It’s said that fashion is one of the top polluting industries in the world right now, and it’s no surprise. The rapid production of pollution is due to the rapid production of clothes, due to the rapid increase in demand from customers. Every year the world as a whole consumes more than 80 billion items of clothing and most of these items will one day be thrown out. People are consuming more and they want it for cheaper prices, creating a trend called fast fashion. In our latest blog post, trainee Style Coach™ and sustainable style blogger, Lucy Briggs, shares her thoughts and advice on how we can all style ourselves more sustainably…
There has been a lot in the media lately around the “Evils” of the Fashion Industry – and rightly so! The fashion industry is responsible for emitting more carbon dioxide than the aviation and commercial shipping industries combined, and releasing millions of micro-plastics into our oceans every year. It is also notorious for offering poor pay and conditions for garment workers (80% of which are women). An alarming 63% of our clothes are made from plastic, and polyester requires crude oil and lots of energy for its production. It has created a throw-away culture for our clothes. The less you pay for something, the less you value it. This is evidenced by the figures showing that in the UK alone, 11 million items are sent to landfill each week.
I am not about to chastise the style seekers and fashionistas in a naughty child, waggy-finger way… that’s not going to make anyone change! However, education and encouragement to make positive change is vital. A change in our attitude towards our clothes needs to come from consumers, big-business AND governments. I doubt the fashion brands will self-regulate themselves any time soon and Governments require public pressure to push through legislation. I decided that I would start with educating myself and putting my ‘green pound’ where my mouth was.
Around this time last year, I purchased my last piece of Fast Fashion – a bright green, pure polyester, leopard print shirt. From a distance, it was striking and very on-trend – not to mention sooooo cheap. What a bargain for my payday fix! But that is the problem… Cheap = badly made, thin, un-breathable fabric. I tried to sell this item on eBay a few months ago, unsurprisingly, without success. It hangs in my wardrobe currently, a reminder of what (and how!) not to buy. Cost Per Wear is a great measurement of value, and this was still relatively high despite the original price-tag.
It was time to slow-down and reset. Starting 1 November 2018, I decided not to buy anything new for a year. Once the decision was made, I found it relatively easy. I could buy second-hand if I needed and I built in some exceptions (new underwear was not-negotiable!!). At the same time, I started to write a blog on trying to live more sustainably in all areas of my life. Pairing back and minimising my clothing the following summer felt like a natural progression. I have also always found summer style harder so thought this would help focus me on what I needed and using what I had already. Cue many hours spent swooning over the Instagram minimal capsules- all open rails of beautifully curated, coordinating clothes, chic matching accessories and divine decor – ah, sigh. I realised that although this was the end game, how to get there? Pinterest was actually where I found Project 333 – the minimalist fashion challenge that invites you to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. Perfect for my aversion to summer clothing and my constant decision fatigue about what to wear each day! All my other clothes were packed away out of sight (and temptation!).
As it turned out, I didn’t have to put much thought into my summer wardrobe, purely because I had had a big de-clutter and I was essentially left with near 33 summer items! As the weather was warm, it also didn’t matter that not much went together so layering was not as important… until the end of September where my shorts were no longer required in the UK drizzle! As Autumn had arrived in full force, I decided I would swap out the really seasonal items and replace them with some much-needed trousers! I strangely felt almost guilty about it, like I had failed. But this is a journey, an experiment and sometimes, things don’t work out how you plan. I still ended with 33 items and have made a much more concerted effort with my Autumn wardrobe (hello jumpers, how I missed you!!) to ensure that items went together. The best part about the process this time was “shopping my wardrobe” – For me, absence makes the heart grow fonder works with clothes too! Read more about my experience here
Doing these challenges, has highlighted that I don’t need rails and rails of clothing, I didn’t want to buy anything new and that sustainability in fashion is my passion. What does sustainability mean here? It is, contrary to popular belief, not all about the environment. Sustainability is based on the balance between environmental, social and economic benefits. The primary solution is to use what we already have… Kendra Pierre-Louis, author of “Green Washing” says “we cannot buy our way to a green planet”. This may seem totally at odds with the personal styling profession however, I believe this could be an opportunity.
Certified Style Coaches™ and Personal Stylists could be at the forefront of sustainable styling – educating and encouraging clients to “style themselves sustainably” and invest in sustainable clothing brands!
• De-cluttering is brilliant for so many reasons but from a sustainability point of view it allows others to enjoy the items clients no longer treasure
• Get creative and have fun with capsule wardrobe challenges! If Project 333 feels daunting, try 10×10 – 10 items, styled differently over 10 days. There are some brilliant influencers championing these challenges and there are some good hashtags to get involved with #chictorepeat, #30wears.
• Showing clients how to care for their clothes – proper storage, cleaning and mending (personally or recommending a local tailor).
• Helping clients to source quality items – pieces that we love and want to keep forever.
• Sourcing beautiful, quality second-hand or vintage items negates the need for further natural resources.
• Encouraging the mindset that if you don’t think you will wear it at least 30 times, don’t buy it…
• Rent it! Renting occasion wear is a great option when you know it will only where it once. Instead of 30 people buying a dress they won’t wear again – one dress for 30 people!
• Where you want to buy new, research and support truly sustainable clothing brands – they can be especially great for basics.
Remember that the most sustainable items of clothing are the ones we already own. As Joan Crawford said “Care for your clothes, like the good friends they are”. Now… where’s my favourite jumper?
- 5 Ways Fashion Damages the Planet
- Inquiry into the sustainability of the fashion industry
- Microplastics and the fashion industry
- The Conscious Closet – Elizabeth Cline
- Zero to Landfill – recycling clothes with Oxfam
About the author:
I’m Lucy, trainee Style Coach™ and a lover of clothes, nature documentaries and all things crafty. Lucky Mummy to 2 and wife to 1. I’m on a journey to make our lifestyle more environmentally friendly; well specifically, more sustainable. I started writing my blog as a sort of journal for myself but then I thought if people wanted to do the same but were unsure of where to start then they could join me… at my beginning.
There is so much exposure for the way we treat our planet, it is hard to ignore…. Or is it? Actually, it has been easy to. Fast fashion, fast food and fast living are still socially acceptable with the assumption that governments and big business must changes their ways first. However, I believe the power is with the consumer and thanks to the ‘Blue Planet Effect’ more and more people, like me, want to change their ways. I plan to share my journey to a sustainable lifestyle- easy changes, easy to keep.
Follow Lucy’s blog Colour Me Sustainable and follow her on Instagram here