Sustainability is the fashion buzzword of 2019, and I’m absolutely here for it.
Fast fashion—the action of inexpensive clothing produced rapidly by mass-market retailers in response to the latest trends—has obvious consequences. Not only do these clothes have a limited lifespan, they are more often than not made via cheap labour and are poor in quality to boot. In addition to gross exploitation of factory workers and child labourers, the damage mass production has on the environment is frightening.
We consume 400% more clothing than we did twenty years prior, 1/4 clothing ended up in UK landfill sites than being recycled, and the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter in the world behind oil. There’s also a fair amount of fuckery, y’know, just for good measure. I pulled this gem from a recent fashionbeans article: “It doesn’t help that the issue is one full of contradictions. Take recycled polyester for example. Recycled equals good, yes, but recycled polyester sheds micro fibres, that can escape into the ocean and enter, then harm, the food chain, which equals not good at all.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m no saint. I’ve shopped high street for the majority of my life being none the wiser, and my wardrobe was overflowing with a LOT of items I couldn’t actually remember buying. Being part of Turnbull & Asser opened my eyes to the world of garment care and longevity. Essentially, you pay more for better quality that will last a hell of a lot longer, provided you look after said garment. The fact that you’re paying more should mean you’d naturally take more pride in it, too. Maintenance, in this sense, is something we can all start doing. It’s also relatively easy to implement.
My wife and I moved in together after our wedding, and only when we compared our wardrobes did I realise I may have a slight problem. I owned quite literally twice as many clothes, coats and shoes than she did. Around the same time, I was speaking to tie maker Shaun Gordon on his style. Being one of the best dressed gents I’ve ever known, his wardrobe, to my surprise, is actually incredibly minimal. The story goes, the former denim-head decided to sell the majority of his wardrobe, having spent a few years curating the perfect one in his head: individual pieces that worked with everything else. He now only has a handful of shirts, trousers, and so on, but each piece has a place - and works in a number of different ensembles. He looks after them all, too. If a couple buttons loosen - he’ll fix them. If a sleeve rips, he’ll take it to his tailor. The importance of investing in quality is that after a couple years’ wear and tear, the garment will still hold relatively well - all it needs is the odd touch up.
Inspired by this, I threw all of my clothes on to my bedroom floor and assessed each item one-by-one. By seeing everything in front of me, I was able to notice which pieces didn’t belong any more. The items that I didn’t need, I either gave to friends or sold them on Instagram. Basically, they only went where they’d be appreciated and utilised. The last thing I’d want to do is let these clothes gather dust somewhere else—that’d be counter-productive.
Additionally, I donated heavier clothing such as hoodies, jumpers, beanies, scarves and such to Road To Freedom, an incredible charity that provides food, clothing and more to refugees fleeing war-torn countries. RTF have developed a professional team of volunteers who extensively fundraise each month ahead of their journey to a different location in crisis. Each volunteer effectively distributes aid in a professional and humane manner alongside NGO’s and other on-site charities. They do trips out frequently, so if you’re looking to donate clothing, please follow their progress on Instagram and get in touch with them directly.
Since the clear out, I have a lot more space in my wardrobe, and I know the items I need to complete what will essentially be my capsule—pieces that will last a few years, before being replaced once they’ve come to their natural end. (Basically, when altering can no longer fix it). The pieces I kept are very simple, minimal logos and classic fabrics/patterns to ensure they will look good no matter what the fashion cycle trend dictates.
The outfit from this shoot photographed by Simran Pharar, consists of a few pieces I’ve owned for a few years (coat, hoodie, t-shirt all from Topman; jeans from Wåven), plus investment pieces such as the Crockett & Jones’ boots and Cubitts glasses. I’ve been able to wear all of these (minus the hoodie) casual or smart, with a whole lot of variation. The baseball cap is by my friend’s clothing brand, Statemeant. The clothing is all ethically made and manufactured, and the designs aim to not only make bold statements but to raise awareness of social and conscious matters including issues in the Middle East, Africa and right here at home in the UK.
TL;DR - if you’re looking to take responsibility for your footprint when it comes to your wardrobe, here are a few things you can do:
Assess and de-clutter. Keep the things you need, and donate/sell the things you don’t. Be critical.
Maintain your clothes. Don’t throw something away that can be easily fixed. If you can’t do it yourself, take it to a tailor.
Make friends with said tailor. They’re going to be the most important person in your life. Okay, slight exaggeration but you get the point. Work with someone that knows what you like, but more importantly, knows what works for you.
Invest in quality. Buy less, buy better. It may be a bit of a hit upfront, but it’ll pay off in the long term.
Research your purchases. What fabrics are used? Where are they sourced from? How are they made? Are they recyclable?
Research your brands. There are a lot of smaller, newer brands with good values and production ethos. Son of a Tailor, for example, only create clothing made-to-order. That way there’s no mass production, thus minimal damage to the environment. Brands and designers such as Ræburn, Veja, Misha Nonoo, Allbirds, Patagonia, Parley and more are doing their bit to reduce mass manufacturing, improved sourcing and champion sustainability.
Below are a few really interesting articles on sustainability for those wanting to read more:
How To Make Fashion Sustainable by fashionbeans