With the news this week that the UK government has proposed new measures to increase and support sustainable fashion, it finally feels like the world is beginning to catch on to the benefits of shopping sustainably.
Obviously, we've been shouting about the pros, and the joys, of shopping second hand for a long time now, but for those of you who aren't quite sure how to go about it or are looking to start incorporating more sustainable fashion into your wardrobe, this your go to guide.
Shopping sustainably can cover many things; buying from eco-friendly brands, finding second hand gems, and making the most of what you already own can all go a long way to helping reduce fashions impact on the environment.
Shopping from Sustainable Fashion Brands
Finding brands that are sustainable can be a challenge, as many companies greenwash their messaging to make them appear more eco-conscious than they are. Looking for small, independent brands with a transparent supply chain is a good place to start. Most small businesses will be able to identify precisely where their clothes are made and the conditions they're made in. If possible, look for brands that have their products created locally, or at least in the same country as they're based in, as this is a good indicator that they're limiting their CO2 emissions and keeping an eye on how their products are made.
You can also look for brands that have small runs of products, and a lower inventory on their website. If a company has tens of thousands of products for sale, it usually means they're being mass produced in poor conditions overseas. Smaller runs also means less wasted product being sent to landfill - a win win.
Shopping Second Hand
Second hand shopping is usually one of the things that people avoid the most when it comes to sustainable fashion. There are so many misconceptions that second hand and vintage clothing is dirty, in poor condition or "grandma-y" and therefore not worth buying, but this couldn't be further from the truth.
Lets break down the different types of second hand shopping:
First up you have vintage clothing. This is usually clothing and accessories made 20+ years ago, although some die hard vintage fanatics will argue that nothing before the 1980s should be considered vintage. Vintage clothing tends to be incredibly well made, unique and able to stand the test of time. You can find this anywhere from charity and thrift shops to true vintage shops and online stores.
Then there's modern second hand - this can be anything from high street to designer that has been previously owned by someone else. Whether it's been well worn or is literally new with tags, it's still considered second hand if you haven't bought it directly from a store.
Second hand and vintage clothing gets a bad reputation because people associate it with being well worn and falling to pieces, but more often than not you can find items that have only been worn once or twice, or even brand new with the tags still attached for a fraction of the retail price. Sites like eBay, Depop, Vinted, Etsy and Vestiaire Collective are great ways to buy everything from 70s vintage to this season's Gucci bag second hand.
When it comes to shopping in person (remember when that was a thing? Ahh to be able to have a good rummage through some rails) charity shops are often goldmines for bargain pieces, and we've definitely scooped some immaculate designer vintage from them for less than a fiver. Vintage shops are a great source of true vintage pieces.
Making The Most of Your Wardrobe
One of the easiest, and cheapest, ways of making your wardrobe more sustainable is to simply shop your own wardrobe! We all tend to buy more and more because we love the rush of having something new, and we can often feel bored and uninspired by our existing clothes. If you're in a bit of a rut, before you go and buy something new (or even second-hand-new) take a look at what you already have. Is there something similar that you can style in a totally new way that will make it feel like a whole new piece? Can you upcycle or modify something you haven't worn in a while to make it feel new?
As well as shopping your own wardrobe, the most sustainable thing we can all do is to take care of our existing clothes. Repair them, treat them with care, make sure you wash and dry them properly to keep them lasting a life time. If you do want to get rid of something, never just throw it away. Sell, swap or donate anything you don't want any more to keep it's life cycle going and make sure it doesn't end up in landfill.
Our throw away culture of clothing has became one of the biggest problems when it comes to fashion, so treasuring pieces, making them last and preserving their lifespan as much as possible is the ultimate way to make sure you're shopping sustainably and avoiding contributing to fast fashion's impact on the world.
If you want to know more about how you can shop sustainably, upcycle your wardrobe and exactly how to navigate shopping second hand, we've written an eBook! Style Yourself Green gives you a full breakdown on the different ways you can help make your wardrobe a little more eco-conscious.