Sunday, November 30, 2014

How to build a sustainable wardrobe - one step at a time

Posted by Amanda Villaruel | |
Do you want to build a sustainable wardrobe, but don't know where to start?

Although it requires a lifetime to achieve a fully sustainable wardrobe, there are certain things you can do today that will make your wardrobe more ethical and environmentally friendly ;-)
Figure: what is sustainable fashion and style including eco fashion, vintage, second-hand, craftsmanship, high-quality
Figure: What is sustainable fashion and style?

There are many ways we can support social and environmental causes, and as illustrated in the figure above, you can include vintage pieces or acquire fairtrade clothing.

But I won't hide the fact that buying less and sticking to products that we truly need, is essential for a sustainable wardrobe. What we need is both subjective and personal decision, and I won't tell you to get rid of things to acquire a minimalist wardrobe. It's more about the process - that we think it through before we make a purchase.

Read: Sustainable fashion terminology from A-Z (opens in a new window)

Step 1: Clean out your closet

If you want to build a sustainable wardrobe from scratch, start by decluttering your closet. Go through everything and make four piles:
  2. DONATE/SWAP-PILE (donate to charities or swap with friends)
  4. GOES-TO-RECYCLING-PILE (anything that isn't fit for donating, such as old underwear)
Try out the clothes in the maybe-pile and invite a couple of friends who can help you with sorting out the clothes. I find it helpful and effective if an objective party can relieve me from something as dreadful as decluttering, or give opinion on what works and what doesn't ;-)
Eco-friendly clothes from The Reformation. Photo courtesy of Reformation.
Eco-friendly clothes from The Reformation. Photo courtesy of Reformation.

To avoid making the same, wrong purchase in the future, I believe it's wise to spend some time reflecting on why the garment isn't desirable anymore. 

Is it the wrong color? Not trendy anymore? Too big? Too tight? You can save a lot of money in the future by setting a higher wardrobe standard for yourself.

I don't know many times I've found impulsive "bargains" with the price tag still on, mostly clothes that weren't trendy anymore.

Most of the purchases I've made have been done online, which is convenient but risky, if you ask me. The other day I donated a new pair of office shoes that I bought online last year, as the shoes didn't fit my broad feet to begin with. I forgot to return the shoes and decided to keep them... And ta-da... I was the sad owner of a pair of shoes that hid in the back of the closet.

Read: A guide on how to arrange a clothing swap.

Step 2: Make a list and fill in the missing pieces

After decluttering, I find it useful to make a detailed list of garments, including color and budget. You can:

A) Fill the wardrobe gaps with only new sustainable clothing, whether it's made from organic cotton or second-hand. I find it easier to start with clothes that are made from organic cotton, because it's easier to get a hold of and normally cheaper compared to recycled polyester.
A sustainable combination of vintage trench coat, fairtrade tote bag and stockings made from recycled nylon
Here a combination of vintage trench coat, fairtrade tote bag and stockings made from recycled nylon.
Products of etsy/citizenrosebud (coat), People Tree (bag) and Swedish Stockings.

B) Fill the wardrobe gaps with a mix of sustainable and ordinary clothing by setting a ratio. You can start with 1:1 (for every new piece of clothing you buy, you get 1 vintage/second-hand/fairtrade).

Go easy on yourself and try to set a realistic goal. If you see that things are going well, go the next level and change the ratio to 2:3 or 3:2, whatever that feels comfortable.

I need to repeat myself though, this isn't a request to shop as much as possible ;-) Remember that the basis for a sustainable and ethical wardrobe should be buying less, but better stuff.

Step 3: How do you find sustainable clothing that fits your style?

A) Start with a local search

If you prefer to try on clothes before you buy them, start by finding sustainable or ethical clothing in your nearby areas, with the help of the search engines. What stores are available? If there's any results on Google, the search engine will automatically provide you with a Google map of relevant business listings.

In the example below I've typed in "vintage oslo", and these are the results.
Search for sustainable clothing locally
Search for sustainable clothing locally

B) If that doesn't work out, here are my suggestions

For instance, do you like different colors and patterns? Then vintage fashion and certified fairtrade clothing from People Tree would be natural choices for you.
How to define your own sustainable style - fairtrade dress from Armed Angels
Fairtrade dress.
Photo courtesy of Armed Angels

Do you prefer a more classic style or enjoy wearing designer brands?

Then maybe eco fashion, fairtrade and second-hand are the alternatives you should consider. Eco-friendly brand to consider is Reformation and the ethical brand Everlane.

Other companies offer sustainable collections, but aren't necessarily acknowledged as a "sustainable" or an "ethical" brand, such as Filippa K's sustainable collection and H&Ms conscious collection :-)

Maybe you have a rock chic style? Then check out the clothes from the German brand Armed Angels, vintage galore from ASOS Marketplace, jeans from Nudie Jeans, MUD Jeans or Monkee Genes.

Check out my handpicked collection of sustainable fashion brands from A-Z

A practical guide to ethical shopping.

Step 4: Keep tabs on your favorite sustainable or ethical stores

Make a list of all the stores with (online) addresses. A tip is to make this list on your smartphone for easy access (under 'Notes' maybe).

On a final note, if you happen to buy something that is considered less sustainable, it's not the end of the world. Today's sustainable fashion industry can meet some of our needs, but frankly - not all of them.

Either way, I believe that practicing some sustainability is better than doing nothing ;-)

Continue to read:
Read: a guide on how to stop shopping for clothing (for a little while).

Have your say about what you just read :)

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