The eternal dilemma. You want to live a more sustainable lifestyle...but...you also love clothes. And shopping!. Retail therapy is a real thing, I know. But the severe environmental impact that the retail industry has is as well a real thing. And every little gesture helps.
Now, we don´t expect you to dress up in a burlap bag for the rest of your days, but there is simple steps you can take towards building a more sustainable wardrobe.
1. Mindful shopping
Mindset is always the first step towards change, and conscious consumerism starts with buying only what we actually need. Now, this doesn´t necessarily mean that you should wear the same outfit everyday like Bart Simpson, but it does mean you probably don´t need that 5th pair of black pumps.
When you go shopping, and you are trying on an outfit in the changing room, ask yourself : which occasions am I going to wear this in? Does it complement other items I already have?. Aim for items that have a high wearability , that are versatile. Like a nice blouse white linen blouse you can wear to work, with jeans or knotted at the waist with a cute little skirt.
2. Thinking long-term.
It´s easy to get excited about that flashy last trend that you see celebrities and influencers wearing when you scroll down your instagram...but it´s a good idea to consider the longevity of an item before we buy it.
Ask yourself : do I really like this superchunky dad sneakers, or do I only think I like them because "all the cool kids are doing it"?. Odds are, if one year ago you would have thought that piece was stupid - you will think this again next year. Maybe skip that one!
And, if you just can´t resist it, what about a clothing rental system? You can enjoy the latest trend without actually purchasing an item that is doomed to become irrelevant in a couple of seasons.
3. Avoid wear-only-once items.
Weddings, graduations, theme parties...or even just a night out! How many times have we bought a full outfit for a special occasion, wore it once and then leave these pieces forgotten at the bottom of our closet.
Think about how many times have your worn, on average, your party dresses. Not many, huh?. How many different black dressy pieces do you own? Are they really that different?
Next time you have an important event, like a wedding, why not trying to accessorize one of the pieces you already have to give it a different, more current touch? Or what about creating a group with your friends to lend each other dresses?
4. Quality over quantity.
Fast-fashion has all with stars in on our eyes and fascinated about how we can go shopping on sale and come back with bags full of new items without breaking the bank. However, the sad truth is that we only wear about half of the things we own.
And even those we do wear, when buying fast fashion, we can only wear a few times. Because they are usually have been made with low-quality materials and poorly constructed, so they don´t last much.
Try to start seeing clothes as an investment. and consider spending a bit more on higher quality items. Make a smarter, and more responsible choice
5 . Reduce the use of artificial materials.
Yes. I did say "reduce". This point might be controversial, but the truth is high quality synthetic and artificial fibers and coatings can have technical properties (such as insolation, quick-dry, UV-protection, waterproofing) that you just can´t achieve with natural fibers. This means that if we consider points 2 and 4, in many occasions an artificial fiber might be the way to go.
It is true that these man-made materials come from fossil fuels and are not biodegradable, so we should try to ease them out of our everyday wardrobe as much as possible. However, if you are planning on hiking Annapurna or go scuba diving, we can´t in good conscience advice you to do soo wearing cotton/hemp sweats.
High-end artificial materials are as well very durable, so purchasing a top quality nylon windbreaker with thermo-sealed seams is an investment for life. A lot of advancements are as well being made in recycling single-use plastics into recycled polyester. Established brands like G-Star or Adidas are already incorporating this into their collections, and others like Ecoalf or Everlane have sustainability as the center of their brand DNA and they promote it through plastic recycling.
Still, you do not need to have polyester in your basic t-shirts, or in your canvas sneakers. Make sure that you are mindful about when and why do you use this kind of fiber, and whenever possible try to find a recyclable/recycled one.
6. Go local
The offshore production process lead many factories in developed countries to close, since they could not keep up with the prices asian countries were offering. Not only jobs, but also local manufacturing traditions were lost, and towns who used to be production centers became ghost towns.
With the mindset "think global, buy local", many brands a new companies are trying to bring life back into these factories and towns, making sure the new generation appreciates the crafts that for centuries used to be the pride of the different regions of Europe and America.
On top of helping local communities, buying from local brands reduces the carbon print related to the items we buy. Try researching what kind of clothes or accessories are traditionally crafted in your area, as well as which brands operate regionally. Odds are you will discover something amazing you didn´t even know was made so close to your ome.
7. Take good care of your clothes.
Another side effect of the fast fashion culture, is the fact that we no longer care how long our clothes last. We buy fast and discard fast, so we don´t even bother in understanding how to take care of our clothes in the proper way.
If we invest in quality pieces that can last and be relevant for years, the next thing we must do is take proper care of them.
Use your clothes and accessories for what they have designed (i.e, don´t go hiking in ballerinas), wash them only when necessary and in the way recommended by the manufacturer, and store them properly.
8. Give them a second chance
Before throwing something away, make sure it´s absolutely necessary. There is many options you can try before giving up on your clothes and accessories.
If there is nothing broken or damaged, and you are just no longer interested in the style, try customizing it to make it look different or more current, or donate it to one of the many charities that gather clothes for the less fortunate.
If the garment is damaged, why not upcycling it and turning it into something different?
Is there any advice you would add to the list? Do you have any doubt about how to implement some of these points? Let us know in the comments!