The term ‘sustainability‘ is thrown around a lot these days, often by brands making empty eco claims to tick a marketing box. But while the burden is certainly on the fashion industry to be more environmentally-friendly – and of course, there are sustainable brands making very positive progress – it’s also on us as consumers.
Half of us have a piece of clothing hanging in our wardrobe that we’ve never even worn, while a staggering 64% of us own something we’ve only worn once, and have no intention of wearing again, according to a survey by Vanish.
Every single week, 13 million items of clothing end up in UK landfill. This equates to around 350,000 tones of clothes binned in the UK every year. For context of the toll that takes on the planet’s resources: it would take 13 years for one person to drink the water needed to make just one cotton t-shirt and a pair of jeans.
So, we called upon award-winning stylist Susie Hasler (AKA Styled By Susie), to share her tips for building a truly sustainable wardrobe, and the common mistakes we should avoid.
“Having worked with thousands of women from around the world, I see the same mistakes being made,” Susie says. “It’s easy – and doesn’t affect the budget – to grab an extra cheap item, or to take a chance on a blouse in the sale.
“But it’s when we buy without planning or thinking about the consequences, that clothes end up not being worn, and our shopping becomes wasteful. A sustainable wardrobe is one that gives you longevity, joy and confidence.”
Here are Susie’s top tips…
Ask yourself this question before you buy
Can I wear this item three ways? This is the question you should ask yourself before buying any item of clothing or shoes. That’s it. Simple! Making a decision on an item of clothing can be difficult, particularly when you’re shopping alone or online. If you can imagine wearing the item three ways with existing pieces in your wardrobe, go for it. If you can only see yourself wearing it one way, or for a one-off occasion, it’s an unsustainable piece to buy.
Learn the art of accessorising
Tired tops or drained dresses can often be jazzed with accessories. Whether it’s a long necklace or colourful earrings (a ‘bra for your face’ because they give you a natural facelift!), or a bold scarf, accessories are a vital addition to any wardrobe. They are affordable and are a great way of adding personality to your basic capsule wardrobe.
Build a capsule wardrobe
Whether it’s for smart clothing for work, or casual wear, a capsule wardrobe is surprisingly easy to form. What’s more, you don’t have to spend money on designer pieces to create one. Essential items for an effective capsule wardrobe include: a basic (preferably white) T-shirt, a longline blazer, a shirt (denim or white), skinny or straight leg jeans, a pair of smart trainers, boots, a biker-style jacket and a dress of choice. These items can easily be mixed to create numerous different looks during each season. They don’t have to be designer pieces but I would recommend shopping for your jeans, blazer and footwear in higher-end high street shops, to ensure the cut and quality will give you longevity.
Sell, sell, sell!
Never throw an item of clothing away. It’s been harder during Covid, but once car boot sales start up again, take along a rail and sell your unwanted items. Don’t expect to earn much money, but it’s a great way of passing old clothes to someone else who may love and need them more. For more expensive items or pieces in better condition, sell on secondhand selling sites. Even if you make £30, it’s more money than you would have otherwise made by throwing them away. And someone else will love and cherish your clothing, saving it from landfill.
Take the time to restore (no, you don’t have to be a pro at sewing)
If a T-shirt has faded, has a stain or just looks a bit worn out, there are many ways to refresh it. Stains can be covered with iron-on patches and motifs, tees can be dyed different colours and faded black jeans can be restored to their original colour. You don’t have to be great at sewing or even own a sewing machine. Many alterations can be done by hand and you will surprise yourself at how creative you can be. You can even jazz up grubby white trainers by giving them a scrub or customising them with Acrylic pens!
Dress ‘from the feet up’
Yes, those bright red trainers are calling you, but are you really going to get enough wear out of them to warrant splashing your cash, without it being wasted? I always advise dressing from the feet up. If you opt for shoes in neutral colours, they’ll go with many more outfits in your wardrobe. If you plan what you’re going to wear from the feet up, you’ll find it easier to piece together an outfit.
Avoid being a bargain hunter
It can be tempting – especially if money is tight – to buy bargains that catch your eye in the sales. Before you do, ask yourself why this item is in the sale? Because there is usually a very good reason; maybe it doesn’t fit very well, or the material doesn’t feel nice against your skin. If it was a good quality, nice fitting item, it would have sold out. Sale mistakes are the items that stay in your wardrobe!
Don’t buy with a future goal in mind
You might think buying the dress that’s a little too small will motivate you to lose weight, but in truth, it probably won’t. If clothes don’t fit you right now, then don’t buy them – leave them on the shelf. You wouldn’t buy a pair of heels or new trainers if they didn’t fit, so the same ethos needs to be applied to clothes. Only buy what you need, what will work well with other items in your wardrobe, and what fits you. Even if you do end up losing weight, your dress size – realistically – is not going to change that much.
Got kids? Buy pre-loved fashion
It’s all too easy to buy plentiful new clothes for your little one but that’s where Kidswear Collective – a website selling pre-loved designer baby and kids fashion – comes in. As a mum-to-be, you’ll quickly find out how much waste their is when it comes to baby clothes in particular and Kids Collective are passionate about extending the lifecycle of baby and kids clothes. All items are sourced, curated and authenticated from our exclusive network across the industry and the team work with fashion influencers and stock prestigious brands such as Stella McCartney Kids, Chloé, Burberry, Gucci to small, up-and-coming labels. The unique collaborations aim to support the re-use, sustainability and the circularity of fashion and a minimum of 2.5% of all sale proceeds are donated to the NSPCC. Whatever they are unable to sell is donated to a family charity called Little Village. We like to see it.
To book a style session with Susie, head to styledbysusie.co.uk