We have different reasons for buying a new item of clothing, perhaps our favourite white T has just has one too many holes in it now, or we have been invited to a prestigious online event (so need that top that’s going to look fab on the video call), or we just want to cheer ourselves up with some retail therapy. Whatever the reason, the amount of clothing that we currently consume is having a massive impact on our planet. The World Economic Forum reporting that 85% of clothing ends up in landfill, fashion is responsible for 10% of our carbon footprint and is the second largest user of fresh water supply. UK consumers spent a massive £71.9 billion on clothing & footwear in 2019 (statista.com) as part of a trend for consuming more each year. What can we do to become eco-conscious fashion shoppers? To keep ourselves clothed and enjoy fashion whilst considering the environment and our planets limited resources too? Here are three ways to help.
1. Stop and think.
The first thing to do is stop and think. Ask ourselves the question-why do we need or want this item of clothing in our lives? If we establish we can live without said item, then great, we are well on our way to be a more eco-conscious fashion shopper. Perhaps you can mend or repurpose something you already own. A beloved orange jumper of mine became a fabulous laptop cover within a couple of hours. My friend Deborah has enjoyed wearing a pair of trousers many times that she purchased 15 years ago from Banana Republic, with just some light hemming to keep them going. If, however, you decide actually I do need or want this item, great, you have stopped and really thought about it.
2. Would a non-buy option do the job?
Perhaps you only need the item you are thinking about for a few hours or a couple of days, here is where non-buy options come in. Renting can be a great way to go. We are becoming more used to renting now with the rise of the sharing economy and companies such as Air BnB, wework, and Zipcar so it makes sense to apply this to clothing. For a few years we have been able to rent occasion wear from companies such as Rent the Runway in the USA or Hirestreet in the UK. Now we are seeing more options become available, from peer to peer rental to companies offering stylist services. At My Wardrobe HQ in the UK, you can rent clothing in categories from leisurewear to bridal. There are many different designer names on offer from as little as £7/day for Michi leggings for example. Kipling luggage are piloting a scheme in the UK where you can rent a set of luggage for your travels. If renting is not for you perhaps you have a group of friends who would be up for a clothing swap. There are a few apps for clothes swapping now, such as Swancy where you can swap clothes online.
3. Can pre-loved work for me?
So you have decided to buy, the next question is can pre-loved work? This will depend a lot on context of course, the occasion it is for, what it is, and how long you expect to use it for. Getting a sports bra is a different decision to getting an outfit as a wedding guest. There are so many hidden gems in our high street charity shops or local vintage stores now. This month Oxfam in the UK is promoting “Second Hand September” where you can pledge to only buy second hand for 30 days in an effort to help the environment. Oxfam are also offering an online version of their shops, so you can browse by size, style, colour and more. This makes the preloved market accessible to so many more people. In fig 1 you will see my friend Liz in a wonderful outfit she wore for a friend’s wedding, the dress and jewellery were purchased from a local vintage store, which she has since donated to a local charity shop. A brilliant example of eco-conscious shopping, not only did Liz buy something pre-loved, she passed it on for others to enjoy too. In fig. 2 my friend Ann in an outfit she bought at a charity fundraising event in Houston, USA. Ann got herself a well-made, well-known label suit and blouse and raised money for a good cause too. Ann is committed to pre-loved clothing through events like these and charity shop (thrift store) finds.
Fig. 1 Liz
Hopefully these examples have shown that it is possible to be an eco-conscious fashion shopper. Just by stopping and asking ourselves the following questions we can start to build habits that are kinder to the planet, keep us clothed and continue to enjoy fashion too!
1. Do I need this item; can I live without it or can I repurpose something I already have?
2. Do I want to own this, or would a non-buy option do the job?
3. Can pre-loved work for me?
Of course, one of the best ways to be an eco-conscious fashion shopper is to love what we have, really care for our clothing and get some good use out of it. Do you have some stories to share of your eco-conscious shopping fashion finds, marvellous mending or sensational swaps? Would love to hear from you in the comments below!
 World Economic Forum (2020) “These facts show how unsustainable the fashion industry is” At https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/fashion-industry-carbon-unsustainable-environment-pollution/ accesses 10th September 2020.  Statista Consumer spending on clothing in the United Kingdom (UK) from 2005 to 2019 (in million GBP)* At https://www.statista.com/statistics/289999/consumer-spending-on-clothing-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/#:~:text=This%20statistic%20shows%20total%20consumer,stage%20during%20the%20reported%20period.Accessed 10th September 2020.