Ethical Fashion Top Tips - How I Shop
The seasons are changing. Autumn has pretty much peaked and we are headed on a quick sharp slide into Winter. It has me thinking about clothes - what I have, what I need, what I would love. If, like me, the changing of the weather gives you a little nudge to buy some new threads, I offer you this little insight into how my clothes shopping habits have changed in the last few years. Years ago I would have been a pretty compulsive fast fashion hound. When I lived in London during my Uni days, a quick nip into Oxford Street (haha, quick and Oxford Street... words that are impossible to marry) to the flagship Topshop or the ginormous H&M would have been totally predictable. I bought clothes so unconsciously, so flippantly that when I look back at pictures of those days, I can't even remember buying the things I am wearing in the photos. They went in and out of my wardrobe so quickly and without much thought.
Fast forward a good few years and although I am still ever-learning, I feel like I have got a better handle on my shopping habits. I heard and read things that changed me, jolted me into action. I decided to change my habits to reflect my values, the things I knew were important to me. Once I realised the corruption, the exploitation and the damage that the fast fashion industry was having on people and planet I couldn't justify my sneaky last-minute purchases, impulsive sales buys and typical sprees. And you know what? It's actually not been that hard to change.
Lots of people ask me about ethical fashion through my blog and social media and so I thought I would condense my advice into four easy-to-follow parts. If you are thinking about changing up your clothes buying habits, here are a few tips to get you started:
Approximately every 6-8 weeks I open my wardrobes & drawers. I go through everything in there, making a pile for donations and a pile for recycling. I look hard at what I've got and if it is falling apart, doesn't fit, was never a great colour or style on me - it goes. This is a ruthless but necessary part of getting to grips with what you have so you can zero in on what you actually need. It gets easier and easier to do this - as your habits change, less and less unconscious clothes will make their way into your life so there will be less need to do these clear outs. I promise you will feel amazing for doing so. Start yourself off gently if you want, but sometimes the more drastic the better and get those donation bags out of the house before you over-think it and go digging in them to reclaim that £5 bargain vintage sequin top that was never ever getting over your chest, no matter how much you promised you'd register to do the Body Coach. (theoretically speaking of course....)
Figuring out what you really need is vital. Like, what you really really need. I am by no means a minimalist/capsule fashion follower, but I totally see how much easier it is to find your style and your very favourite items if you decide to have less. Do you need 15 dresses? Probably not - nobody's that fancy. Would 3 dresses that you absolutely love and that really suit your body shape and colouring be better? Probably. These weekly fashion cycles that churn out new trends so often are exhausting - there is no keeping up with that and to be honest, I find most trends really tacky these days. It makes total sense to have less, but better items that stand the test of time. In my wardrobe I have 4 pairs of jeans, 4 pairs of trousers, 10-12 short sleeved tops (mostly neutral in colour or autumnal colours because I know it suits my colouring) 8-10 long-sleeved tops (including button up shirts etc) that can be worn as layers, 5-8 thicker jumpers, 3-5 cardigans, a few dresses and skirts that are timeless and the regular essentials (vest tops, undies/socks etc). I have a few things in there that I know still need to see the bottom of a donation bag but I am stupidly sentimental and like I said, baby steps. If you need help, heed the words of my dear husband "it's only a bargain if you need it". What a wise (annoying) spud he is.
BUY SECOND HAND
When I get the itch to buy something, or I see a really great outfit on pinterest that I'd love to try and wear, I avoid shopping centres and the high street shops like the plague. I cannot be trusted with that kind of temptation and those places mostly fill me with consumer rage so I just don't go. I try first to source things really specifically online through various second-hand or vintage websites (I use eBay or ASOS Marketplace mostly). I love a good trawl on second hand online sites, typing in the key words of items I'm on the hunt for. I look up brands that I know are good quality and see what's on offer. Sometimes I even set search notifications for specific things so I get a little email if something is listed that matches my search (e.g. I'll set a notification for 'Fairisle Jumper 12' or 'Vintage Shearling Coat 14'). Most of the time I can scratch that itch or need without accumulating new stuff, just a few essentials that are new to me. Maybe this is something you could consider next time that itchy shopping bug hits? It takes patiences but is really really satisfying.
BE A CONSCIOUS CONSUMER
So what happens when you just can't find that thing you long for on the rails in the charity shop or amidst the eBay trawl? Luckily enough the ethical clothing market has really come a long way. Long gone are the days of ethical fashion that is too pricey and too hippy for the average person like you and I. There is a whole world of brands and small businesses dedicated to moving forward with transparent supply chains and thoughtfully made clothes. Sometimes big brands make big claims about their involvement in producing ethical clothing but a lot of it is what we call 'greenwashing' - it may appear that they are being more conscious, but the reality is that they are either making a tiny dent in huge issue by tokenistic campaigns or marketing but their overall impact is still lacking and exploitative. The truth is that we are spoilt for ethical choices now, we just need to commit. I have highlighted brands on here before like People Tree, Nobody's Child and Braintree. Another brand I've recently been impressed with is Nomads. They have some great key pieces for you to add to your wardrobe that are fairtrade and ethically made. This tunic I'm wearing below has been such a great transitional piece as the seasons change and I've been wearing it in layers and on it's own in the warm autumn sun. It's great quality and will definitely be staying around in my wardrobe for a long time to come. Oh, and, IT HAS POCKETS!
Tunic: c/o Nomads Clothing, Jeans: J Crew found on eBay, Shoes: Charity Shop
If ever there was an easy time to rethink some of your fashion habits and move into a more thoughtful way of shopping, it's now. We have so much opportunity to be wise with our money, with the statements we make when we shop and how we can model a better way of taking care of each other and the world.
I am here to answer any of your ethical fashion questions or concerns - shoot me a comment or a message if you need any help or just want to chat some stuff over. We can beat the dangerous fast fashion machine one carefully bought item at a time!
I also include lots of really great ethical fashion stuff in my monthly newsletter which is going out early next week, so make sure you sign up here to get it!
With thanks to Nomads for working with me on this post & Ben Connolly of
for the photography.