Having an ethical wardrobe is something that’s become an important part of my routine and life – I wrote here about my switch to more sustainable and ethical fashion – and over the last few months it’s something I’ve happily noticed a big shift towards.
There is a lot of crap going on across the planet, and whilst buying ethical clothes might not be as world-changing as consuming less meat and taking more public transport over driving, it helps move fashion and the industry in a better direction, whilst also benefitting those who are hired and earn a better income – thus having a better lifestyle from it.
Just like going vegan, switching out or investing in more ethical items can be more costly, and makes picking up something easily via the high street a lot more appealing in the short term. And that’s what I’m trying to do less – buy for the short term.
When I was 16 I went to Topshop every weekend to get something new for an event or party or just because you couldn’t be seen in the same outfit too often. 99% of everything in that wardrobe was donated to charity and worn maybe 10-15 times, it wasn’t well worth the money and I didn’t value it, whereas now I think about every purchase I make – does this fit in my wardrobe? Is it necessary? Can it replace something for the better? Could I wait until the sale or do I need it now? Will I actually wear it? Do I actually need it?
If you have been thinking about shopping more sustainably, here is my process for switching items out and buying something with longevity (that also has good materials and carbon footprint!)
• Have a general clear out of items – we should all do this anyway, regardless of ethical clothing! It’s good to see what you own and rediscover old items, plus donate those things unloved to people who need it. I generally have two lines of thought when it comes to sorting:
– have I worn it the past two respective seasons?
– do I have multiple versions? Which do I wear most?
• Look at what you wear most – pieces, styles, how long you’ve had it, what’s just trend based and what has longevity. I’m a big fan of stripes, and most of my tops are striped because it’s a classic I always feel good in! I also have a lot of blue jeans, some slogan tees, and statement dresses, just enough to mix it up but also feel I can pull out anything and style in under an minute.
• What are you missing? Is it a key item? I currently *need* plain coloured wide-legs trousers. I say *need* because needing another pair of trousers isn’t the same as needing to drink clean water, but it’s something I don’t have and would work in my daily wardrobe as I have a lot of striped or pattered tees. Due to longevity, they’d have to be a neutral colour to work all year round (navy, as black is just too draining on me) and be thick enough to wear in winter but cool enough to dress up in summer.
The good thing about sustainable shopping is that if you can’t buy it, you just have to make stuff work, and when you do find it, it’s the perfect thing you’ve been looking for – and totally worth the wait!
• Research sustainable brands. There are quite a lot of sustainable and ethical brands on the market, they’re just not shouted out about as much! Whilst you have some obvious designer options, most of the time you need affordable and attainable brands that produce good quality clothes and accessories that are wearable every day. I’ve gone into detail about some of my faves below (and linked the items) but here’s my list of fave ethical fashion brands to check out:
People Tree – all fairtrade, organic cotton
Thought Clothing – all organic cotton, hemp, and bamboo
Sugarhill Brighton – has an organic cotton section with plans to expand, and work with charities to give back on purchases of specific items
Matt and Nat – all vegan handbags and accessories in very fashionable styles and colours
Pala – Ethical sunglasses which are SUPER cool!
Edge of Ember – Ethical jewellery which is very beautiful
• Price. The big one, the main reason we shop the way we do. Items have to be affordable, or at least worth their price, and whilst at first £36 seems a lot for a tee, it pays for materials free form chemicals and carefully produced, plus supports the communities who make the clothes too. Keep items in your basket for few weeks, see if you keep thinking about it, and then dive on it.
• Always shop slow and for longevity. At the end of the day, it’s about paying a bit more to buy less, and to wear it longer. Find jeans that are made with ethical cotton and come from a sustainable source – whether the brand gives back, provides better opportunities etc – or a handbag in a classic style that uses vegan leathers or materials. If you are starting out, pick basics that are high quality and will last a long time in your wardrobe and then grow your collection from there.
Now here are a few things in my summer wardrobe that I’ve been wearing a lot recently:
Striped Dress – Sugarhill Brighton (no longer available, got on sale!)
Rainbow Stripe Long Sleeve Tee – Sugarhill Brighton (organic cotton, on sale)
Red Cocktail Dress – Sugarhill Brighton (currently on sale at a proper steal, organic cotton)
Blue Bag – Matt and Nat (on sale and vegan leather)