Buy Less, Choose Well, Make It Last
Regular readers will know that I have more than a passing interest in the more sustainable aspects of the fashion industry. Having already read ‘Stitched Up: The Anti-Capitalist Book of Fashion‘ by Tansy Hoskins – after hearing the author speak about the politics of fashion in 2015 – I felt like I needed to know even more about the many ways in which following fashion affects our planet and the people living on it. So, I am currently reading Lucy Siegle’s excellent book ‘To Die For: Is fashion wearing out the world?‘ which, to be perfectly honest, I should really have bought when it first came out in 2011.
It’s easy to think that it’s too big an issue and there’s no way that one person could ever make a difference, but reading about what The Pool’s writer Lauren Bravo learnt during her month off ‘unethical shopping’ was very interesting as it made me realise that there’s a lot I already do. Instead of beating myself up over the failure of my self-imposed ‘Buy Nothing Challenge‘, I should instead be focusing on talking more about what I already do well. The Fashion Revolution website discusses shifting the way we think about fashion:
The way we consume clothing has changed a lot over the past 20-30 years too. We buy more clothes than we used to and spend less on them. A century ago, we spent more than half our money on food and clothes, today we spend less than a fifth. As a society we purchase 400% more clothing today than we did just 20 years ago. Every time we buy something that costs less than we think it should, we are implicit in the impacts of that transaction.
We need to break our addiction to the need for speed and volume. We need to realise the true cost of our cheap bargains. Ultimately, we need to buy less, buy better and keep asking questions about the realities behind what we’re purchasing. We need to love the clothes we already own more and work harder to make them last.
My dedication now needs to be to ‘buy less and buy better’, but it can be extremely difficult if you’re hooked on very cheap clothes from retailers like Primark, H&M, or UK supermarkets like Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s. However, if you want to try, here are a few tips based on how I’ve already avoided an exhausting addiction to fast fashion…
1) Don’t be seduced by this season’s must-have items
Once you break yourself free from the desire to buy something just because it’s ‘hot right now’ and magazines are telling you that you ‘need’ it, fashion becomes much more fun. This doesn’t mean that you have to stop following fashion entirely though. Instead, you can use magazines and blogs to identify the current trends and then see how you can adapt your existing wardrobe (plus items from clothes swaps, charity shops and responsible retailers) to work with those trends.
2) Select based on the level of ‘clothes care cope’ you have
I have always made sure I do a few key things before committing to a clothing purchase – all of which I picked up from my mum. First of all, I scrunch up the fabric in my hand to see if it crushes horribly (knowing that, if it does, I will never wear it as I hate looking crumpled and I also hate ironing). Secondly, I check the washing instructions on the label (as dry-clean only and handwash will be a sign that it will never make it out of my laundry basket). And finally, I check the garment’s seams and finishing before parting with my cash. Admittedly, the last one is more tricky if you’re buying online, but it means that you’ll have an idea whether something will need repairs sooner than expected.
3) Don’t automatically throw your clothes in the laundry basket
Just as wearing clothes damages them, so does washing them. The detergent and movement needed to break down stains will cause some amount of wear and tear. The easy way to avoid this is to look after your clothes when you wear them so that they will need washing less often. Cover yourself with a napkin while you eat, be especially careful with anything oily or greasy, and try not to choose foods that stain when you’re wearing pale colours. Don’t sit directly on the floor/ground/grass and always attend to stains as soon as possible. Also, don’t wash your clothes unless they are stained or have absorbed a smell that can’t be eliminated by airing or Febreeze. You need to wash your clothing far less often than you think you do (especially in cold weather!).
4) Take good care of the clothes you have
When your clothes don’t need washing, make sure you hang/fold them carefully and put them away. Sounds like a lot of effort, but it will be worth it in the long run. Keep an eye out for unravelling hems and missing buttons, and teach yourself how to do small repairs. It’s often a lot quicker and easier than you think.
Lauren Bravo’s new plan is a fantastic one: “one new-new purchase a month, maximum, and only from a brand that I can research without feeling queasy. As much vintage and charity shop booty as I can fill up on, but no replacing old things unless I’ve tried to fix or revive them first. More talk, more action, more curiosity and more creativity – but less self-flagellation.” I’m going to attempt to do the same.