Starting a Sustainable Wardrobe

If you’re looking to make your wardrobe sustainable and make more conscious choices, I’ve put together a list of baby steps you can apply. Some are easier and simpler to implement than others. Above all the process will help not just you, but the planet too.

Start with What You Have

Here’s the great thing, most of us clothing already and by using the clothing already instead of constantly buying something new you’re halfway there. Using what you already own is the first step in reducing your consumption. Maybe what you have right now is not your ‘ideal wardrobe’, that’s ok too. It doesn’t mean you need to completely rehaul everything.

Find the items you wear often and feel your best in, weed out items that are cluttering your space. After decluttering my wardrobe, I found that I didn’t need to replenish nearly as much as I thought I would. And I knew what was in my cupboard so getting dressed was easier! Consider tailoring or small repairs on items where needed. It might be cheaper to do it yourself than replace the whole thing. Try building a capsule wardrobe like The Anna Edit does seasonally and if you are decluttering, here’s a guide to getting rid of items that no longer serve you in a conscious way.

It’s also great to know that according to the world’s preeminent trend forecaster Li Edlekoort, trends are dying. So the constant pressure modern consumers feel to always have a new look is slowly ebbing away. This rethinking of the fashion industry at large will bring us all one step closer to a sustainable wardrobe.

Take Care

Taking care of garments and accessories will prolong the lifespan of what you’re purchasing and already own. Some of these things are really simple like washing out stains as soon as you’re able to or finding a good dry cleaner. Sometimes we can fix simples things ourselves, but find a good dry cleaner and local shoe repair or cobbler for the fixes you can’t do.

To a large extent, I’ve seen our generation disregard maintaining clothing and accessories. I was in high school when a friend laughed at me because I was cleaning my sneakers. She would have just thrown them away instead if they got mucky. Luckily there are tons of online resources to help us learn how to remove stains, sew a button on by hand or mend simple wear and tear. It’s the type of stuff our grandmothers knew, that could really help out the planet right now. I love this Instagram account, Mindful Mending for slightly eccentric ways to mend clothing. This will really help to keep your wardrobe sustainable.

Build a Solid Foundation

I asked Jessica Sutherland and Eleni Labrou of the OA why building a solid foundation is important. OA, or Origin.Archival, focusses on providing the ultimate dressing experience- building bespoke core closets for customers and then helping them collect avant-garde pieces that express their identities. “We believe a strong base of beautiful, well made, contemporary essentials is the ground upon which exceptional, personal style is built. You can fit a dramatic, personal statement into a considered foundation with ease”

It’s so true! Putting together outfits that truly speak to you and your style on a daily basis and for special occasions, is easier with a solid foundation. It also means there’s no need to shop on a weekly or monthly basis. That “dramatic, personal statement” the OA team speak about is also great because constant trends aren’t necessary when you can easier put your own personal stamp on what you’re wearing. It will also impact the earth a lot less in the long run. A flexible wardrobe is a sustainable wardrobe.

Invest in High Quality

“If you are able, prepare yourself to invest in your wardrobe. Your basics should be high quality garments that will last you a long time. A variety of neutral hues will give you more variation. Add colour once your foundation is solid. Purchase a selection of your favourite essential so that you can cycle your wear and reducing washing to extend the life of each garment. Understand that you may need to repair things. A loose hem can be fixed. Shop with a plan. Envision your collection before purchase and understand how garments work together. This turns your wardrobe into something that is dynamic & functional instead of just a rail of unused clothing.” says Sutherland.

To be honest I couldn’t have said it better myself. Buy the best that you can with your own budget- if the garment is going to put you in debt then leave it on the rail. If the purchase is a little more than your used to paying but will have a longer life span then the extra spend becomes worthwhile.

Support Local

A few years ago, maybe 5 years ago, I read a blog post about sustainable fashion and the best advice given was to shop local. Now, this was some time back when people’s concern for the environment wasn’t too high and less information was available. I thought a more updated approach might be needed for 2019 so I spoke to Cassmiat.

Cassimiat is a fashion blogger who invests in South African and African brands on the regular. “Not all local brands are driven by an ethos of sustainability. I think you have to be discerning in choosing the local brands who uphold conscious production in the making of their products and running of their businesses. On a personal level, I think sustainable wardrobes are built off of quality staples that last season after season. ”

Brands Cassmiat has on her radar are Mungo DesignLunar Lifestyle, SuperElla, Asha Eleven, AAKS, Waya Waya

“There a quite a few wardrobe sales happen online and physical events. I think that’s an amazing way to be sustainable in letting go of items that no longer add value to you.”  I love a good second-hand online sale and they are becoming increasingly popular. Another great option I’ve tried before is wardrobe swapping, easy to organise with like-minded friends and you spend nothing!

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👕Ask yourself, "Who made this?" . Thank you @twygmag and #fashionrevolutionct @fash_rev for a thought-provoking, interesting, mind opening evening listening to some seriously fierce women, Erica de Greef (Senior fashion curator at the Zeitz Mocaa), Zyma Amiens (Contemporary artist), @sindisokhumalo (Sustainable fashion designer) and @jackiemay_sa (Editor, Writer and Founder of @twyg sustainable lifestyle platform) . Now this is not to say that you'll never see me shopping at Zara every again, but I definitely will think twice about about. My top takeaways/thoughts from the evening were: 1. How do we decolonize fashion in Africa – how does timing and the past influence the the future. How do we look at reusing and repurposing, recrafting, reusing and remaking with the clothing/fashion that we already have? 2. Never forget the hand-makers and local designers who often get overlooked when people are looking for their next item – we need to be more mindful and rather go look at local boutiques. 3. How much value do we place on the service that we receive everywhere so that everyone is paid a decent living wage? Why are we willing to a low price for a garment ie. For the service, time and effort that was put into it when we expect to be paid a decent wage? 4. Save and slow down. You can save up for that expensive item that will last longer, you will savour and have for longer. Let's bring back the excitement of letting go of instant gratification when shopping. 5. Where there's a demand, supply will be created – the power to make change is in your pocket 6. If you care about women's empowerment and the environment – Then look no further than to question the clothing on your back. . Small change to make a big difference #12: I am not saying stop shopping, I am saying think more, question more, research more, wait more, savior more, invest more and look-after more. . #sustainability #sustainabilitymatters #environmentalsustainability #sustainabiltyinstyle #environment #sustainabilityfordummies #ecofriendly #lowimpact #lowimpactmovement #lesswaste #reducewhatyouproduce #sustianablechoices #fashionrevolution #fastfashion #fashion #fashionrev

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Make Fast Fashion your Last Resort

Why make fast fashion a last resort? I spoke to Kara Levy, whose behind the Instagram account Treader Lighter; an amateur’s guide to making more conscious choices when it comes to all things living and consumption. “There are too many reasons to include! The main one that sticks with me is that one rubbish truck worth of clothes are dumped into landfills around the world, EVERY SECOND. For me, that is enough to not add to the consumerism around unnecessary purchases. “

But what about if you can only afford fast fashion? How do we look out for brands and products are actually sustainable, not “greenwashed” for marketing? 

Levy says “When products contain fabrics like recycled PET, which is made into polyester, then brands usually will tell consumers about it e.g. Woolworths RE jeans or the Adidas range that was made from recycled material. Look for second-hand brands who are likely to have been produced sustainably like Patagonia. People can also educate themselves, but going on brand owners’websites and reading up on their sustainability agenda to assess what is going on behind the scenes. ” Greenwashing is the practice of making a company seem more environmentally friendly than it is with unsubstantiated claims about ecological benefits.

What steps are you taking towards a sustainable wardrobe? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

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