole lot of clothes ending up as waste. Fast fashion is a fun concept for anyone – the ever-changing fashion industry is fun to follow online and in magazines, and even more fun to join in with – but it’s having a devastating impact on our environment that goes way beyond the sweatshops we’ve all heard plenty about. Dyes used on the fabrics that make our favourite prints and patterns are polluting water worldwide – in fact, textile dyeing is the one of the largest contributors to the pollution of clean water, second only to agriculture. On top of that, microfibres that come off our clothes when we wash them are making their way through our drains and into our oceans, and they don’t biodegrade – that poses a huge threat to our fishy friends, who go on to consume these tiny fibres, and if you eat fish, you’re more than likely consuming those microfibres through them, too. Not to mention that cotton is often picked by children in dire conditions, and it also takes a whole lot of water to grow, causing a higher risk of draught in these areas.
In addition to the questionable sources of the clothing that we fork out our cash for, we should really be considering the aftermath of fast fashion, too. In the UK, we throw out more than a million tonnes of clothing every year. Clothing that, for the most part, could have been donated, recycled, or sold on to another loving home. The more we buy, the more we chuck out, and all of our once-fashionable pieces are sadly ending up in landfills.
I know we’ve all been through the “I’ve got nothing to wear!” drama whilst staring into a wardrobe that’s fit to burst. There are a multitude of reasons why we might abandon our once-loved (or even never-before-touched) items of clothing: they don’t fit, they have a stain or a rip, we don’t like them anymore, or they just don’t go with anything. But instead of going straight to the closest black bin bag with all those things and then heading straight to the shops for a brand new look, think about how your old apparel can be reworked or rehomed, and how you could give a new home to something else. Selling to your friends or on sites like eBay or Depop will gain you a bit of cash back, or even better, you could donate to one of your local charity shops who will sell it all on for good, or donate to people and places that could use the help. It seems like common sense, but with the amount of clothes ending up in our landfills, it sounds like a lot of people are overlooking these simple steps and just opting for the closest bin. If you didn’t know, there are even clothing, shoe, and textile recycling points that you can take tattered, stained, or ripped bits and bobs to if you don’t think they’re worthy of a new home, so that even your most bedraggled attire can find a new use.
There’s even more you can do: shop second hand and love clothes for longer. You can find pretty much anything you want for second hand, whether it’s online or browsing vintage stores and charity shops. Minimise the amount of clothes ending up in landfills and the amount of strain placed on the fast fashion industry by buying preloved – Depop is my personal favourite second hand platform, where I’ve picked up brand new items, still with the tags on, for half the original price, or at the very least things that have been worn a few times but are still in perfect condition. In fact, the bulk of my wardrobe is full of clothes from either eBay or Depop, and all of my favourite pieces are second hand. Second hand doesn’t necessarily mean old, but we all know that the vintage look is always a winner anyway.
Making small changes to the way we shop all adds up – set yourself a challenge to buy no new clothes for a month or two, or to only shop second hand for the next five pieces you buy, and you’re already on your way there. It feels good to be greener!
Want to see a lookbook of my favourite preloved garms? Let me know!