Fast fashion is like a fantastical but extremely flighty friend. One moment you’re staring at something that looks just like that Calvin Klein cocktail dress from the late 90s that took your breath away, and the next you’re holding a bundle of polyester rags that fell apart after only a few wears, wondering what even happened. We’ve all been there, and at one time we may have thought, ‘‘oh well, it wasn’t that expensive’’. Even so, as this floating rock we live on struggles at the hands of humanity, many of us begin to wonder if there isn’t a better way forward, a way to retain the armour of a fuchsia skirt without hurting the planet or other living beings. So here are some top tips on how to shop sustainably and ethically; you can buy less but wear more!
Not all fabric was created equal
Consumer demand for more clothes at a lower price has risen and, for that to happen, something has to give. Fabric quality is usually the first place a company will make cuts. The importance of quality fabric being used in a garment is something that consumers often forget to look for, but it can make a huge difference. Not only does quality fabric tend to hang better due to the density of the weave, quality of the thread and thickness of the fabric, but it lasts longer! A well-made pair of jeans will last for a couple of years compared to the few months a pair that’s made from elastane and polyester will. Even if the pair with a higher amount of cotton is pricier, you’ll be able to wear it far more, for a much longer period of time, without them stretching out or ripping. Not only do synthetic fabrics usually fall apart quicker, but they also make you sweat. Natural fibres like linen breathe, keeping you cool and fresh, and not falling apart as quickly because they’re not getting attacked by the body’s cooling-off process as much.
However, there have also been advances made in the past few years in terms of creating synthetic fabrics that breathe, feel amazing, and look great, one of which is tencel. Tencel is a super soft, breathable, and easy-to-work-with fabric that was created using plant cellulose and is far better for the environment than cotton, which uses a large amount of water and pesticides to grow. It is also made without plastic, unlike a lot of other synthetic fibres.
Adopt, don’t shop
If you truly need something new, why not take someone else’s rubbish and make it your treasure? Hit up charity shops, vintage boutiques, and online retailers that allow people to sell their clothes, where you can find some incredible pieces at a fraction of the price that they would normally sell for. If you are on a tight budget, this is an easy way to continue to grow your wardrobe – without hurting your wallet, and without spending your cash at a shop that produces watered down versions of clothes you saw on a runway, made in a factory where workers are exploited. Nu Wardrobe, a business founded and based in Trinity, allow members to share clothes, thus saving people all over Trinity from the dreaded “I have nothing to wear!” realisation. Aisling Byrne, the founder and CEO, Ali Kelly, the co-founder, and their team are all passionate about helping to reduce clothes waste and ensuring that no one has to go to any event without something killer to wear.
If you are someone with a penchant for designer labels and the quality and craftsmanship that comes with them, then next time you go on a city break, look up what areas of that city tend to be home to the rich and famous. Then find out where the charity shops closest to that area are – you can then swoop in and snatch up designer goods whilst helping out a charity! In fact, some charities like Oxfam have cottoned on to people doing this, and have set up charity shops that are specifically curated to get the best pieces and sell them on while still maintaining bargain prices.
“Can you please spell Gabbana?”
Thanks to globalisation and the internet it has never been easier to access information about what is going on in the world. If you are unsure of where to start with informing yourself on the perils of fast and unethical fashion, that’s okay! Most brands have a website where they will talk a little bit about what their brand’s ethos and what they value; if they are a company that cares about environmentally friendly and ethical fashion, they will most likely say it. If they don’t, shoot their page a message on Instagram and they will happily tell you what their practices are like. You can also look up articles on them in publications like the Financial Times, Forbes, or Business Insider, where you can learn about their practices and how they treat their workers.
Does it spark joy?
Would it really be an article about purchasing habits if Marie Kondo wasn’t mentioned? All jokes aside, this really is a great question to ask yourself when thinking about making a purchase, maybe paired with: “Can I think of at least three outfits I can make with this piece using other items that I already own?” You’re browsing and you come across the coolest, trendiest, most perfect piece of clothing you have ever seen. You buy it without a second thought, and you get home thinking about how you can’t wait to wear it with, guess what, nothing. You have nothing that it really goes with it, so you vow to buy something to go with it. You never find it and you never wear it. We want to buy less and wear more. So next time you think “I gotta have it!”, ask yourself whether it really is a match made in heaven.
Simple changes to where and what you spend your money on can make a huge difference to how far that money goes and to how it affects the world around you. If even just one of these tips was implemented when shopping, landfills would be smaller and there would be less strain on the environment. Think of one of the many recent scandals where consumers were unhappy, such as when H&M failed to realise that putting a young black boy in a t-shirt that said “little monkey” was racist and unacceptable. People were in uproar about it and H&M reacted quickly by removing it and issuing a public apology, thus proving that even big brands listen to their customers. Therefore, our purchases create and force companies to do better; a small change can and does make a difference.