Mindful Buying, Shopping Sustainably & Ethically.

Mindful Buying, Shopping Sustainably & Ethically.

In addition to re-creating old clothes, an effective way to support green fashion is to avoid buying newly produced clothing, simply because vintage and secondhand clothing require no new energy for production, and zero waste. Many charity and second-hand shops are now selling online, Oxfam has recently relaunched its online shop (presenting vintage specials, accessories and bags) with a range of high-end brands such a Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Whistles. The site allows you to filter for brands, styles and sizes; which can be a lot more appealing than spending hours in a charity shop. Your purchases will go towards helping those who are disproportionally affected by the coronavirus, providing access to basic necessities such as clean water and food. You can improve the lifecycle of your secondhand by clothing only washing them when essential, at a low temperature then letting them dry naturally.

In addition to re-creating old clothes, an effective way to support green fashion is to avoid buying newly produced clothing, simply because vintage and secondhand clothing require no new energy for production, and zero waste. Many charity and second-hand shops are now selling online, Oxfam has recently relaunched its online shop (presenting vintage specials, accessories and bags) with a range of high-end brands such a Burberry, Ralph Lauren and Whistles. The site allows you to filter for brands, styles and sizes; which can be a lot more appealing than spending hours in a charity shop. Your purchases will go towards helping those who are disproportionally affected by the coronavirus, providing access to basic necessities such as clean water and food. You can improve the lifecycle of your secondhand by clothing only washing them when essential, at a low temperature then letting them dry naturally.

If altering or embroidering unloved clothing is not for you, there are many fashion brands that promise well-made items with sustainable production and affordable pricing – in addition to secondhand. As the fashion industry becomes increasing transparent, shopping sustainability can be convenient and engaging – it’s just about finding a preference, suitable to your style. If you do buy new, I suggest investing in quality over quantity, as it is important to emphasize durability. It helps to be informed; you can usually find a brand’s values and practices of sustainability online (including origin of fibers, locations of factories and working conditions). Having a complete, sustainably sourced wardrobe will not come overnight, allow yourself to grow and make gradual changes.

It is true that newly produced, sustainable fashion does cost more, this is largely because the recycled materials used require more treatment/processing, it can also be a reflection of better work conditions and fair pay throughout the supply chain. An inspiration to my own work is British menswear designer Bethany Williams, who collaborates with charities to promote environmental and social change. Bethany’s work incorporates second-hand denim and hand-woven textiles to create entirely recycled collections. The stylish and contemporary pieces are a great example of how sustainable clothing can be colourful and playful. By shopping from independent brands, boutiques and local artisans you can shorten the cycle between you and your clothing. Products are often made-by-order which reduces waste and gives them a unique feel. An item of clothing that is has meaning to its owner and that will stand the test of time– buying less but buying better!

Independent Brands To Check Out

Circular Economy, Swapping & Renting.

It is often misconceived that sustainable fashion presents a limitation of colours, styles and desirability. Assumed to look unfashionable and comprising to your personal style and identity. Today many global brands 'green wash' their collections in attempt to capitalise on the growing demand for environmentally and ethically made products (don't be fooled). Here are some of my favourite independent and sustainable brands and designers:

Chopova Lowena takes influence from it's British-Bulgarian founders, with traditional skirts dotted with hand-embroidered Bulgarian patterns.

Rosie Evans is a Welsh designer, inspiring people to shop consciously.  Her works transform secondhand and vintage textiles into beautiful corsets.

House of Sunny prides itself on production of small runs, presenting only two collections a year. The brand doesn't use fur, leather, skins or silk.

Rave Review up-cycles 70's bed linen found at markets, to create patchwork-cotton trench coats & wool.

Lydia Bolton is a luxury streetwear brand turning unwanted textiles into stylish womenswear. Lydia has collaborated with NICCE to reinvent its dead stock into entirely new pieces. 

Bethany Williams is a British menswear designer, who collaborates with charities to promote environmental and social change.

Mother of Pearl is a British brand founded by Amy Powney. It is here to change all your preconceived notions about what sustainable fashion looks like. 

ALIS.KNITS is a Welsh knitwear brand, passionate about bold colours and playful prints. Each knitted piece is made by order to minimise waste.

Fruity Booty is a sustainabale and luxury lingerie brand, based in London. It aims to redefine 'sexy lingerie' whilst spreading awareness of ethical and green fashion.

Cara Marie Piazza is a natural dyer and artisan, she uses plant matter, non-toxic metals and food waste to dye textiles and clothing.

Embroidery art by Ophelia Dos Santos, inspired by a Rosie Evans corset.

