It’s official: our clothes are inextricably linked with the climate crisis, from polluting waterways with microplastics to the inhumane treatment of garment workers. Just a short internet search reveals the massive impact of fashion on our world, and can quickly lead to feelings of overwhelm, confusion and even guilt.
While the lion’s share of responsibility to regulate the fashion industry lies with brands and governments, there’s one opportunity we all can seize: wearing the clothes in our closets as much as possible. It sounds simple, but it’s really the most tangible way we can reduce the environmental impact of our clothes. In fact, stats have shown that if our clothing stayed in use for just nine months longer, rather than the average lifespan of three years, it would reduce their carbon, water and waste footprint by 20 to 30%.
That’s right! Being a more sustainable fashion consumer starts at home with the clothes you already own. Don’t underestimate the change you can create through your existing closet! Here’s simple steps you can take this year to curate a more circular wardrobe on your terms.
1. Mend or repair your old clothes
One of the reasons why many once-loved designs end up banished to the back of our wardrobes is because they need a fix. A well-worn jumper in need of a darn, a favourite dress in need of an altered hem. We could all do well to learn some basic sewing and repair skills—there’s plenty of video tutorials online—but if you’re time starved, there’s also new startups and services that will handle repairs for you. In Singapore, look up Alt.native; their team will help handle simple repairs or completely refashion garments into something new. In London and the UK, check out Sojo, dubbed the ‘deliveroo of clothing repairs’, or The Seam, a company which helps match you with local tailors in your area.
2. Choose recycled or sustainable fabrics
It’s no secret that the production of virgin fabrics requires a ton of natural resources. What’s more, synthetic materials like polyester, nylon and acrylic—used by many brands from fast fashion to luxury—are plastic-based and non-biodegradable, meaning they’ll stick around for hundreds of years if they end up in landfill locally or abroad. Thankfully, more and more brands, from fast fashion to sustainable labels, are starting to use recycled fibres in their clothing—from sportswear to everyday dresses.
3. Look for new designs on second hand marketplaces
Eyeing that new Love Bonito, Ganni, Zara or Klarra number? Instead of rushing to buy new, look out for it on second hand sites first. Shoppers are quick to list brand new items they’ve bought in incorrect sizes on platforms like eBay or Carousell instead of going through the hassle of returns. You’ll also find plenty of gently-used, great condition pieces that look as good as new.
4. Try out clothes swapping
Whether it’s holding a swap party with friends or heading to a dedicated swap store, clothes swapping is an affordable way to experiment with your style and trends while decluttering your wardrobe responsibly. Physical swap stores like The Fashion Pulpit or Swapaholic in Singapore operate via a membership system, so you can choose to swap one time, an annual membership and many options in between. In London? Look out for swapping events and opportunities across the UK.
5. Experiment with rewearing and restyling
Make 2022 the year you buy less and wear more. If we all wore our clothes more, we’d significantly reduce their impact and carbon footprint. Instead of impulse-buying new items, give more thought to how you can level up your styling, from layering in interesting ways to pairing new silhouettes together. To help you get creative, there’s now a host of digital wardrobe apps that can help you digitise for a more sustainable wardrobe and create looks in the palm of your hand. Just remember: there’s no shame in being an outfit repeater!
“Make 2022 the year you buy less and wear more”
6. Look for brands with repair or take back schemes
More in tune than ever with the wastefulness of continually producing new collections, more and more fashion labels are creating preloved options, meaning you can resell clothing back on their website, or are reselling second hand options on platforms like Depop or Carousell.
7. Wash your clothes properly
It may seem like a no-brainer, but when was the last time you checked the washing instructions of any of your clothes? They’re there for a reason. Washing them properly means there’s a good chance you can extend their life span. When in doubt, our rule is: wash your clothes on a gentle cycle and hang dry. It uses up less energy than tumble drying, and there’s less of a chance of wear-and-tear like shrinking or materials becoming worn down.
8. Donate responsibly
While it may seem like you’re doing a good deed, donating to charity isn’t the best way to get rid of your clothes. Most NGO’s are already overwhelmed with donations; and what’s more, much doesn’t even get donated — they end up shipped overseas to the Global South. Brands recycling schemes aren’t always what they seem, either. Donate as a last resort and try reselling, repairing or swapping out old clothes instead.