Op-Ed: Beyond sustainable fashion, let's better our relationship with our clothing.

The other day I was exploring the charity shop scene in London. Spending time with my nephew and his girlfriend in Chiswick town, we went for brunch and then scurried from one boutique to another (also, a welcome shelter from the dismal, wet UK weather!)

It had been a while since I visited a proper charity shop and this visit didn’t disappoint. We were lured in by rails upon rails of second hand brand names, from fast-fashion to designer bargains (my best find was a black leather Mulberry Alexa in mint condition for 250 pounds sterling!)

But while I was browsing the rails in the fourth shop along the high street (after having picked up and put down the same Chloe jumper five times in contemplation) it got me thinking about how easy it would have been for the ‘old me’ to go into impulse buy mode in this kind of environment. I certainly liked the jumper, but definitely didn’t need it. I live in Singapore so layers are no use to me in the tropics, which would mean it sitting unworn, unloved and festering in my wardrobe back in the UK until my next winter visit (if, by then, I remembered I had it at all).

Albeit small, this little encounter got me thinking more broadly about what it means to shop sustainably. As awareness about the impact of the fashion industry grows, we’re increasingly told to swap, buy second-hand and support conscious labels if we buy new. I don’t disagree. Those are definitely better, more planet-friendly ways to shop and we curate responsible brands for you on this platform. BUT, unless we fix our mentality towards consumption as a whole, buying sustainably is meaningless. 

"As awareness about the impact of the fashion industry grows, we’re increasingly told to swap, buy second-hand and support conscious labels if we buy new. I don’t disagree. Those are definitely better, more planet-friendly ways to shop. BUT, unless we fix our mentality towards consumption in general, buying sustainably is meaningless."

Hear me out. So, it makes no sense buying a more sustainable garment if we’re just going to grow tired of it, throw it out and it ends up in landfill anyway. Yet, if I buy a jumper from a fast-fashion store and keep it for ten years, does it have more longevity and I’ve made a more conscious choice?

Ethics aside, if we buy something through more sustainable means and still throw it out, it by and large has the same effect as buying a piece of fast-fashion and discarding it. The first demon may be unethical production, but the second is us. Last year in the UK, we sent 235 million items of clothing to landfill and in Singapore the latest stats record at least 150,000 tonnes of textile and leather waste. That's a lot of stuff we've grown tired of. 

Given that to be the case, is the real issue we need to change as consumers is our relationship with our clothing? If so, we need to be asking different questions:

  • How do we encourage people to shop more thoughtfully?
  • How do we teach others to love what we buy and what we already have? To eschew trends and fads?
  • How do you disrupt a system of consumption so deeply ingrained from a young age into our hearts and minds through clever marketing? 

Big questions, right? And it’s going to take a lot to answer them and getting bigger corporations and governments involved to set an example. But one thing's for sure: What we shop is important, but HOW we shop is crucial. Shopping sustainably is meaningless unless we truly change our mentality towards consumption. We need to fall back in love with our clothes again. 

Like this article? Then you’ll like these too:

Five easy ways to be a more mindful shopper

Why the story of our clothes matters

Sustainable brand entrepreneurs talk purpose and profit

We hope you enjoyed the read. For a weekly dose of inspiration and to find out about our latest interviews, features and new arrivals delivered straight to your inbox, join our community here.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published