If you’d walked up to me in the street a couple of years ago and asked me to describe what sustainable fashion looks like I know exactly the image I would have had in my head. Long, flowing layers, a very washed-out, neutral colour scheme, lots of linen – basically a very wholesome, hippie, Earthy, boho look. And you know what, I have always liked that look, it can be completely beautiful… on other people.
What can I say? I’m short and curvy so I need mo
re structured pieces to emphasise that – I look about 10 stone heavier if I wear loose, flowing layers. I’m very, very pale with darker features and so I best suit stronger colours – jewel tones and charcoal over here – I look positively ill in pastels or muted shades. And you know, because I was so utterly convinced by this singular image I had in my head of what sustainable fashion looked like, for years, I just assumed I couldn’t have any part in it.
If I had to describe my style (which I sort of hate doing because I’m bad at it), I’d say I dress sort of urban-edgy with maybe some grunge or goth vibes thrown in. I like tartan and (faux) leather, ripped denim and graphic tees – are you getting the picture as to how far away I am from that “typical” sustainable fashion image I had in my head?
Well, the good news is that I was very wr
ong about the whole thing. Turns out, shockingly enough, that there are many people all over the world with an interest in sustainable fashion and that they are all individuals with different tastes and styles. The more I actually looked into sustainable fashion – rather than just flicking through my mental slideshow of 70’s hippie outfits with Fleetwood Mac playing on a loop in my head – the more I realised that you can dress in basically whatever style you want – and still take a stand against fast fashion. Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Shop second hand
I actually always loved charity shops – just not for ethical reasons. I loved finding quirky pieces and not being dressed the same as everyone else, and most of all I loved the prices. But one thing that is always annoying about charity shops is that if you’re looking for something specific, sure, you might find it in the first shop you go in… or it could take you months to find the right piece in the right size, in the right condition.
For that reason, I strongly suggest trying out second hand shopping online – whether that’s using an old classic like eBay (link to my shop, if you’re interested), a more modern app like Depop, or, the one I’m still finding my way around – ASOS Marketplace.
Rummaging through boot sales or charity shops can be so fun, but it can definitely be easier to find a super cute, fun piece, than say, a pair of jeans in exactly the wash, style and size you need – so definitely familiarise yourself with some online platforms and save yourself a lot of frustration in the long run!
Shopping second hand might not seem as intensely sustainable as shopping from a brand that produces locally, ethically and is high quality – but the thing to remember is that even a product that is produced in an environmentally friendly manner still uses resources – whereas buying something second hand uses no additional resources.
If you have concerns about buying second hand pieces in fabrics that may release microplastics in the wash – you can purchase a pretty affordable Guppyfriend laundry bag for all your synthetic materials, that will catch those microplastics during the wash cycle and stop them from entering the water supply.
2. There ARE a range of brands out there producing different styles, and even some brands you may have written off may sometimes contain hidden gems.
If I’m being honest, I have to admit that when I’m browsing online and looking at sustainable fashion websites… I don’t like most of what I see, or rather it’s just not “me”. People Tree, for example, is a brand that I love – in theory – but most of their designs really don’t call to me. Sometimes I’ll love the print and not the cut, and sometimes, it’s the other way round – but every once in a while, there is a piece that would work for me.
For example, these trousers I would totally wear, and I’ve actually had my eye on this tee for a while now. My point is, that even if an overall brand aesthetic doesn’t match up with your own, if the quality and the ethics are something you support then it’s worth keeping an eye on them – seasons change, cuts and styles and colour palettes change, and as with People Tree, every so often you might find something that makes you go all heart eyed emoji.
On the other hand, doing further research may mean that you find a brand you love the look of and are therefore overwhelmed with choices! It took me quite a long time to stumble across sustainable UK brand Rapanui (and even longer to work out how to pronounce it). A lot of what they make is much more “me”, including some great basics like hoodies, and some super-awesome graphic tees – they’re definitely not a brand I’ve heard much about but I’m so glad I came across them – this octopus tee for example, it’s like they know me!!! I (definitely) don’t currently need any new tees, but when the time comes this is definitely where I’ll be heading for some cute graphics and environmental messages.
3. YOU get to decide for yourself what constitutes “sustainable” and what brands and products you’re happy to support.
We seem to be living in a time where sustainable fashion is finally (finally) starting to be talked about by influencers and brands in the mainstream. While it’s great to think that big brands are catching on, if you’re going to be shopping more “Eco” ranges from bigger brands, I definitely recommend checking out this video from My Green Closet on Greenwashing, to familiarise yourself with what it is and why it’s such a problem.
My point though, is that it’s pretty much impossible to buy clothing that is perfectly ethical. Maybe the workers are paid fairly but it’s not organic cotton or eco dyes, maybe it does use great materials and fair labour… but you have to ship the products half way around the globe to get them. Everyone has the right to decide for themselves what cause they most support, or what their number one priority is, and to shop in line with their own beliefs.
For example, if organic materials is something you’re really passionate about, H&M Conscious Collection might really speak to you. If you love wool, but don’t support buying it new because you’re a vegan, then some of the pieces from Mango’s new Committed Collection – like this recicled skirt – might be a great fit. Personally, I’m still conducting my own research into what big brands I will and will not support – and like I said, it’s everyone’s individual decision anyway. One thing I did pick up recently which I thought was quite cool, these gloves from ASOS that are made from 3 recycled plastic bottles. Pretty neat.
So, that turned out longer than I was expecting – 10 points if you made it this far – but I hope it gave you some food for thought if you’re new to the world of sustainable fashion and not really sure what to make of it or where to start. As always, I love discussing all aspects of style and the fashion industry, so if you have any questions, comments or corrections you’d like to put to me – comment down below or come say hi over on Instagram!