A circular economy or 'sharing economy' is an economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. The circular economy is heavily reliant on online exchanges and can also include the sharing of knowledge and information. Example include ride sharing, home lending, co-working etc.

Companies such as My Wardrobe HQ and OnLoan are connecting subscribers worldwide, to a system of temporary ownership of items by emerging designers and contemporary brands. My Wardrobe HQ is the UK’s leading marketplace for clothing rental, committed to sustainable fashion from its partnership with brands to their eco-friendly courier services. Its collection of items, including items from people’s wardrobes, are listed for a fraction of its recommended retail price, and it also gives you the option to buy if you want to keep your rental. Adding to the trend of renting, many people are now hosting swapping parties that today this might be done virtually. Attendees agree on a number of items they will bring to the event, providing they are clean and good quality – this can include accessories, bags and shoes.  Items are presented, swapping and donating begins. So that sizing isn’t an issue, its good to invite a mix of sizes so that each person has a least one other size match. 

Recently I have become a member of online peer-to-peer exchange community The Dress Change. The Dress Change promotes slow fashion, by organising swapping events and giving members the option to offer their unwanted clothes on their own online wardrobe. Members can bid on items of clothing, and members do not have to directly swap with each other.

Documentaries, Podcasts & Readings.

Today in Focus is a podcast created by The Guardian, recommended episode 'The Liecester Garment Factories Exposed By Covid-19'. Archie Bland discusses a story that goes beyond the pandemic and into workers rights, appalling factories conditions and the ethics of fast fashion.

Fash-ON Fash-OFF podcast, recommended episode 'Fashion and Sustainability' which speaks with London designer Bethany Williams and Sapna Brooks, Buying Director of Gap EU.

Business of Fashion podcast, recommended episode 'Women Are at the Forefront of the Sustainability Revolution'. Led by the founder and CEO, Imran Ahmed, who discusses with experts (designers, creatives, and business people) the wider impact of the industry. 

Fashion Revolution is a podcast with a combination of investigations and interviews, discussing a year-long research project that focused on 540 garment workers in India, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

The True Cost is a film about the impact of clothes making on the planet and its people. The title refers to the fact that often when buying clothes, especially cheap and disposable one, the true cost is not really reflected in the retail price. Available on YouTube.

Minimalism is a documentary film that explores the many layers of minimalism, inside the lives of minimalists from all walks of life; families, entrepreneurs, architects, artists, journalists and scientists - all of whom are striving to live a meaningful life with less. Available on Netflix.

The Machinist documents the exploitation of garment workers in Bangladesh with the personal stories of three young women working in factories in Dhaka. The documentary is seen through the eyes of 3 garment workers and looks at their everyday lives, their struggles at home, the constant battles they face with their factory owners and puts a face to the men and women who make clothes for our high street. Available on YouTube.

Explained recommended episodes 'The Worlds Water Crisis' Why Women Are Paid Less' and 'The Racial Wealth Gap'. Available on Netflix.

History 101 Ep 4 Plastics follows how plastics have transformed how we live, but the progress has come at a price: 7.8 billions tons of waste. Available on Netflix.

The Racial Bias Built Into Photography: Sarah Lewis explores the relationship between racism and the camera. For The New York Times, 2019.

Luxury’s Hidden Indian Supply Chain: For many years Dior, Saint Laurent and other fashion brands have been quietly using Indian embroiderers for their goods, depending on their expertise while offering little in the way of employment protection.

How Plastic Is a Function of Colonialism Dr. Max Liboiron, an assistant professor at Memorial University and fellow at Science for the People, explains how the global plastic pollution crisis is directly tied to colonialism. Teen Vogue, 2018.

We Need To Change The Way We Think About Sustainable Fashion Activist Céline Semaan explains why we can't just buy into sustainability, we have to change the way we live. i-D, 2019.

How To Quit Fast Fashion: Making, Mending, Learning and Activism 'Fast fashion is awful for people and planet. Like with many industries post Covid-19, it’s time to build back better. And with fashion, it’s super easy to start at home'. Greenpeace, 2020.

The BBC’s Breaking Fashion documentary is a cheap, tone-deaf misfire 'The series, profiling online retailer In The Style, could have critiqued fast fashion’s damaging environmental impact – instead, it made a six-part advert for it'. Sophie Benson for Dazed, 2019.

Why We Need To Dismantle Systemic Racism In Sustainable Fashion 'Sareta Puri takes on the issue of whether the sustainable fashion industry does enough to provide equal opportunity and representation for all'. Pebble Magazine, 2020.

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