How to Shop More Sustainably
Slow Fashion Stylist Jenna Flood explains why it’s important to buy sustainable clothing and how to make it easy to do.
Its easy to put a change of habit such as buying sustainably in the too hard basket. Small steps towards bigger changes are easier. In the beginning it can be hard to know where to look. All the op shop visits have you coming home empty handed and ethical brands seem too expensive. But for those who are determined to align their values with their shopping experience, all it takes is a little time, patience and research to build a sustainable wardrobe. Here’s how to combat the most common barriers to buying sustainable fashion
The True Cost of a $10 Tee
While that witty logo tee may be a steal for you at just $10, the worker who made it only receives 4% of its price for all her hard work. What’s more, she’ll work long hours with few breaks in an unsafe factory. If we continue buying cheap clothes, we’re supporting these unsafe practices.
When we compare that $10 tee to a locally made $60 one, it can feel like we’re getting ripped off. Instinctively we are geared to find the best deal. But that locally made tee is actually a better deal both for us and the woman who made it. That’s because, brands that care for their workers also put effort into leaving a low environmental footprint by using long lasting, quality fabrics.
When you invest in a fairly made garment over a fast fashion one, you’ll discover that the quality of your clothing is superior. With care, your favourite clothes will last longer and you will get more wear out of them. Your carefully spent dollars will also support a brand that cares for our planet.
The More is Better Mindset
All the nineties movies we grew up on showed endless wardrobes full of on-trend clothing that we all envied. The well stocked wardrobes of our favourite characters encouraged our own endless shopping trips in the pursuit of the perfect look. Having a wardrobe full of the latest runway edits may sound like heaven (cue Cher’s robotic Clueless wardrobe). But is this really the best way to find discover our own unique style?
Experimenting with stye is an important part of discovering what we really like to wear, but it can be hard to do when endless “must have trends” are thrown at us. Slowing down our buying and opting for quality over quantity can actually help to develop style. If we ignore what the runways tell us to wear and instead invest in long lasting pieces made in an ethical way, we soon start to develop more individual style.
And while spending upward of $200 for a coat may make seem to make the bank balance scream out in pain, over time, the cost per wear for that coat comes down each time its worn. Having a coat all ready to pull out each winter, rather than shopping at the beginning of each season for a new one, means less time wasted with more time for doing the things we really enjoy.
The Sizing Issue
The fashion world has been slow to cater for all body sizes and sustainable fashion is no exception. While there are many brands that are diverse in their sizing, such as Squint Clothing and Vege Threads, it’s not an issue that many designers consider when starting their brand.
Unfortunately, op shopping isn’t the best option either. Many op shop don’t have a wide variety of stylish clothing above size 12. Buyers are stuck with the choice between polyester pants or a decades old rhinestone shirt. While these may be on someone’s second-hand bucket list, they aren’t to everyone’s taste.
Since op shops carry such a wide range of brands and eras, styles from earlier decades marked as size 16 may fit more like a 12. This only makes it more frustrating for those who value sustainability.
Luckily, there has been a rise in brands and preloved stores who want to contribute to the conversation around inclusive sizing. Designers are creating extended sizing and op shops are better filtering their plus size categories. Dedicated markets are also popping up.
But the best way to get inclusive sizing into the mainstream is to talk about it. Share the brands that are inclusive. Take your friends to that amazing op shop and ask brands to make those great pants in your size.
Where Do I Find Sustainable Clothing?
Many of us have the mindset that buying ethically is too hard with fast fashion being so much more easy to buy. A little more time and research is needed to find those ethical brands or top op shopping spots.
Luckily the internet makes it easy. A quick Google search can reveal any sustainability red flags on your favourite brand, but it can also show you a huge list of alternatives available. Apps like Good On You provide ratings for brands all over the world and help you find the best ones. Instagram is also a key player in finding new ethical brands. Use hashtags like #sustainablefashion or #ethicalfashion to find people or influencers with similar values to you. They share their favourite brands or best op shopping spots with fellow environmentalists.
Still in a bit of a pickle? Look for certifications such as GOTS, Ethical Clothing Australia or Fair Trade to start you down the slow fashion path.
Does My Purchase Even Make a Difference?
Refusing to buy a dress from Zara may seem like a tiny drop in the ocean of the giant fashion industry. But it really does make a difference.
Switching up your purchasing habits and choosing to buy from a sustainable clothing brand or op shop is a form of silent activism against the way things are normally run. The ripple effect from this small change of habit will lead to larger ones in the future and a better-looking wardrobe.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”-Margaret Meade
Sharing why your newest dress is from a local ethical brand with your friends will even begin to spark change with others. Organise a shopping trip that only hits up the local op shops or showcase that new brand you discovered that uses organic cotton on your Instagram, these prompts will help others to switch their thinking too.
It’s understandable that switching to the slow fashion lane can be scary and overwhelming. There may even be speed bumps and detours from what you thought could happen. Instead of stressing that you aren’t doing the right thing, celebrate the wins and do the best you can. Remember what our good friend Margaret Mead says, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Want to see more? Check out: Sustainable Fashion Trends of 2021