Aside from buying second hand, it can be difficult to know how to make sustainable fashion choices when buying new clothes.
Sustainable fashion brands are more expensive than fast fashion because items aren’t mass-produced — and sometimes brands aren’t as sustainable as they lead you to believe.
What is fast fashion?
Fast fashion is a modern term to explain how the industry has changed and it is having huge impacts on the environment. Brands are rushing to get trends from the catwalk to the high street faster than ever, and this rush results in low quality items that don’t last and end up in the bin after one season. Additional, brands order items in such huge masses that it doesn’t all sell, so ends up in landfill.
Why is sustainable fashion important?
Sustainable fashion ensures a better supply chain — workers getting paid well, and items being made properly so that they last or can be passed on to someone else for continued use.
How can fashion be sustainable?
The best way to buy new but sustainable fashion is to ensure good quality of clothing. I’m in my late 20s now and I can think of so many items I got rid of because they went out of fashion, only to be filled with regret a few years later when trends came back around.
Even if you don’t want to keep an item, if it is good quality it can at least be passed on or given to charity with a better chance of a long life. In the current state of fast fashion, vintage clothing won’t exist in the future because it will all be in a landfill.
These seven sustainable fashion hacks will help you to spot good quality clothing and avoid getting sucked into the detriment of fast fashion.
Eco-friendly clothing hack: Check the label
Look out for clothes made from responsibly sourced fibers. Words like “recycled” or “organic” are good things to look out for. Natural fabrics like wool can be good as they need less washing and are longer lasting.
Eco-friendly clothing hack: Avoid multi blend fabrics.
Clothes made of mixed blends are more likely to break down quickly and are difficult to recycle.
Eco-friendly clothing hack: Choose clothes with metal zippers
This is quite rare, I know, but plastic zippers just don’t last. You also need t change your mentality – don’t throw something away just because the zip broke! Take it to the dry cleaners of a tailor, it really won’t cost a lot.
Zips are also a really good way to tell if something is genuinely vintage because plastic zippers weren’t common until the 70s. If a vintage seller is claiming an item of clothing is pre-70s and there is a plastic zip, they’re probably lying (definitely if it is pre-60s).
Sustainable fashion hack: Hold it up to a light
Unless you’re looking for something sheer, check if an item is see-through by holding it up to the light. We shouldn’t have to wear nude underwear or layer clothing! We should be able to buy a top or a skirt without worrying about our underwear showing. This is a quick way to tell if something is cheap and won’t last.
Sustainable fashion hack: Check the stitching
It shouldn’t be too tricky to tell if something has been made poorly. Obviously, if hems are fraying or look shoddy put it back, if you’re not sure then pull it apart slightly and see how much it pulls away — you will be able to tell if it is likely to wear away or tear easily.
Sustainable fashion hack: Do the patterns match up at the seams?
If designs and patterned fabric matches ear it has been sewn, this indicates it has been made by hand or with more consideration. This shows it has not been mass-produced, so should be a more sustainable choice.
Also, patterns should match at the seams — if it doesn’t then people will be able to tell its cheap (and if it wasn’t cheap then you’ve been ripped off).
Sustainable fashion hack: Spare buttons
Does it come with spare buttons etc? That’s a good sign it’s been made to last and you can easily repair it if needed. It takes two minutes to sew on a button, this definitely is not a reason to get rid of an item of clothing.
Sustainable fashion hack: Look after your clothes
As well as replacing zips and buttons, try sewing up holes or rips before you discard an item as you might be able to save it (or at least pass it on for longer life). You can easily find out how best to do this on YouTube, or an older relative will probably know.
The more we wash our clothes, the faster they break down. Avoid over washing by spot washing small marks and airing your clothes by a window to freshen up smells – you really don’t need to wash something every time it is worn (this is a waste of water and electricity too!). When you do wash, try using the delicate or wool wash as its better for clothes.
Check the fabric care instructions, you might be washing things wrong. Merino wool, for example, should only be washed every three to four months — this will help you avoid shrinking or fading your clothes.
Avoid the tumble dryer and air dry instead — your clothes will last longer, and tumble dryers use a lot of electricity.
Find your local cobblers to get shoes re-soled and re healed when they need it. This won’t cost you a lot but will allow you to wear your shoes for longer and if you have invested in a good pair (which you should!), then they will last a great deal longer. (Just don’t forget about them for months like I did — RIP Cowboy boots of 2016).