Buy Less, Choose Well and Make It Last – these wise words were spoken by iconic British designer Vivienne Westwood. In a live interview, Westwood spoke about capitalism and the need to change our spending behaviour and address the ethical and environmental issues of the fashion industry. She highlighted that clothes should cost more than they do, and that her shop in Paris would feature the words ‘buy less, choose well, make it last’ splashed across the display window. Sounds like a pretty good philosophy to live by – so how do you do it?
In Australia alone, 6000 kg of clothing ends up in landfill every 10 minutes. Fast fashion brands have torn up the industry model of seasonal trends, introducing new items almost daily. The resources involved in producing this type of clothing are staggering, with a $1 t-shirt said to use up to 2,700 litres of water to make. And what happens to clothing that’s unsold? H&M has a $4.3 billion worth of clothes sitting in its warehouses and was last year accused of burning tonnes of it!
As consumers, we can minimise our consumption by recycling, sharing and borrowing our clothing, instead of buying $2 t-shirts. A go-to for recycled clothing and hidden gems are charity shops. Reasonably priced and fun to explore, they are a great place to source vintage and unique clothing, and can offer new styles and brands you may have never heard of.
Another method of buying less, and saving money while mixing up your wardrobe, is Clothes swaps. Set a date with friends and spice up your wardrobes by trading cool pieces you’ve been eyeing, and you’ll have a “new” outfit for the weekend. This is perfect for motivating each other, for a last minute fix or if you feel the tendency to spend; you can try something new without spending any money at all.
(TIP: think about that trip you’re saving for and how you will spend that money overseas. Write it down and stick it on your wall to motivate your saving!)
A big factor of buying less is Decluttering. Avoid decision fatigue (yep, it’s a thing!) by simplifying and organising your wardrobe. Seperate your clothing into seasonal categories will create structure and will mean that you know your wardrobe well. Familiarise yourself with potential combinations and have a go pairing things you haven’t put together before. It will make those old, reliable pieces as good as new (and again, help the savings account for that big holiday you’ve been waiting for!).
Today, we have an increasing variety of brands shifting their production and materials to a more sustainable, slow fashion model, ensuring we as consumers can access all the specifics of their production process. An aspect of the slow fashion model is avoiding trends; Slow fashion is based on the traditional two collections per year. Fast Fashion means consumers can get their hands on a continuous cycle of trend-led clothing, all year round. Avoiding these “trends” and going for more timeless styles is fundamental to choosing well. The Good On You app helps you choose well by providing full disclosure of brands’ ethical and environmental credentials, and is a great way to find quality clothes from brands that do better.
A number of online platforms showcase high-quality, sustainable brands. We love Veneka for capsule wardrobe building, and Made Trade for all things gift-giving. The clothing might seem a little more pricey at first, but approach these garments like investments. Many brands featured on these sites use fabrics that require less intensive resources and are of an extremely high quality; they are made to last.
When buying high-quality brands from less commercial stores or online platforms, you will often come across boutique and local designers. Supporting a local designer often means you are also investing in artisan skills, and a conscious approach to fashion. This information is often available on their websites in detail – and with an increasing number of micro labels taking responsibility for their impact, this is a great way to support their mission.
Want to continue your path to a more sustainable and ethical wardrobe? Head to Good On You to source material guides, tips, how to guides and more!
Make it last
A big factor that plays into clothing longevity is how it is looked after. Do you remember your mum always going on about separating your garments into whites and colours and not mixing delicates with tougher fabrics? There was some good reasoning behind that after all!
Paying attention to the care instructions is key to making clothing last. Buying a good detergent (wool wash for delicates) and using things like delicate bags will prevent your clothes from wearing out. A large amount of detergent can actually make your clothes more dull and stiff, so cutting down on this will add to the life of your clothing. Using drying racks are also a better drying option, for your clothes and for the environment. Check out our Guide to Making Clothes Last Longer for more clothing care tips.
A great initiative that promotes making clothing last is the popular #30 campaign, founded by Livia Firth. #30 encourages a slower approach to fashion and suggests asking yourself “will I wear this a minimum of 30 times?”, shifting away from the weekly trends in fast fashion, and thinking more about whether you will wear an item long term. #30 is a great first step to making your clothes last and getting more life out of your favourite pieces.
Get creative and start saving time and energy today by decluttering, recycling, swapping, and buying investment pieces for your wardrobe: the environment (and your wallet) will thank you.
Author bio: Madeleine is an experienced content writer who specialises in all things personal sustainability, environmental awareness, and minimal consumption. She loves using her writing and research to clearly communicate these key solutions to environmental issues, and endeavours to help people do more in their everyday lives to minimise their footprint on the planet. To do this, Madeleine also manages the online platform Our Simple Gestures, and in her spare time loves being outdoors and enjoying life! Find her at LinkedIn, Instagram and at the website.