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6 ways to be stylish and sustainable without rinsing your bank account.
Fashion is exciting yet daunting. We want to be able to express ourselves in outfits we like the look of and feel good in. There’s so much choice, and prices and quality vary inexplicably. Even a plain white T-shirt can range from cheap £1 to ridiculous £1000+. We’re all becoming more conscious about the impact of our purchases, and it’s not always easy to find something stylish, sustainable and affordable. Most of us wouldn’t be comfortable, for instance, wearing something made by a child in a developing country working long days in horrid conditions, and we probably wouldn’t be comfortable wearing something that did irreparable damage to the earth, or that put more money in the pockets of millionaire shareholders than hardworking staff, and so on. Often, we aren’t even aware when something we’re buying is tied to one of these consequences.
Here are some tips on how you can increase style, sustainability and ethics in your fashion repertoire without rinsing your bank account.
1. Wear trendy vintage denim, retro and reworked clothing.
Vintage denim jackets, retro sports jackets, big jumpers, wavy shirts . . . If you’ve been to any underground night, music festival, trendy area in any city, university campus or pretty much just anywhere in the past few years, you’ve seen that vintage and retro are BIG in fashion. Put with the right outfit and accessories, vintage and retro garms always look strong.
And better – recycling, upcycling and reworking garments cuts the carbon footprint MASSIVELY. Instead of requiring all the energy and resources (like water, which we’ll discuss in another blog post) it takes to grow and harvest cotton, process it, weave it, make garments in factories, ship them to their retail country, transport them to their retail stores or delivery destinations, etc, these garments have already been bought and worn, and by breathing new life into them and renewing their lifecycle, you’re reducing the environmental impact heavily. There are obscene amounts of clothing put to landfill every year, so why are we making so much more when we can make trendy reworks of those that already exist?
You can get decent preloved garms from many places. We’ve had mates come back from a visit to their grandparent’s houses with sick shirts and big jumpers. You’ve got charity shops, Depop, FB market, kilo sales and more. GO FOR IT.
All of the above is exactly why we’ve come up with our Rhetorik Reworked range. We’ll be launching in 2019.
Speaking of reworking and recycling, check out Billygoats & Raincoats for kids rainwear made from recycled tent materials.
2. Support local, independent fashion brands.
By supporting local, independent brands, your money is much more likely to stay in the local economy. On the other hand, when you buy clothes on ASOS, or perhaps at a chain like Topshop on your high-street, most of the mark-up (money) is likely to find its way to company profit accounts, which are there to serve the shareholders who probably don’t live and spend in your town, perhaps not even in your country.
When you spend your money with a local, independent fashion brand or retailer, such as Rhetorik, much of that money gets spent at other local, independent businesses. For example, we get our veg from local farms, our bread from local bakers, etc, who also support the local community, and thus a chain effect of supporting the local economy is triggered by your purchase. This means local businesses who care much more about the communities in your area than the chains do (how many local businesses treat their workers like this?) can gain strength in the economy, which is unfortunately much more favourable towards the chains at the moment.
Further to this, many large corporations avoid paying their taxes by exploiting certain loopholes in our taxation system. This isn’t so easy for smaller independent firms and most independent firms are happy to pay their taxes. By spending at independent businesses, more of your money might end up supporting government services like the NHS, etc. All in all, there are many social, economic and political benefits to spending your money on local, independent brands.
3. Make sure you wear clothes made in ethically accredited conditions.
There are several foundations working to ensure products are made in fair working conditions. Examples of these are the Fair Wear Foundation, Fairtrade, etc. These foundations sometimes suffer scrutiny for many reasons. This is something we recognise, and hope that the system(s) can be developed and refined to make as much impact as they intend and claim to. And while we wish the system(s) were fair for everybody, we still appreciate that there are ways of verifying that products have been made in fairer working conditions. Perhaps an imperfect system is better than no system at all.
You can see the Fair Wear Foundation’s standards here. In countries where the government doesn’t protect their workers (in the UK, we are much, much luckier than most), these interventions are very important for the safety and wellbeing of the workers.
4. Go for quality over quantity, slow-fashion over fast-fashion.
Fast-fashion is the phenomenon of buying numerous, cheap, low quality items to stock your wardrobe, wearing them once or twice and then getting rid. We’ve all been there. High-street brands like River Island, Topshop, Primark, etc, thrive on the fast-fashion economic model. They source huge quantities of garments outrageously cheap and sell them in their shops and online for many, many times more than the cost price. The garments are often low quality, and do not stand the test of time. It also means we’re encouraged to wear garments less and buy new ones more. These encouragements might come in the way the fashion is advertised to us. Is it coincidental that we don’t like wearing the same thing too often, or is it a product of the fashion industry, which so greatly benefits from it? We’ll blog about that later.
We’d rather spend £30 on a T-shirt made from premium cotton, or better, hemp, bamboo, or other natural materials, than £10 on a t-shirt made from cheap, and/or synthetic materials that end up in our ecosystems. The question to ask yourself is, would you rather have something that looks incredible, has been sourced responsibly, and you’re proud to wear over and over again, or something that everyone else is wearing, wears out quickly, and isn’t impressive enough to wear more than once? And are you willing to pay a bit more for that? If so, in the long run, you won’t be disappointed.
Higher quality clothes will last longer, you’ll be proud to wear them more, and you’ll feel better in them. That’s better value for money all round.
5. Tailor, altar, reinvent, wear differently.
Got an old pair of jeans? Cut them into a nice pair of denim shorts. Got a denim jacket you haven’t worn for a while? Sew some badges or patterns on to reinvent the look. How about a dress of which you no longer like the fit? A tailor or seamstress will take it in or change it for much less than the cost of a new dress (unless you’re buying that unsustainable, cheap, fast-fashion, then it’ll probably be the same price). This way, you’re not encouraging the production of new garments, the environmental impact of your new look is minimised drastically, you’ll have a garment that is unique AND instead of funding Topshop boss tax avoidance, you’ll be putting money straight into your local community. Giving clothes new life and style is the way forward.
6. Learn to make your own clothes.
This one might not appeal to everyone, but we recommend it! Not only are sewing and textile craft lessons fun, practical and much better for your development than scrolling Instagram is, it’s a great way to get the freshest look that suits you perfectly. What could suit you more than something you made for yourself? This could extend to knitting, fabric painting and printing and much more! If making clothes for yourself, you can use old clothes for materials, and you’ll have so much creative freedom that your outfit will be incredible. The sense of satisfaction will be unbeatable.