Buy less. Choose well. Make it last. Quality, not quantity. Everyone’s buying too many clothes – Vivienne Westwood.
When I was younger – like all teenagers – the lure of buying a new outfit for every occasion possible was so exciting. A new jacket here and a new dress there, all to make up this perfect imaginary, never-ending closet that would highlight every possible outfit for every possible occasion. This continued throughout my late teens (the year of the 18th birthday parties especially, aka a party per – what felt like – weekend) and into my very early twenties. Whilst I lived in Spain, I definitely went shopping mad. I’d go to Centro Comercial Nueva Condomina most weekends in Murcia because I just adored shopping, buying new clothes and putting together outfits that I may never have pieced together before. I think I found quite a lot of my style whilst living in Murcia during my year abroad, and I can’t deny the utter happiness that spending money on beautiful new items gave me.
I think my spending habits changed significantly during my travels around Australia, Bali and Singapore. Here I was, the girl who loved clothes, shoes, bags, the lot and I had to try and fit an entire year of clothing and accessories into one singular backpack. It was impossible, or so I thought… In the end, I had space left over. I was so proud of myself for not taking my entire wardrobe, not even wanting to, and to be honest, I didn’t even wear some of the items I took with me. Travelling light is an entirely different experience. You are forced to wear and rewear your clothes until they literally fall apart, but the thing is, nobody cares what you’re wearing and in the end, you don’t either as long as it doesn’t stick to you and is the comfiest thing that is clean. During the latter half of 2016 and early 2017, I learnt that sustainable living is a lot easier than our consumable minds think, so much so I emptied half my wardrobe and donated it all to the charity shop. I didn’t need those clothes any longer, but someone else might. Don’t get me wrong, I still love to buy new items for myself and I will spend a lot of money on a one-off spree, but now, I make sure they are pieces that will last, won’t date and are clothes that I absolutely adore.
Take the dress I am wearing in this post, for example. I bought it from F and F Clothing in my local Tesco this time last year. It isn’t a very old dress in comparison to some of my other wardrobe items, but I genuinely feel like I’ve had it longer because of the amount of times I have worn it. It is a timeless item, one that I can throw on for a casual day out (the material is so comfortable) or dress up for a lovely meal at night time. It is wearable throughout the entire year, no matter the season. Of course its colours give autumnal and winter vibes, but I have worn this in the height of spring and, with our daily weather, it can certainly be worn in summer too. It is my one of my favourite items in my wardrobe which is why it is so easy to wear again and again and again. Yes, I bought it new, but I know that I will keep this dress almost certainly forever – unless I can’t fit into it anymore!
Of course, sustainability in fashion and clothes isn’t just about rewearing items as well as giving them to charity. It is an entire movement that is interlinked with the environment, waste and pollution. I won’t pretend that I am any sort of sustainability guru, or expert, but I want to educate myself on this topic and in doing so, may be informing somebody else too. Every single year, over 300,000 tonnes of clothing (11 million items) goes to landfill in the UK (Ethical Consumer Markets Report 2018). That is an incredible amount of clothes that end up floating in the water of our oceans, or burn unbelievable amounts of smoke into the sky, releasing hazardous chemicals and greenhouse gases. Fast fashion and its inevitability of being short-lived is very much the top of the food chain when it comes to the destruction of the planet. The industry produces 1.2 billion tonnes of CO2 per year – more emissions than all of global flights and maritime shipping combined. That is insane. On average, people buy 64 fast fashion pieces per year and the amount of energy that goes into making, cleaning and preserving each piece is momentous (Greenpeace). Now, I adore shops like Zara and H&M; they are two of my favourite places to buy new clothes, but I see the problem with their lack of sustainability and the life-changing effects they have on the environment. Yet, I also see the problem and the correlation between sustainability and higher prices. Personally, I can’t afford garments that are made with 100% sustainability in mind. That being said, I can afford second hand items and love a good thrift find from the charity shop. I also adore hand-me-downs, like the boots that I never seem to take off. These were my thirteen-year-old cousin’s who is exceptionally tall. She outgrew these boots, alongside a pair of trainers and shoes, which now live in my shoe cupboard. The hat is obviously Warren’s and something that I will always want to wear and so, I am trying to be more conscious of my fashion choices as well as preserving those pieces in my wardrobe for an exceptionally long time.
Sustainability isn’t just for September, but Secondhand September is a movement that has been created by Oxfam UK to bring awareness to the entire globe and to hopefully make people open their eyes when they are making that £7.99 purchase from a popular high street store. Buying, or receiving, secondhand is a great way to refocus and refuel a piece of fashion that has been loved and needs to be loved again. It is a concept and a way of creativity that I want (and do) add to my wardrobe. I’m not saying I’m perfect, nor will all of my clothes now be secondhand or completely sustainable. As Janet Street-Porter recently said on Loose Women:”there needs to be a balance.” Fashion has always been an expression of our personality, our character and our own ways of life. It shouldn’t be downtrodden or expected to be different; it should be celebrated, just with a little bit of love for the environment too. Think vintage, think charity shops, think your mum’s wardrobe, your dad’s, your siblings’; think of what clothes you already own and love. There will be something in the bottom of the drawer that you have long forgotten of that is waiting to be worn again and again.
It is hard to find the right balance of sustainable fashion and finding clothes that you love and can afford, but recycling, buying secondhand and loving the clothes you own already are great ways to start.
What do you think?
Love, Faye xo