Slow Series | How to Shop Slower & More Sustainably
The way we, as a nation, shop is broken. So many of us buy new clothes to alleviate boredom or for a rush of dopamine, without considering where those clothes come from, who makes them and where they will go when they no longer serve their purpose. The facts are terrifying: 92 million tonnes of textile waste is produced each year, 56 million tonnes of clothing is bought annually, and the average garment is being worn 36% fewer times than 15 years ago.
When it comes to buying new clothes, I always choose to buy from small independent British brands or I search for vintage garments. I need my versatile clothes that are suited for both workdays and the weekend, and that take me from day to night. Rather than trawling the high street and making impulse purchases, I make careful considerations about each new garment that I add to my wardrobe, searching for styles that will stand the test of time. I like my clothes to be unique and effortless, but I also want them to be as sustainably and ethically made as possible.
How can we adapt our habits to shop at a slower, more sustainable pace?
I would love to share with you my six rules when shopping that help me make sure I am purchasing items in a more considered way that work and build my capsule wardrobe.
MAKE MORE CONSIDERED PURCHASES
Take the time to think about what you’re buying. When I make a new purchase, I like to think of three ways that it will work in my wardrobe, as well as considering where and when I would wear it. Before you buy something new, ask yourself the following questions: Why are you buying it? How often will you wear it? Does it go with existing items already in your wardrobe? Do you already own anything similar?
The exception to the rule is if I am buying a statement piece for a special occasion – such as a vintage sequin dress. Yes, I know I won’t wear it very often, but I can guarantee that I will pull it out for at least one or two events each year. I’ve had this particular sequin dress for 15 years, and it’s my go-to garment that I pull out in that last minute, don’t-know-what-to-wear panic.
Avoid making snap decisions and making hasty purchases by allowing yourself to carefully consider every new garment for a few days before adding it to your basket. Make more considered purchases less often, rather than buying clothes for the sake of it. Try keeping a list on your phone of the garments that are missing from your wardrobe and refer to this list every time you consider making a purchase.
DISCOVER YOUR PERSONAL STYLE
Sometimes it can be tricky to curate a considered wardrobe if you aren’t sure of your personal style. Once you know the type of garments you like wearing, that suit you and that you wear often, your buying decisions will become more considered as you aren’t purchasing items that you only wear once before they get buried in your wardrobe. Pinterest boards and saved posts on Instagram can help to build up a visual picture of your style while also helping you see which items are missing from your wardrobe.
BUY LESS BUT BUY BETTER
Yes, sustainable and ethical clothing is more expensive than fast fashion, but if you purchase better quality garments they will stand the test of time and save you money in the long run. Take knitwear for example – jumpers and cardigans that are carefully crafted from real wool using heritage techniques will last a lot longer than fast fashion equivalents made from man-made materials. Wouldn’t you rather have one beautifully made sweater than a drawer filled with polyester knitwear that will look tired within a couple of years?
SPEND TIME RESEARCHING
Spend time researching the brands that you are considering making a purchase from, looking up their ethical and sustainable credentials. If you’re unsure where a brand manufactures its garments or what materials and techniques it uses, send an email to ask for more information. Don’t take phrases such as ‘eco, ‘conscious’ and ‘sustainable’ at face value, and don’t be lulled in by greenwashing. You can read our sustainable categories here, and we’ve put our responsible yarn certificates in one handy place for you to read.
You don’t always have to buy brand new. Shopping second-hand is the best way to shop more sustainably, giving a new life to garments that already exist while helping them to escape landfill. In addition to shopping in vintage stores and charity shops, there are many other ways to acquire ‘new’ second-hand garments. Organise regular clothes swaps with your friends or keep your eyes peeled for local events. Use apps such as Vinted and Depop to search for second-hand gems from the comfort of your own phone. Or discover Instagram accounts dedicated to selling and swapping slow fashion brands such as @slowfashi0nista, @newhomesforslowclothes and @swimsoftly. Curated vintage websites such as Curate & Rotate are also great for those who want to shop second-hand but don’t have the time to rummage or search. Size and fit can be an obstacle with second-hand clothes, but if you find a good local tailor, they can help to make your found treasures feel like they were made for you – especially pieces such as dresses and trousers.
LOOK AFTER THE CLOTHES YOU ALREADY OWN
Learn to love the clothes you already own to prolong their lifespan. Look after them; taking heed of washing instructions, drying them correctly and hanging and storing them safely away. Use canvas storage bags for delicate items such as knitwear and use natural moth repellents such as our lavender and cedarwood bags (you can read more about caring for your knitwear here). If a garment doesn’t fit you as you would like, take it to a tailor to alter it so that you can wear it more often. If a garment rips or tears, mend or repair it immediately to prevent further damage (if your Genevieve Sweeney knitwear needs a little TLC, discover our Knitwear Repair Service). Regularly re-organise your wardrobe, checking each garment for any damage and ensuring that everything is stored safely and correctly.
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