How to build an ethical & sustainable wardrobe (on a budget)

Creating an ethical and sustainable wardrobe, buying from ethical fashion brands or sustainable fashion brands can seem like a costly transition. Having values and making changes to your life costs you not just time, but money. It’s a hard realisation when you look at the cost of being true to your beliefs. That’s why I created this blog to help get you started.  Switching from fast fashion and slowing down your clothing consumption doesn’t always mean that life has to become much more expensive.

Of course, the very nature of ethical fashion and sustainable fashion businesses means that their overheads are much higher because they produce smaller quantities the cost per item to produce is higher.  If we want to avoid contributing to the unethical practices that take advantage of workers, damage the environment or cause harm to animals we have to accept the cost of things will increase.

“The human factor of the garment industry is too big to ignore; as we consistently see the exploitation of cheap labour and the violation of workers’, women’s, and human rights in many developing countries across the world.” The True Cost (2015)

The harsh reality is what we buy, where we buy from and how we manage the long-term maintenance of our wardrobe now matters more than ever. The beauty of redefining your personal style is that everything else becomes easier – once we know what clothes we need, what shapes, styles, colours, patterns etc suit us, and more importantly what items to avoid – getting dressed every day is less stressful and more enjoyable (and in turn we are kinder to others and the planet!)

Getting started with an ethical and sustainable wardrobe (on a budget)

1. The first step

Whatever your reason for building a new wardrobe you need to be clear on what you’re doing otherwise it can become an expensive experiment.

  • Ask yourself what’s your purpose for reinvigorating your wardrobe?
  • How do you want your new clothes to make you feel? Less stressed, more conscientious, more confident, smarter at work?
2. Define your ethical and sustainable wardrobe scope

You need to understand the difference between being an ethical consumer and living sustainably and the implications of both for your lifestyle. I would encourage you to list out what issues are the most important to you.

Based on your list you may find that you’re a more resourceful, sustainable and cost sensitive individual – or you may have a little more disposable income but prefer less clutter and better quality items. This is going to influence how you curate your wardrobe.

2.5 Decide what sustainable and ethical issues matter to you most

 1. Are you more aligned with issues relating to unfair working conditions and abuse to humans and animals?
2. Does the damage to the planet and the endless amount of waste going to landfill fill you with rage?
3. Humans, animals and the planet matter all matter in equal measures.
4. Saving money?
5. Having less stuff and being more resourceful?

Building a collection of clothes that will last for years, eliminating stress, mess, saving you time and money whilst making you feel super confident every time you step out of the house.

It won’t be easy but it is possible to create a lifestyle AND wardrobe that is sympathetic to most of these issues. So you need to get smart and start deciding what’s right for you. Being clear on this at the start will help you create a wardrobe that you’ll love and be proud of.

3. Get started with a sustainable wardrobe detox

I always recommend you start with a wardrobe detox – then you’ll know what you need, how to update your existing wardrobe and plan for any items that you need. Using what you have is the best way to be sustainable and start making a positive impact on the planet. One of my new eco-heroes is Livia First who champions wearing your clothes at least 30-times and being proud to own items from 5,10,15 or 20-years ago . There’s no shame in being seen in the same thing multiple times. The rule here is to re-wear your outfits with pride!

If you’re thinking of creating and ethical and sustainable wardrobe, it’s a good idea to plan for a capsule collection. The reason why capsule collections work is that they are systemised so that it removes any style confusion,  in addition to saving you time and saving you money. The result of a really smart sustainable wardrobe can make life a lot simpler and make you feel ridiculously confident – it’s an investment too as it can last for years.

If you really don’t have a clue on how to detox your wardrobe then I recommend working with a friend.  If you feel like you need more guidance an online course that you can work through at your own pace is also a more cost-effective way to build your new wardrobe.

As it happens I have just launched a comprehensive course: Create Your Own Signature Style – which has everything you need to know for a DIY personal style makeover at home – it also includes easy to follow steps to detox your existing wardrobe and create a more sustainable one going forwards. For more information CLICK HERE

The benefits of creating an ethical and sustainable wardrobe

  • Firstly, a new wardrobe that has been created either ethically or sustainably is a great choice because you can wear your clothes with pride knowing you’ve not compromised on your values and you’re supporting a wonderful cause.
  • It’s empowering to build a wardrobe based on your values.
  • When you feel empowered you feel more confident – personal style can be truly liberating.
  • You will save yourself A LOT of money in the long run. Brits spend on average £1042 per year on clothes according to Ariel.
  • You’ll wear what you’ve got more! Women own an average 95 items of clothes but only wear 59% of them. Don’t be one of them!

 “Buy less and choose well” is a well known famous quote by Vivienne Westwood who is an advocate of the ethical and sustainable wardrobe. These 4 words have the power to create a real change in this world. It just requires a little upfront planning and a more conscious attitude. The current fashion model is broken, as consumers we’ve forgotten what it’s like to invest in real quality clothes, love them, respect them, repair them, and pay a sum upfront that value the makers. Switching to a more conscious wardrobe takes a little effort, but the rewards are worth it. I started my transition in late 2016 and I haven’t looked back.

“People are buying more clothes than ever before—and chucking them out too” – The Economist (2017)

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