The conversation about sustainability in fashion has entered the mainstream in recent months— we’ve reached a point where almost every fashion magazine out there has flaunted the words “ethical”, “green” or “eco” on its glossy cover. Even fashion influencers—once the enemy in the battle of overconsumption— have started speaking openly to their 100k plus followers about the problematic nature of the fast fashion industry. Many are now opting to cull (or rein in on) their time-honoured traditions of weekly clothing hauls.
The high street and its familiar fast fashion stores have become somewhat demonised. But for many shoppers going cold turkey and instantly boycotting Zara, Mango, & Other Stories et al. isn’t currently feasible (nor desirable).
Shopping more sustainably doesn’t have to mean complete abstinence from your favourite high street brands, it can be achieved by adopting a different outlook when seeking out new items for your wardrobe. Admittedly, some of my most loved wardrobe pieces are from the high street. Take for instance an oversized pewter Topshop blazer purchased nearly a decade ago, or a pair of satiny rust coloured high-waisted trousers from & Other Stories— snapped up earlier this year on a whim but transpired to be the best everyday staple. Here are a few handy tips I’ve garnered from all corners of the ‘net:
#1 Operate a one in one out policy. Harsh, but it will allow you to take control of your wardrobe and ensure you are only buying what you really need. What would Marie Kondo do? Any items you no longer wear can re-enter the cycle and go to charity stores or be resold. A few brands like H&M, Zara, & Other Stories have introduced in-store recycling initiatives, which allow customers to drop off unwanted items in fashion “bins” in their shops. Some even offer a discount in exchange for your discarded goods— in case you needed a further incentive!
#2 Always look for vintage or charity shop alternatives first. Ask yourself does this design already exist and can I buy the original version for a fraction of the price? Easier said than done, am I right?! My advice would be to check out sites like Vestiare Collective which offers top notch preloved clothes. Or The Resolution Store which is like a hyper-curated eBay, where you can snap up hand-me-downs from the world’s leading style influencers. Their seasonal “drops” consist of just 1000 items, sold over 4 weeks—so you need to move quickly.
#3 Make a rough plan each season about which trends you want to buy into and what new seasonal items you require. Set a spending limit and stick to it.
#4 Opt for less environmentally harmful fabrics rather than man-made, chemical ones. The worst fabrics for the environment are cotton (it’s very water intensive to cultivate, taking around 20,000 gallons of water to make a single pair of jeans and up to 3,000 to make a T-shirt), synthetics like Polyester, Nylon and Acrylic, and animal-derived materials. Most high street brands now have eco or environmentally conscious collections which are worth checking out.
#5 Take care of your garments to extend their lifespan. High street clothes are notoriously short lived, but with some TLC you can keep them looking great. Check out beginners classes from Sew it With Love which equip you with all the basics to make do and mend.