Fashion Revolution Week policy and research manager Liv Simpliciano says, “The fashion industry has been one of the most destructive industries in the world.” FRW2022 is a campaign to create a fair and equitable fashion system that benefits everyone and the planet. It will take place in April 2022.
Simpliciano says that consumers have the option to buy more sustainable clothing, but it is up to brands and retailers to make the right choices. They shouldn’t be producing products that aren’t sustainable. Fashion should have sustainability as a part of the design process. Fashion should not be confused with unsustainable fashion.
Although the fashion industry is responsible for their actions, consumers can take steps to reduce the negative impact of fashion on the environment. Here are some top tips from Fashion Revolution experts to help you create a sustainable wardrobe.
1 Don’t buy anything
It is possible to make a more sustainable wardrobe by doing nothing or buying nothing. Fashion Revolution estimates that there are approximately $30 billion worth unworn clothing in UK wardrobes. You might be able to repair or take in a jacket, change the length of your trousers, and resole shoes. Or you could ask a friend for help with styling existing pieces.
Simpliciano says, “The most durable garment is the one you already have.” Simpliciano has a few questions to ask when looking at existing wardrobe items: “When you feel in love with an item, consider why. Do you think it’s because (1) it’s “last season?” (2) It doesn’t fit. Or (3) it’s too small or (4) it’s just not you anymore. We can create a wardrobe that’s loved and lasts if we ask ourselves these questions.
2 Care, repair, and rewear
Only 25% of the 5.8 million tonnes worth of textiles EU consumers throw away each year is recycled. Friends of the Earth Europe estimates that the remaining 4.3 millions tonnes of textiles are discarded. It is important to buy high-quality clothing that can be repaired or reworn. Look for clothes that can withstand wear and tear, such as denim or a Barbour jacket.
Although shirts of high quality from the respected end of Jermyn Street and Savile Row by makers Emma Willis and Drakes can be worn and repaired for many decades, they are more expensive than those made by Turnbull and Asser. British brands like Church’s, Crockett and Jones can be resoled and made to last a lifetime. Prince Charles, for example, still owns a pair John Lobb shoes that he purchased in 1971. My father bought me John Smedley knitwear in the 80s. You can find these timeless, high-quality clothes in vintage shops and resale websites at a fraction of the cost.
You can take your trainers to Jason Markk’s restoration service, which can clean and restore them using water-based cleaning products. Send precious grails, such as jackets from CP Company or Moncler, to Pinnas and Needles at Lexington Street, Soho.
3 Rent, borrow, or swap with a friend
Simpliciano says, “This is a great opportunity to engage in trends you are interested but not sure if they really resonate with you.” You can be generous if you are blessed with a large wardrobe. Evening wear that I borrowed from friends for events has been worn many times, both black and white tie. This is a far greater number than the average person who will only wear it once or twice per year. I’ve also been the happy beneficiary of jeans that were once the property of stylish friends, but then shrinked in the washing machine. My shirts are also a hit with my younger family members and friends. I have too many shirts. No one needs 25, no matter how pretty. It was especially touching to learn that my handmade Drake’s shirt was worn by a young cousin to her first job interview.
4 Learn how to wash and care properly for your clothes
Simpliciano says that synthetic materials like nylon, polyester, and Lycra are made essentially from plastic. The fibres they use are made from petrochemicals. “Plastic doesn’t naturally breakdown in the environment so small pieces of microplastics are released into the atmosphere and our wastewater systems and into our rivers, oceans and seas.” Friends of the Earth research shows that washing synthetic clothes can release millions of microplastics into the waters.
These are some helpful care tips:
- Hand wash any stain
- A shorter wash cycle at a lower temperature is recommended (often labeled “eco”) Microplastics are more likely to be released if the wash is too long. This will not only reduce the impact of microplastics but also help you save water.
- You can wash similar textiles together. As tougher fabrics rub up against softer ones, fibres can be released.
- Reduce the frequency of washing your clothes. You can refresh your clothes by hanging them outside in the sunshine.
- Maximize the laundry load wherever possible. Half-full washes result in a waste of resources. Less space means less friction and less plastics are released.
- You can also use liquid detergent in place of powder. This is another tactic to reduce friction and prevent microfibre releases.
- Guppyfriend makes laundry bags. In to ‘catch’ microfibres.
5 The Good On You app is a great option if you need to buy new
Simpliciano says, “We know that sometimes people have to buy new.” He recommends Good on You as a source for trusted brand ratings, articles, and expert knowledge on ethical and sustainable fashion. Good on You was founded in 2015. It hosts a large database of thousands fashion brands that have been evaluated against their rigorous rating system. GoY has a rating system that includes ‘Great’ or ‘Good’, as well as ‘It’s a Start’ (not good enough), and ‘We Avoid’. This allows you to easily see social and environmental impact.
6 Take responsibility for your clothing
Simpliciano says, “The global amount of clothing waste is sufficient to cover the entire world many times over.” Only 10-25% of the donated clothes are sold. The rest is sent to different locations in the Global South. Kantamanto Market, Accra, Ghana, is a popular destination. It consists mostly of low-quality fast fashion, with a few exceptions. Around 40% of the 15 million garments on the market each week are piled up in the streets, filling dumpsites and clogging gutters before being washed out to sea.
- Check first if you are able to transform and upcycle. Don’t put your clothes in bins if you are unable to transform them.
- Find out what’s available locally. You can drop off clothes, your home collections or even swap for something if you are looking to get rid of it and replace it with something new.
- Research local options. You can find many local options by doing a quick Google search for “clothing recycling UK”.